In this iconoclastic age when everything is questioned and nothing is sacred, even the time-honored institution of marriage is under fire. What used to be considered the basic building block of any stable society is threatened with extinction — or so it would appear!
The crisis in matrimony manifests itself in a variety of ways. Recent divorce statistics advertise the fact that marriage has never had it so bad. In 1970, about 2000 divorces per day were being granted in the United States alone (up from 1000 per day in 1960). The divorce/marriage ratio was approximately one in three in 1970. The frequency and likelihood of divorce as a fact of American family life has given rise to a plethora of new ideas about sex and matrimony. One such concept is that of "serial marriages." That is, a young person entering into the marital mainstream would anticipate not one, but a series of marriages. When any given "marriage" became stale, the couple would simply divorce and enter into the mate market again in search of a new partner. The classic marriage vow "till death do us part" would become a thing of the past.
Others have suggested that a little "remedial adultery" will work wonders for an ailing marriage! Dr. Albert Ellis, executive director of the Institute for Rational Living, in New York, and a noted psychologist says, "It could appear that in our Judaeo-Christian society, healthy adultery is possible... people are not truly monogamous and romantic love is not durable.... Romantic love tends to last no more than three to five years, especially if the participants are under the same roof." He said the man who has been married for 30 years and says he never wanted another woman "is to be suspected of being biologically or psychologically abnormal." Dr. Ellis also concluded that the "healthy adulterer" could carry on an affair without destroying his marriage or family relationship (UPI release, Sept. 6, 1967). Dr. Ellis is not alone in his advocacy of extra-marital affairs as a remedy for sick marriages. Hundreds of psychiatrists, psychologists and marriage counsellors alike are getting on the bandwagon. The "affair" has put on the tuxedo of respectability!
Group Sex (Alias "Swinging")
Another relatively new social phenomenon sweeping the country is "group sex." It was formerly called wife-swapping but its adherents prefer the more alluring name of "swinging." It is estimated that from two to ten million Americans may be involved in this form of mutual adultery! Most of the participants are white, Anglo-Saxon, middle-class Protestants according to Dr. Gilbert Bartell, who did a three-year study of group sex. Conventional married sex has become uninteresting to millions of Americans. Today's young marrieds are casting about for new thrills. This is strongly indicated by the new wave of books that have hit the stands emphasizing sensuality.
Emphasis on Sensuality
The bizarre and the twisted are rapidly becoming commonplace in an increasingly hedonistic America. Purveyors of pornography have been doing a landslide business in recent years. They now peddle their putrid wares in most cities in the United States. The themes of homosexuality, masochism, lesbianism are being profitably exploited in a thrill-crazed Western society. The Pied Piper of perversity is leading mesmerized millions to even greater depths of marital misery! And what becomes common place also becomes known as "normal"! "Many so-called 'abnormal' sexual practices might not be abnormal after all, if you judge by what people are actually doing..." stated a leading sexologist. He noted that sexual intercourse outside of marriage, homosexuality and masturbation all were (!) immoral in the eyes of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, but they might actually be statistically normal, that is, done by over half the adults. A number of alternatives to conventional legal marriage have also been proposed. Polygamy (multiple wives), polyandry (multiple husbands — one wife), and tribal marriages (self-explanatory) are examples. Trial marriages, network families, pairing and three-year marriage contracts (with the option to renew) are just some of the ideas that have been put forth to improve on what has become a dull and unexciting institution to millions (The Family In Search of a Future, edited by Herbert A. Otto).
What's Wrong With Conventional Marriage?
