This happened a few weeks ago. I was having a conversation with a group of people at a local Starbucks. One person in the party is an exceptional soul care provider. His speciality is assisting couples with their marriage. We were eager to listen because anyone who thinks their marriage does not need work is literally lying.
He asked some of the guys present how long they have been married. The answers ranged from more than twenty to eleven years to just over six. As he heard the last two time spans, his comment in reaction to this absolutely shocked me.
Here is what he said: in a very positive tone — “Wow you guys are pacing.” Why was I shocked at this comment? At first listen, I did not quite get it. Then, it slowly dawned on me. What he meant was that we were slowly but surely going through marriage with a covenantal approach in mind. This was of course countercultural and most definitely contrary to popular statistics.
I never really thought of going through marriage as “pacing” or “maintaining a healthy stride” as years progressed.
With each year, experiencing a deeper understanding of your spouse. With each year, loving your spouse more and more. With each opportunity for repentance, realizing your dependence on Christ. But this is exactly what this person was amazed at. Without a doubt he has worked with and counseled countless couples.
His unexpected “pacing” comment does not come unwarranted.
Here is what the marriage landscape looks like today:
- For the first time in U.S. history, single adults outnumber married adults.
- For those who do marry, over 40 percent of marriages end in divorce, according to the New York Times.
- Between 25 to 50 percent of Americans commit adultery, depending on the study.
- Some 59 percent of adults believe extramarital fantasies are OK.
The covenantal concept of marriage is becoming absolutely passé:
- Over half of all first marriages are now preceded by cohabitationaccording to Population Studies, and this figure is rising.
- Annual rates of depression among cohabitators are more than three times higher than among married couples, according to Psychiatric Disorders in America.
- Couples who cohabitate before marriage report less marital happiness and more conflict when married, according to the Journal of Marriage and Family and Family Relations.
No wonder there is so much rage about marriage.
I can’t quite point to one specific factor that led to the sudden resurgence of marriage conversations — but it does not really matter — I am really glad that it is happening.
I do not think there have been any new concepts introduced about marriage. I have written a bit about this topic here and here. Most everything that we need to know about how to have a God honoring marriage is already found on the pages of Scripture. If you want to accuse this statement of being too reductionistic — you are certainly free to do so — but that is the truth.
Thankfully, we are not without phenomenal resources and thinkers who have been pacing well for over multiple decades.
I have personally benefited greatly from two excellent resources about marriage. I fully recommend them to you as well. Whether you are married or single — you will benefit from reading them. I want to introduce to you each resource and share a few quotes that have really stood out to me as I have been reading them.
Resource One: The Meaning Of Marriage by Tim Keller.
Unless you’re able to look at marriage through the lens of Scripture instead of through your own fears or romanticism, through your particular experience, or through your culture’s narrow perspectives, you won’t be able to make intelligent decisions about your own marital future.
While marriage is many things, it is anything but sentimental. Marriage is glorious but hard. It’s a burning joy and strength, and yet it is also blood, sweat, and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories. No marriage I know more than a few weeks old could be described as a fairy tale come true.
The gospel can fill our hearts with God’s love so that you can handle it when your spouse fails to love you as he or she should.
Longitudinal studies reveal that two-thirds of unhappy marriages will become happy within five years if people stay married and do not get divorced.
If your definition of “love” stresses affectionate feelings more than unselfish actions, you will cripple your ability to maintain and grow strong love relationships.
Resource Two: What Did You Expect? by Paul David Tripp.
Confession is the doorway to growth and change in your relationship. It is essential. It is fundamental. Without it you are relegated to a cycle of repeated and deepening patterns of misunderstanding, wrong, and conflict. With it, the future is bright and hopeful, no matter how big the issues that you are now facing.
It is a grace to understand the concept of indwelling sin. One of the most tempting fallacies for us—and for every human being in this fallen world—is to believe that our greatest problems exist outside us rather than inside us.
This side of heaven, there is a constant war being fought in all our hearts between the kingdom of self and the kingdom of God. Every battle you have with other people is the result of that deeper war. When you are losing this war, you live for yourself, and invariably it ends in conflict with your husband or wife.
This additional resource is probably the most controversial, the most talked about and has received the most buzz and media attention thus far this year. I personally have not read it nor purchased it. I just want to provide a few links below of reviews specifically dealing with this book. I hope they help you as you either read this popular book or are still thinking about purchasing it.
Additional Resource: Real Marriage by Mark & Grace Driscoll
The four links fall into four distinct categories:
At the foundational level, the difficulties in our marriages do not first come because we don’t love one another enough. They happen because we don’t love God enough; and because we don’t love God enough we don’t treat one another with the kind of love that makes marriages work.