What can be done to stem the tide and turn marriage back around? How can we build marriages that last?
The first step to building stronger marriages is to start the relationship on the right foot.
Most ministers in our community require extensive pre-marital counseling. Although some couples seem to view this as an annoyance -- it is vital to building a positive foundation for the marriage. There are many excellent resources and tests which measure compatibility and the potential difficulties the couple may encounter. It's best to know these things ahead of time.
Many helpful books have been written for engaged couples such as Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts by Les Parrott and Preparing for Marriage by Dennis Rainey. These texts help couples dig deep relationally, and address such areas as conflict resolution, money, sexual issues, and communication.
Starting on the right foot does not include living together before you're married. Contrary to what some may think, cohabitation sharply increases the odds of divorce. We were created to be married first -- and then to live together. Not the other way around. When people get the cart before the horse, it causes trouble in the relationship.
Secondly, couples must keep a realistic view of the relationship.
Marriage is the imperfect union of two imperfect people relating imperfectly. No wonder so many people have struggles in marriage!
Sometimes, people are disappointed when life together does not resemble a Hollywood romance. Marriages might be made in heaven, but they have to be worked out here on earth!
The vows, "for better and for worse" were put in there on purpose. The commitment of marriage has to be big enough to include the "worse". If it doesn't, the relationship quickly falls disintegrates.
Love, according to Bible, bears all things. This includes annoyances, conflicts and pet peeves.
Nobody has a perfect marriage -- but a really good marriage is within the reach of every couple that makes the commitment and pays the price.
Thirdly, Intimacy is built through meeting your partner's emotional needs.
Willard Harley's excellent book, His Needs, Her Needs points out the importance of making deposits in your spouse's "love tank." This is the way to keep the sense of closeness. His web site, Marriage Builders, is very helpful for couples desiring to build a deeper relationship.
Selfishness is the number one enemy of marriage intimacy. It's hard to be close when you're being selfish. Instead of asking, "When will my partner meet my needs?" you should be asking, "How can I serve and encourage my partner?"
Every husband want to be respected. Every wife want to be cherished.
Fourth, Keep your eyes on the long haul.
A really good marriage is based on lifetime commitment. Here are the A.B.C.'s of a marriage that goes the distance:
A -- Anchor Your Marriage Relationship in God.
A Harvard Study revealed that couples who 1) read the Bible together 2) Pray together and 3) Attend Church together regularly have a divorce rate of 1 in 1287! That's less than 1/10 of 1%! There is no better way to divorce proof your marriage!
B -- Be Attentive, Honest, Caring and Open.
C -- Commit Yourself for Life. Together forever!
D -- Don't Go to Bed Angry.
E-- Examine Your Heart and Express Your Love Daily
If you say "I love you" every day for 50 years -- that's 18,250 "I love you's!" and each one draws you closer together.
F -- Forgive
"Keep your eyes wide open before marriage," said Ben Franklin, "and half shut afterwards."