The question, "What makes a good marriage?" has challenged everyone from priests to pastors and psychologists for hundreds of years. There is no magic formula for successful matrimony, but there are several factors that can help make or break a happy home. Marriage, as ordained by God, is a holy institution designed to blend, or marry, two distinctly different individuals into a single cohesive unit to produce offspring. But the problem with blending two personalities is that each of them is so very complex. Husbands and wives may not only come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, but also possess individual traits that have been molded and shaped by life experiences. When couples in love commit to a lifelong mutually satisfying relationship, the process of oneness begins. "And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:23-24).
The foundation for what makes a good marriage consists of three basic ingredients: love, communication, and compatibility. While some would include financial stability, money or the lack thereof is secondary to a couple's ability to share genuine affection; exchange opinions, ideas and aspirations; and live together harmoniously. A marriage begins first and foremost with love. But true love is not just based on physical attraction alone; it is an emotion that transcends the desire for sexual gratification. The virtue of love empowers and enables husbands and wives to forgo selfishness and become self-less, giving sacrificially and without reservation for the benefit and well being of their mates. Love is what makes a good marriage last for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, and in poverty and wealth until death parts.
"Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth..." (I Corinthians 13:4-8a).
As couples mature in the relationship and in love, communication should be a natural byproduct. When husbands and wives feel free to voice opinions without being criticized, and share ideas and aspirations with a partner who is like minded, communicating becomes second nature. The more couples talk to one another, the less likely the union will end in divorce. Partners who share innermost thoughts and freely express feelings become best friends; and that's what makes a good marriage. Best friends who are married don't need outside influences from family, friends, coworkers or confidantes. A listening ear, an understanding heart, and a mate who knows what to say and when and how to say it all contribute towards a happy home free of friction, disagreement, and frustration. Couples who agree at the dinner table usually have no trouble agreeing in the bedroom. The longer husbands and wives live together in harmony, the easier it becomes to communicate and understand one another, sometimes without saying a word. Partners married for decades sometimes finish one anothers sentences or develop their own language. Verbal conversation gives way to non-verbal and intuitive responses as two totally individual people meld into one.
Finally, what makes a good marriage a lifelong love story is compatibility. The motivation for couples to decide to wed is largely based on physical attraction and common interests. But after years of living together, differences in personality and temperament begin to disappear as they become one in mind, thought processes, and purpose. For instance, a husband who does not like pie filling prefers to eat only the crust. However, his wife hates the crust and will only eat the filling. The two of them can share a single piece of pie and both are satisfied. What makes a good marriage is that lifelong partners develop methods of capitalizing on each others strengths and weaknesses. A computer-illiterate husband needs a wife who understands how to navigate the Internet; and an all-thumbs wife can benefit from marrying a husband who is handy with a hammer. Similarly, a spouse who is unable to handle stress and pressure can benefit from a mate who remains cool, calm and collected under a crisis. A good marriage becomes even better when two compatible halves are joined together to make a whole.
While money or the lack thereof can have a negative or positive affect on what makes a good marriage, a couple's ability to love in spite of the size of their bank account is essential. No one should base a decision to marry solely on money. In an uncertain economy fortunes can be lost in a single day; and time and chance can cause a pauper to become a prince overnight. It takes money to live, but it takes love to make a marriage last. True love is malleable enough to endure the good times and the bad; and genuine love doesn't walk out the door when the job ends or the house is foreclosed. But heartfelt, enduring compassion waits patiently without complaining and does not mind sharing the burden of chronic illness, bankruptcy or the loss of a loved one. Those who first value true love; secondly, are able to communicate emotion, and thirdly, consistently utilize personal strengths and weaknesses for the common good will discover what makes a good marriage and endeavor to protect it.
