They say “Love is blind” … and marriage is the cure. Or, marriage is like receiving a phone call in the middle of the night; first the ring, and then you wake up… Or perhaps you’ve heard about the bloke who said, “I married my wife for her looks, but not the looks she’s giving me these days”.
What happens when disillusionment settles into our marriage? We get married with high hopes of “happily ever after”, but then we soon realise that the journey towards oneness is filled with obstacles that attempt to halt this mingling of two as one.
God’s dream for marriage is that we grow together in oneness, yet this dream comes crashing down when our marriage doesn’t turn out to be all we had expected. Just like Adam and Eve fell in the garden (Genesis 3), our marriages fall apart when we try to follow our own way. It’s the slow, and sometimes not so slow, drift towards isolation.
If you’ve experienced “the drift” in your marriage, take heart that you’re not alone.
“Marriage is under attack. Marriage has always been under attack. The world, the flesh and the devil are all adamantly opposed to marriage, and especially marriages that are distinctly Christian. Marriage, after all, is given by God to strengthen his people and to glorify himself; little wonder, then, that it is constantly a great battleground.” – Tim Challies
There are primarily three enemies to your marriage:
- An external threat – The world, culture, differing philosophies.
- An internal threat – Our own selfish tendencies.
- An invisible threat – The spiritual enemy, the devil, who will attempt anything to try and break marriages and families apart to derail people from God’s dream for their lives and their homes.
When you look at this list, did you notice that your spouse didn’t make the top three?
At our Weekend to Remember couples getaway, we ask couples to turn to their spouse and say to them: “You are not my enemy”. Then we get them to reiterate it aloud for themselves: “My mate is not my enemy!”. What a simple statement to make, but what a profound insight as to why we tend to drift away from each other and turn on each other when challenges arise.
Our marriage isn’t taking place on a romantic balcony, but rather on a spiritual battleground. To overcome the invisible threat to our oneness, the Bible teaches us to “submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). In another post we can expand on winning this spiritual battle for your marriage, but for the rest of this article, I’d like to share a few thoughts to recognise and deal with the external and internal threats to our marriages.
One of the sessions you’ll attend at our Weekend to Remember couple’s getaway talks about the 5 myths of marriage. These lies keep us from growing in oneness and we can tend to drift further and further away from each other. Though I won’t cover the myths of marriage in detail today, I’ll list the five myths and what to believe instead.
Myth #1 – Love will keep us together…
Reality – Many things will seek to divide you.
Great marriages don’t just happen. Contrasting backgrounds bring about painful adjustments for couples and our oneness will only grow as we overcome these challenges and engage in the process of intentionally growing together.
Myth #2 – Love is as easy as give and take (50/50)…
Reality – God’s plan for marriage involves giving 100% to each other based on our commitment and not based on their performance.
When we fall into the 50/50 trap, our marriage becomes a performance-based relationship. As long as you do your bit, I will do mine, and we’ll be sweet, right?! What happens when your spouse isn’t bringing their 50? It soon becomes 40/40, 30/30, 20/20 and before you know it you’ve reached the point of the couple who said: “We have a great marriage. There’s nothing my spouse wouldn’t do for me, and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them, and that’s exactly what we do for each other…nothing!”. Now as painful as that may sound, sadly, it’s the reality for many couples. Fortunately, it can easily be turned around with a change in posture. You can decide as a step of obedience to God’s master plan for marriage to give your marriage 100% and see what He will do with your commitment.
Myth #3 – We will naturally grow closer together…
Reality – We naturally drift apart.
Growing closer together takes intentionality and consistent effort. Difficulties will come and they have the potential to drive us apart, but we can choose to let them bind us together by taking a proactive approach to building oneness instead of expecting it to happen spontaneously.
Myth #4 – “I only have eyes for you”…
Reality – Other things will grab our attention.
Most of us won’t outright consider having an extramarital affair, but over time, if we do not guard against this, we might slip away and find fulfilment outside of our marriage. This isn’t limited to a love affair, but can take many forms including: activities, career, technology, materialism, pornography, etc. When you notice yourself prefer other things or people over your spouse, see this as a warning to address the issue that is leaving you unfulfilled in your relationship and seek help to remedy that.
Myth #5 – “Everything I do, I do for you”…
Reality – everyone has a natural tendency to be self-centred and destructive in relationships.
Our culture promotes this selfish tendency by offering you every kind of product or experience designed to suit your needs. These even come with a money-back satisfaction guarantee, but marriages weren’t designed to function that way. There’s no money-back guarantee in marriage, and if we want to enjoy the fruit of a flourishing relationship, the way God designed it, we’ll have to lay down our selfish tendencies and seek a more excellent way of being with one another in marriage.
If you’d like to learn more about these and other marriage myths, you may also want to listen to our podcast episode on marriage myths.
Great marriages don’t just happen. Marriages drift apart when we do not intentionally work on building oneness and growing together. If you feel like your marriage has drifted, or even experienced “the fall”, then take heart, because when you choose to do marriage God’s way, it’s designed to flourish. There is hope, and in fact, the title of the next article in this series is: “The Hope of Marriage”.
May you be filled with hope to grow in your marriage. Over 12,000 couples in New Zealand have already said “yes” to growing together by attending a FamilyLife event or running a FamilyLife small-group. Join the movement today and halt the drift in your marriage.
This article was originally written for Manna Christian Stores’ community site.