Around the world married people are in trouble—mainly with their spouses. Most ignore the telltale signs until it's too late! Here's how you can prevent your marriage from falling apart — and maybe even enrich it.
By 2030, the family as an institution will be carried on by a minority. "So says a distinguished American author in a recent book about future life in the Western world. Presumably the majority will be "living together." Modern man has made a travesty of a great institution. Marriage is in a sad state of decline. Indeed divorce has become an institution in itself. Thousands of articles have been written to try to steer people away from the pitfalls of divorce. But too little avail. Generally speaking, most married couples with serious problems wind up calling it quits, anyway. They didn't start out that way. Take a look at the average wedding picture. Man and wife are beaming — their faces wreathed in big window smiles. They literally radiate happiness. "This is forever!" What happened in just a few short months or years? The smiles are no longer there. Frustration and disappointment have set in. Trust has been replaced by suspicion. Each may suspect the other of infidelity. One partner may be planning divorce. The other may be considering desertion. It didn't just happen for no reason. It is axiomatic that there is a cause for every effect. Marital miseries have a definite set of causes. But let's try to discover the one basic root cause!
What Caused the Bust-up?
A couple divorces. They join the statistics. Their children are plunged into a vortex of insecurity — left to face a harsh and cruel world in a one-parent family. Both the man and woman face major readjustments in their lives. What caused it all? Was it sex? Or that Jack couldn't manage money or even hold a job for long? Was it a meddling mother-in-law? Or Joan insisting on a job outside the home? Maybe they just didn't get on well together. No sane person would deny that any one or all of these things and many more are part of the fly in the ointment. But the one root cause goes a lot deeper than any of these things. Men and women saddled with bad marriages have one point in common. They have ignored some very good advice. That advice comes in just five little words. "Love your neighbor as yourself." But who is my neighbor? Isn't he or she the person next door? Mates on the job? Church brethren? Club members? Yes, all of these people and, in a broader sense, all of humanity are our neighbors. But too often we forget the identity of our number one neighbor. You've heard the old cliché, "Charity begins at home." Clichés are clichés simply because they're usually true. Our number one neighbor is our spouse — husband or wife. The average Joe or Jane usually behaves in a courteous and civil manner towards friends and neighbors. If we are not awfully careful, our spouse can be the only exception to the accepted rules of behavior. A business client telephones a city executive on the job. The secretary buzzes his office and informs him that an important client is on the phone. No matter how rough he feels at the moment, he takes a deep breath, forces a smile and says, "Hello, how are you?" in a most pleasant voice showing both interest and concern. Another call comes through a few minutes later. "It's your wife," the secretary announces. "Oh, her again," he mutters under his breath. "Okay, I'll take it this time," comes the reluctant answer. His wife does get through, but is unceremoniously greeted with "What is it this time?" This man forgot the identity of his number one neighbor. He behaves in a very courteous manner toward his clients and the big boss. He may even treat his employees with deference and decorum. But his wife? That's another matter altogether. The probable long-term result of such prolonged behavior toward his spouse? Cancel another marriage! Such men don't even realize what they are doing. These husbands are not aware that they have been taking their wives for granted for a long time — that familiarity has already bred contempt. Bad marital habits can easily become ingrained. But human beings are capable of cultivating good habits as well as bad. Husbands can learn always to address their mates with obvious warmth and affection. They do it with workmates all the time. If they don't learn how to converse with their spouses in a more civil manner, they are courting disaster. It's as simple as that. If you don't talk to your mate with interest and concern, your marriage is either in serious trouble or soon will be. Lack of loving, thoughtful communication is one of those telltale signs of a failing marriage.