Why has the institution of marriage become unsatisfactory to so many? What's behind the current preoccupation with physical sensuality and bizarre sex? Why have so many young people become disillusioned with the whole idea of conventional marriage? What leads people to become involved in mutual adultery ("swinging")? And why, of all things, should the time-honored institution of marriage be questioned? Not surprisingly, all of these symptoms point to one central factor! All are to one degree or another a manifestation of a single basic problem with marriages. Dr. Bartell isolated it on page 277 of his book entitled Group Sex. He says, "While our data was collected in mid-America, other researchers ... have told us the same phenomena can be found in suburbs on the East and West coasts. The most consistent of these findings is 'boredom with marriage.' " He went on to explain that those who registered this complaint did not mean that they had an unhappy marriage — just a stale one! Marriage - and sex within marriage — has become boring, unexciting and stale to millions of Americans! Stop and analyze it. Those who are preoccupied with sensuality are obviously not getting a big enough thrill out of conventional sex. What used to be considered normal sex no longer offers any attraction to those who seek greater thrills in pornography, bizarre sex and extramarital affairs. Swingers often swing because their own marriages have slipped into the doldrums. Let's face it — if a couple's relationship, sexually and otherwise, were exciting, interesting and enjoyable, they would have no need or desire to become involved in any of the above listed activities! Wanting something different is an indication that what you've got is not satisfactory! And young people see all the dead marriages. They see the oft-repeated tragedy of divorce — the heartache, the expense, the ball and chain of alimony payments, etc. And when they do, they want none of it! Humanly speaking, can you blame them? No wonder the "now generation" is going to temporary "associations" instead of facing the obligations and potential difficulties of conventional legal marriage! They don't want to have to face living the rest of their lives with a marriage that has long since gone stale. With their kind of relationship, when things go stale, they "split" and call it a day. That's the way it is in today's world! That's the "state of matrimony" 1972. How's your marriage doing? (That is if you are still a believer in conventional marriage.) Is your marriage still alive — scintillating with sparkle and interest? Is it better than when you first "tied the knot"? Or is the knot becoming a little loose? If you are a typical American, Canadian or British couple, the chances are pretty good that your marriage needs an awakening! Before showing you how to wake up your marriage, however, it is necessary to go back and establish some basics!
Who Invented Marriage?
Is marriage merely a man-devised institution that has outlived its usefulness? Is it simply a time-honored custom of strictly human origin? Not at all! Marriage was invented by the very Creator of human kind. It is a divine institution! Notice what God said at the time of Adam's creation: "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet [fitting or complementary to] for him" (Gen. 2:18). Following the creation of Eve, Adam said, undoubtedly with deep appreciation and emotion, "...This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man" (verse 23). Then we read in verse 24, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother (cut the apron strings], and cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh [a -physical union].,' Note that the woman was called Adam's wife. And Adam was called her husband in chapter 3, verse 6. This makes it plain that God instituted a marriage relationship between them. Was it a bad idea? Did God make a mistake in instituting marriage? Absurd! It is not the marriage institution that is bad. It is many marriages that have gone bad! In fact, so many marriages have gone down the drain that one psychiatrist was led to conclude that "... basically most men and women are incompatible" (The Incompatibility of Men and Women, Julius Fast, page 14). But, if men and women are just naturally incompatible, why would God put them together in a permanent marriage relationship? God intended marriage to be a deliriously happy state in which the man and woman function together as a perfect unit — "one flesh." An imperfect and unsatisfying stale marriage is not the result of a bad institution! It is the result of broken laws. It happens because men and women have lost sight of true marital values!
Why Married Sex Becomes Uninteresting
Married sex becomes dull for one primary reason. And it is really not explained in all the sex manuals and psychology texts available. The true answer must be revealed from a higher source. That source is the Creator God. In His Instruction Book, Almighty God — the One who designed the human entity — has revealed knowledge otherwise unaccessible to man. It is knowledge which, in the main, cannot be arrived at by means of the "scientific method" of testing and observation. All the "sex clinics" in the world are unable to provide men with anything other than basically physical, psychological or biological information. And there is certainly no shortage of that in our sex-conscious society! The answer to why married sex becomes stale lies in a basic understanding of our nature. God tells us that "the carnal mind is enmity against God7, (Rom. 8:7). That is to say the average person on the street is just naturally hostile to God. Not that it's an open hostility — it's an unconscious, but very real hostility. It is especially obvious when God asserts His authority! We are told that this world's philosophers and thinkers often "did not like to retain God in their knowledge.. ...(Rom. 1:28). (Does this not help to explain why we see the "Judaeo- Christian ethic" so often maligned?) Thus, we find the answers provided by psychology and psychiatry are often based on purely psychological and biological considerations. It is rare indeed to find the expressed will of the Creator considered! And because God is left out of the picture "they are without understanding" (Rom. 1:31 ). Consider, for instance, the concerned husband who goes to his analyst (his "shrink" in modern parlance) and asks what to do about his frigid wife. "Get a mistress!" replies the psychiatrist. Now is that sound advice? Humanly it may seem to be. But stated in Biblical terms it is like saying "go commit adultery — it will work wonders for your marriage!" It is saying that one evil plus one more evil dissolves the first evil! But God says, "Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?" Of course not! "So is he that goeth in to his neighbor's wife..." (Prov. 6:27-29). Committing adultery as a remedy for an ailing marriage is playing with fire — the Lake of Fire! It simply is not the answer.