Unresolved Issues In MarriageJust like cancer, unresolved issues in marriage can spread undetected until desperate measures must be employed to remove the malignancy. When husbands and wives harbor resentment, bitterness and anger over past hurts, ill feelings can infiltrate nearly every area of an otherwise happy home. Spouses can become embroiled in a cold war that neither of them can trace back to its origins. Instead of entreating one another with love, respect and kindness, a simple conversation becomes filled with insults, barbs and curt monosyllable responses. But nothing can be resolved until husbands and wives make an effort to voice concerns without arguments and accusations. In cases where communication has broken down, couples should seek the aid of a professional marriage counselor or spiritual adviser; that is, if they want the relationship to last.
Before spouses can restore any level of peace and harmony in the home, they must first determine if the marriage can be saved. Coming into agreement regarding the prognosis for a distressed union is nearly half the battle of dealing with unresolved issues in marriage. If both parties are amenable, time needs to be set aside to privately discuss problems, or arrangements made to meet with a relationship counselor. Many times, communication becomes so strained between spouses that only an impartial party can mediate. In recent years, marriage mediation has become an option for troubled couples trying to avoid divorce. An impartial counselor or minister should not take sides, but act as a sounding board to hear each grievance and bring a new perspective to a relationship that has met an impasse. Forgiveness is a prerequisite for reconciliation. "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses" (Mark 11:25-26).
Causes of unresolved issues in marriage may fall into two broad categories: money or "honey." Financial setbacks caused by bankruptcy, loss of employment, foreclosures, an addiction to gambling, or overall mismanagement can wreak havoc in any relationship. Husbands and wives enter into holy wedlock with certain expectations of having a reasonable amount of financial stability. A wife needs to know that the husband will be a good provider, that there will be food on the table, bills will be paid on time, and the lights will stay on. If husbands are incapable of providing these very basic necessities to enable wives to enjoy a reasonable amount of comfort, there is bound to be trouble. Any behavioral pattern that puts financial stability in jeopardy is likely to become fodder for financial failure. A good wife may not initially object openly to the husband's squandering or mismanagement of the family finances, but like a cancerous tumor, unresolved issues in marriage can fester just beneath the surface.
Past transgressions of infidelity, a spouse's continued involvement with an ex-husband or ex-wife, or a tendency to philander all fan the flame of unresolved issues in marriage. Husbands and wives need to feel that their marriage will not be threatened by an extramarital affair. When one or both parties have been guilty of adultery, the act may have been partly forgiven; but the guilty spouse's actions may remain under scrutiny. Wounds caused by unfaithfulness can fester over many years; and the pain of a past sexual indiscretion can hinder couples from moving forward. The spouse offended by an act of adultery must come to grips with the offense, considering their own weaknesses and working to restore their mate to spiritual wholeness. "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:1-2).
The process for dealing with unresolved issues in marriage might be an arduous one, even with the help of professional counselors and spiritual advisers. But like a malignant tumor, its detection is the first line of defense. Once couples have pinpointed the origin of anger, resentment or bitterness; genuine repentance and forgiveness must be administered in sufficient dosages to diminish the offense. A good marriage counselor or minister can help guide spouses toward recognizing and reconciling differences. Once the root cause of unresolved issues in marriage has been identified, love is the vehicle that can eradicate the offense and bring healing. As couples renew vows to be more prudent in managing the family finances and more importantly, commit to keeping the relationship pure from infidelity, the Holy Spirit can breathe new life into the marriage, completing the process of healing that the couple has begun.
How do troubled couples keep unresolved issues in marriage from cropping up again? By waging constant warfare against accusatory thoughts and refusing to remember past transgressions. Husbands and wives must resolve to accept one another as individuals who are imperfect, but capable of giving and receiving love if given half a chance. Having a genuine love will not only help couples in crisis forgive one another, but also provide an incentive to push past transgressions of the flesh. "And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins" (I Peter 4:8). When the temptation to open old wounds arises, couples should learn to reapply the balm of forgiveness and cast negative thoughts into the sea of forgetfulness.