The Woman's Responsibility
Up to now we have focused this article on the husband's responsibility in marriage. But generally speaking, today's woman has a full and equal share of the blame when things go wrong in a marriage. Movies like "The World is Full of Married Men" may have given some a false impression. Don't you believe it. Those who are made of "sugar and spice and everything nice" have made many a marriage go wrong. Historian W.E.H. Lecky once observed that "Marriage gives either party an extraordinary power of injuring each other. " Women have no idea how much pain they can inflict upon a man. A snide remark that cuts through a man's natural masculine pride can injure him down to the core of his being. Many a man delights in the role of protecting and supporting his woman. Because of the way societies in this world are structured, a man's income might not immediately cover all of the luxuries his mate may want. He may realize the problem and be working on a way to increase the family income. A wife who impatiently nags and complains about lack of income is injuring her mate more than she realizes. The wife's problem in today's world may emanate from a number of erroneous role models. Wonder Woman, The Bionic Woman and the girls in Charlie's Angels hardly convey the correct image of the ideal woman. James Dobson described the new woman in his book, What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women. "She roars around the countryside in a racy sports car, while her male companion sits on the other side of the front seat anxiously biting his nails. She exudes self-confidence from the very tips of her fingers and for good reason; she could dismantle any man alive with her karate chops and flying kicks to the teeth... In short she is virtually omniscient, except for a curious inability to do anything traditionally female such as cook, sew or raise children." Wives unconsciously imbibe these modern images and the traditional sex roles are thereby confused. Let's face facts. Homemaking is no longer a coveted role in the Western world. More men than we like to think open their front doors to view a colossal mess in the lounge or living room. The wife was too busy with career ambition and self-fulfillment projects to keep the house tidy. Some men have to pick up after their wives. What a shame!
Golden Rule in Marriage
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Surely no one in his right mind disagrees with the ancient sentiment. But who are the "others"? Probably your mate is the last person you think of in this connection. Things go wrong at the office. You have cost the company a small sum by missing an obvious error in a major printing of company brochures. Your workmate who normally cross-checks your work was called out of town on an emergency. To say that your boss is unhappy is the proverbial understatement. How do you expect to be treated when you arrive home? With consideration, empathy, even sympathy? Of course! Maybe your wife won't mention that the lawn is long overdue for a mowing. That is the way men expect to be treated by their wives. But is that the way they treat their wives when things go wrong at home? That day the bread didn't rise. The bathroom was flooded. She dropped a piece of the best china and the kids have been impossible. And your lovely wife coped with all these "minor" disasters without calling you once. When you arrive at the front door, she's at the end of her tether. How do you treat her in these circumstances? Do you step in and get the children to bed yourself? Do you offer to dry the dishes that particular evening? Do you console your spouse? Do you treat her the way you expect to be treated? Do you love your neighbor — your wife — as yourself? And do you women respect your husbands as much as you do your own selves?
Seventy Times Seven
Peter asked Jesus Christ how many times he had to forgive his brother and then threw out the number seven. "Seventy times seven" came the unhesitating answer. In other words, unlimited forgiveness. There's only one relationship where the 70 times seven is likely to occur, literally. A brother or neighbor or friend just won't sin against us all that many times. But a spouse is likely to. We spend a tremendous amount of time with our mates. The average wife is likely to hear "I'm awfully sorry, dear" at least several times a week and vice versa. The question is: Do you mean it and does she mean it? If so, you should forgive your mate without a moment's hesitation. Unspoken grudges can ruin a marriage. Learn how to forgive your mate! A marriage is likely to collect a lot of skeletons. Don't dig one out every time you have an argument with your spouse. That isn't real forgiveness. The Proverb says: "An ungodly man [or woman] digs up evil." Let the matter rest!
When the Kissing Begins to Stop —
The last stop in this article is intimacy in marriage. It has been suggested, and with much accuracy, that intimacy is the essence of marriage. Intimacy, however, is so much more than just physical intercourse. A knowing glance between two people in love. A squeeze of the hand just at the right moment. Taking a walk in the park together with nary a word spoken. Tea and toast for two after the children have been put to bed. All these things, and many more, make up the intimate marital relationship. Have the cares of this life crowded these things out of your marriage? You don't take the trouble to kiss anymore. You don't bother to sneak up behind your husband and kiss him like you used to do. The children seem to take up all of your time and there's nothing left over for your husband. You nearly always have a headache at bedtime. Then your marriage is in trouble! If you don't express any intimacy toward your mate during the day, please don't expect things to work out at bedtime. They won't! Dr. and Mrs. Ed Wheat make a telling point in their book about Christian marriage. "Despite the claims of some sex manuals, a couple cannot separate sex from the rest of the marriage.... Everything that happens in a marriage has its effect upon the lovemaking experiences" (Intended for Pleasure, p. 21, Revell). Sexual intimacy is far too broad a topic for any one magazine article. If you are having difficulties in this area or you just want to know more about the subject, please request our free book entitled The Missing Dimension in Sex. This attractively printed book not only gives you the necessary and essential technical details, it also explains the vital spiritual meaning behind life's most intimate physical relationship. But what happens during the day is probably more important than what happens at night. Physical intimacies in the evening should just be a loving climax to the little intimacies that began from the moment you woke up and kissed your mate good morning.