The Way of "Get" Does Not Pay!
The real reason people become dissatisfied with marital sex of the conventional sort is partly shown in this revealing quote from The Sexually Responsive Woman by Drs. Phyllis and Eberhard Kronhousen. A wife was asked if she could do without extramarital affairs. She replied, "Could I do without extra-marital affairs? Certainly, I'm sure I would survive, but I think sex would become more and more monotonous to me. Extra-marital affairs seem to keep me younger in spirit...." But while her adulteries were keeping her "younger in spirit" what were they doing to her marriage — to her husband? Her answer apparently did not include this consideration. She did go on to say, however, that she felt the "practice" she got in adulterous lovemaking would enable her to better "love" her husband! But notice the basic selfishness of the reply! She was concerned that sex would become monotonous to her. She was wrapped up in proving that she could still "cut the mustard" — that she was still "young in spirit." Why do husbands occasionally patronize prostitutes? Why should they feel they "need" to? An. answer is provided by Companion Magazine, April 1966, in an article titled "Adultery Can Save Your Marriage": "Many of the husbands who patronize prostitutes, reports Judge John M. Murtagh, Chief Magistrate of the City of New York, are men who cannot bring themselves to ask their wives for sexual activities they consider 'low' but which they crave." To "crave" twisted and perverted sex is to lust after it. And nothing is more selfish than lust! It should be apparent by now that the most basic reason marital sex fails to satisfy — fails to continue to be interesting — is that most mates are only participating for what they can get out of it! They are taking pleasure. They are concerned with whether they will achieve maximum pleasure rather than whether their partner will! It is a totally selfish performance based on getting and not on giving! As long as sexual pleasure is un end in itself — a selfish end — it will never satisfy! The senses can never be permanently satiated. As wise King Solomon was inspired to say centuries ago, "... The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing" (Eccl. 1:8). God never intended sexual pleasure to become an end in itself. Nor did He intend it solely for the purpose of procreation! Marital sex was intended primarily to be an intimate, exclusive expression of love between two permanently bound people! The Apostle Paul said, inspired by the Creator of sex, "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge" (Heb. 13:4). Paul also said in I Corinthians 7:3-4: "Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence [conjugal dues — Moffatt): and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife." What Paul was saying is that a person's body is not for selfish use sexually! The husband should give himself sexually to the wife and vice versa. The husband's body is not really his to do with as he pleases — it is not for selfish sensual satiation. It is to serve his wife! This is a key to the whole problem of sexual dissatisfaction within marriage! If husbands and wives would concentrate on giving sexually instead of getting, a lot of problems would be resolved. But as long as sex is selfish - as long as it is an end in itself — it will never satisfy! Sooner or later it will become boring, routine and unexciting. And when that happens couples begin to cast about for new thrills in illicit and equally unsatisfying relationships. On the other hand, God has made human beings so that they can never get tired of giving! Giving always satisfies; it is always rewarding. It never becomes dull or boring to give. And of course if both parties in a marriage are giving sexually they will also be getting — but not selfishly.
