“The two will become one flesh.” – Bible

“Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years.” – Simone Signoret

Tom and Jane had been married for just a short time, and their relationship was already undergoing significant strain. Tom thought when they married then the “two became one” and they were to focus on their relationship with each other.

Tom soon learned however, that “four becoming one” was more accurate. Jane’s parents were a very regular and powerful presence in their marriage, and, in fact, Jane was more likely to call on her parents for daily communication, advice and help than Tom. Jane hadn’t learned that when she married Tom, the apron strings attaching her to her parents should have been cut.

Young couples often have difficulty separating from their parents when they marry. There are many parents who expect their children to move in next door to them after marriage. They even give them the land on which to build!

David Atkinson, in his book “To Have and to Hold” suggests four main areas in the marital relationship that uphold the need to leave parents and unite with the spouse.

First there must be faithfulness to the marriage vow. The couple commits to building the relationship on a love which outlasts the initial romantic and often primarily physical love, a self-sacrificing love which integrates affection, warmth, trust, sensitivity, reliability, stability and integrity.

The key word here is commitment. Unfortunately the practice of commitment is almost a lost art these days. People seem to be afraid of committing to something because it implies obligation and accountability. Failure to fulfill the commitment brings consequences.

Marriage is an institution sanctified by God, and the couples who remain true to the vow “to have and to hold, from this day forward for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish ‘till death do us part” are truly blessed.

Next comes faithfulness to the vocation of marriage. Because marriage is a calling to be lived before God, couples have available to them God’s rich resources of grace, healing and forgiveness to work for the future growth of their partnership and its deeper fulfillments.

Although we have the resources God has provided, we must learn how to implement these resources to the benefit of the marriage. Much of this may just being learning the practicalities of a family, handling finances for the partnership, raising children, dealing with incidents and accidents of all kinds, and all the other challenges of living in a making a small family business a success.

Faithfulness to the other person is the third element. Each partner dedicates himself or herself wholeheartedly to promoting the wholeness of the spouse. Although the two have become one, they each also maintain their individual identities and bring the unique personalities and gifts God has given them to the relationship.

An analogy might be two trees that are planted close to each other. Their roots have become entwined and digging up one up you get them both. Their foundation is much stronger because of the combination, and yet above ground they are both bearing fruit. A husband should be his wife’s primary cheerleader, and likewise the wife for the husband.

Finally there is faithfulness to the relationship. The two have truly become one. This means that they no longer run to their parents first. They learn to trust and depend on one another. Vulnerability and openness to their spouse are paramount, as are sharing their mutual concerns and involving one another in all decisions.

A transformation takes place that brings the couple more and more into agreement on thoughts, words and deeds. The practice of compromise becomes less necessary as they focus on God and the other person more than self.

As Martin Luther once said, “There is no more lovely, friendly or charming relationship, communion or company, than a good marriage.”

The Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken Inc. (FAMCO) provides resources for you to succeed in your marriage and families. Roger Rollins, executive director of FAMCO, 640-4689, rogerrollins@aikenfamco.com, www.aikenfamco.com.