A few weeks ago my column dealt with unusual happenings at weddings, and the concluding sentence read “It is not important the wedding be perfect, but that the marriage is.”
Since that time several people have contacted me requesting comments on marriage, and I am happy to comply.
Let me begin by saying the statement that “the marriage be perfect” was an hyperbole, an exaggeration for the purpose of making a point. A perfect marriage would require two perfect people, and there “ain’t no such animals.”
It is simple to prove that your spouse is not perfect. He (or she) married YOU, and that indicates prima facae a question of judgment! However, there are marriages which are joyous, growing, fulfilling and come as close to perfection as any human relationship can.
The first element I would suggest is COMMITMENT. “For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish, as long as we both shall live.”
Too many couples have the attitude “If it doesn’t work we can get a divorce.” The proper attitude is “Whatever comes we will work it out.”
LOVE is essential, but often the definition of love is too limited. There is need to love in all its dimensions.
EROS speaks of physical love, one of life’s most beautiful gifts, which should be shared with joy. This is not only the means of propagation of the human race, but symbolizes union of mind and spirit. There is a vast difference between this type of love and indiscriminate sexual encounter.
PHILIA speaks of the type of love ones has for a best friend – caring, trusting, accepting, sharing, open, and honest.
One of the highest compliments a couple can pay each other is to feel, “This person is not only my spouse and lover but my best friend.”
AGAPE is akin to divine love. It seeks in all things the highest best interests of the beloved, and is willing to sacrifice, even suffer, for the sake of the beloved.
COMMUNICATION is essential. This means speaking and listening with caring and openness. The goal is to discover not who is right but what is right. When conversation and seeking to understand ceases the marriage is in trouble. We communicate in many ways other than words, so be careful of gestures, facial expressions, silence, or ignoring.
Hold to the principle, “PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THINGS.”
Many young couples thing marriage must begin with all possessions their parents have accumulated over 40 years–the fine house, furniture, cars, etc. Growing out of this, and with the unwise use of credit, they often find themselves in financial trouble which disrupts their relationship.
Possessions exist to serve people, not to master them. The most important part of a home is not its address, size or appointments, but the quality of love and sharing which is found there.
I would also suggest remembering the vow, “And forsaking all others keep only unto you.” This does not mean you turn your back on family and friends and build an exclusive world. But it does mean if anything threatens your life together you have already established your priorities and made your commitment–to each other.
One final suggestion: If you have trouble seek help early. A fine counselor said to me, “You know, Fred, one of the saddest things in our work is that people most often come when it is too late.” Tragically, she was right!
Dr. Fred Andrea is the pastor of Aiken’s First Baptist Church.