The "Pass the Salt" Syndrome
Many marriages suffer from a massive communications breakdown. To illustrate, let's take the case of Joe and Marge. Joe works at an office in the city and lives in the suburbs. That means commuting every morning. It's the beginning of a typical weekday. About 7:00 a. m., Joe and Marge take their places at the breakfast table. (Children may or may not be present — it doesn't make that much difference!) The traditional toast and eggs are served up and Joe takes his position behind the morning newspaper. His interest is likely focused on the sports page. An occasional mumble or grunt finds its way around or over the newspaper. Every so often a whole sentence or phrase may shatter the silence. "Pass the salt" or "Is there any more coffee?" Following breakfast, Joe heads out the door to fight the morning traffic after a perfunctory peck on the cheek from Marge. As he heads down the driveway she returns to the table to catch up on Ann Landers and then clears the breakfast dishes away. Later that day Joe returns home, "shot" after the day's pressures and the nerve-racking rush-hour traffic. He heads for his favorite chair and flips on the TV. He doesn't feel much like talking as he clutches a cool beer and catches up on the news and sports telecast. Marge gets the dinner ready. Dinner is served and the "pass the salt" syndrome again makes its appearance. Marge would like to "unload" on Joe, but he really doesn't want to hear it and says so. After dinner Joe heads for the TV again while Marge clears up the dinner dishes. Later she joins him before the "boob tube" as an inane assortment of situation comedies, intelligence-insulting commercials and predictable detective dramas parade before their tortured eyes. This same ho-hum approach also carries over into their sex lives. To them, sex has become a routine -a mere fulfilling of a necessary but now uninspiring obligation. To Joe and Marge, marital sex is just a boring ritual. But then, so is everything else about their marriage!
Could You Live Without TV?
Do you think you could survive without your television set? Many seemingly cannot! To millions, getting rid of their TV would be like a dope addict coming off a heroin habit! They would suffer withdrawal symptoms, a feeling of emptiness and utter frustration if the one-eyed "cyclops" in the corner of the room were to suddenly disappear! But it might work wonders to wake up your marriage! If you have the gumption you might consider trying it for a while. Not necessarily selling your set. Just seeing if you could live without it! Try this. Loan your television set to a neighbor or a friend for about 2 weeks. Get it right out of the house. That way you remove the temptation of flipping it on in a moment of frustration. Resolve to avoid all forms of TV watching for the prescribed period. You can always find out what's going on in the world by way of the newspaper or the radio.
Rediscover the Art of Conversation
If you have been a TV addict, you may find your ability to conduct or participate in a stimulating conversation has almost disappeared! Husbands often lose the ability to communicate with their wives. Yet nothing is more crucial to a successful and interesting marriage. Marriages without communication become dead marriages — mere "marriages of convenience." Why not try to revive after-dinner conversation in your home? Learn to philosophize constructively with your mate. Have a broad spectrum of topics which you discuss with each other. Not just the kids and your job, etc., but learn to be informed on world affairs and other matters of interest. Remember those long enjoyable talks you had with each other before you were married? Do you recall discussing together all your plans, hopes and dreams? You can still do that — can't Many couples who have rediscovered the art of conversation after some years of marriage have found that it is like getting to know each other all over again! For years they had been drifting apart without realizing it! They had virtually nothing in common anymore. Now through improved communication they were again beginning to think alike.
Rejoice With Your Mate
Do you still have a lot of fun and "good times" with your mate? Are you still able to "cut up" and have a good laugh together? Many are not. To millions of couples, marriage is a humorless, humdrum affair. But God tells husbands, ". .. REJOICE with the wife of your youth" (Prov. 5:18). That does not mean just rejoice with her when she is young, and then become a pair of "grouches" when you grow older! It means that husbands should rejoice with their wives always even though they were married many years ago — in their youth.
When was the last time you had a good hearty laugh together? Can you still kid each other? Do you still enjoy each other's company because it's fun to be around each other? Do you share each other's successes and triumphs? Do you really rejoice when you are blessed? You should! Learning to do so will do much to revive a stale marriage!
Do Things Together
Don't knock "togetherness." Sure it's a mushy word often used as an expression of maudlin sentimentality. But it's also a key to a lively marriage! Many families function as a group of autonomous individuals sharing a common living facility! That is, everyone in the family unit is doing "his own thing" independent of the other family members. This is fine up to a point. Everyone is entitled to his privacy. But families should learn to do things in which they are obliged to think "family" instead of "me." Take a weekend off with the wife — alone - go on a 2nd (or 22nd )honeymoon.
Some Suggestions For Marital Revival
Familiarity does breed contempt. Even if it is a cliché to say SO — it's easy to become entrenched in a marital rut. You don't need to do everything the same old way all the time. You can pleasantly surprise each other from time to time. Customs that are "oldies but goodies" — such as bringing your mate gifts from time to time — have a habit of falling by the wayside. It's a good idea to surprise the one you love (hopefully that means your mate!) with a small gift that is not connected with any special occasion. Just one that says "I love you." A small bouquet of flowers for your wife can mean a lot! If you have let the small courtesies of marriage slip, and you have begun to take each other for granted, perhaps it's time to get back to the niceties "once delivered"! God's Word warns us not to become "weary in well doing" (Gal. 6:9). Sooner or later all the favors, courtesies and small things you do for your mate will come back to you! YOU will reap exactly what you SOW in marriage.
Wives — Is Your Cooking Still Interesting?
Surprisingly this is an area of great difficulty in many marriages. It may seem unimportant but it's not! Some husbands would rather go to a "greasy spoon" restaurant than come home to the relatively dull fare that is customarily served up! Does your husband look forward to coming home to dinner or is he usually disgruntled over what's on his plate? If your cooking has gone down the drain, maybe you need to haul out the old recipe books and wake up your dinner table! Have you ever tried fondue cooking? Or preparing Chinese food? When did you last try some exotic new recipe and create some culinary excitement at mealtime? Maybe now is the time to give it a try! Sometimes a bone of contention is found in the way husbands and wives dress. If you are tired of seeing your mate in the same old clothes or clothing styles — maybe it's time for a change! Husbands and wives really should dress to please each other and not themselves, anyway. Frowsiness is not next to godliness! A word of qualification. This does not mean you should go out and dress in the latest bizarre fashions and come home looking like an entrant in a clown contest! Don't go off the deep end and shock the socks off your mate. Just because you are waking up your marriage, that doesn't mean it should wake up with a scream! Wives often need to wake up their minds! It's easy to slip into an intellectual limbo after you get married and are saddled with the responsibilities of home and children, etc. But many husbands gripe (and sometimes wives) that they cannot talk about anything with their mates but "domestic nothings"! Often this is a legitimate gripe. Everyone needs to be well-informed on what's going on in the world around them (Luke 21:36). Wives should continue reading and broadening their intellectual horizons after they are married too! They should show an interest in their husbands' jobs and in their interests, as well as their own world of babies, children, domestic and social interests. If wives could read more widely, it would give them a broader area for stimulating conversation with their husbands who are out in the world of business or industry all day long. In other words — wake up your marriage by being informed on a variety of subjects which you can discuss with your mate. Women's Lib advocates often complain about household drudgery and intellectual atrophy being the curse of the housewife. But if your life as a homemaker is drudgery — if it's dull — it's because you have made it so! It doesn't have to be that way. Marriage and the role of the homemaker is exactly what you make it!
Good Grooming Is Important
Are you still physically interesting and attractive to your mate? If not, it is likely that you have let your personal appearance and grooming slip. Do you still take care of the condition of your body? Maybe all the sand in that hourglass figure has shifted to a less desirable location! You should take as much care of your body and physical appearance after you are married as you did before when you were trying to impress your future marriage partner! Of course there are some things you can't do much about — things like the wrinkles, gray hair or baldness that all of us must experience to some degree. Oh, you can slow down the progression of some of these things — but chances are, if they are going to happen they will. It all boils down to this: If you want a lively, interesting marriage — you'll have to GIVE ONE! If your marriage has become dull, there are only two people you can blame! If you want to wake up your marriage and make it live again, you'll both have to make an effort. It can be done. Marriage is a great institution. God knows; He ordained it. If a marriage has slipped into the doldrums it's not God's fault. But God can help you revive it. As you take steps to wake up your marriage, don't leave God out of the picture. Earnest, fervent prayer for God's intervention can make a great difference. Will your marriage revive? It can if you work at it!