“He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord,” says Proverbs 18:22. Married life is a joy and a blessing. Sharing that most intimate of human relationships is indeed finding what is good and receiving favor from the Lord. As humans, we are wired to relate to others, including in the context of a marriage.
When God created us, we were fashioned in God’s image: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). God, who is eternally Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is deeply and inextricably relational.
As creatures made in God’s image, we reflect that in our nature. No wonder we gravitate toward relationships with other people, and we continue to desire relationships such as marriage.
If the story ended where we left off, there wouldn’t be a need to go on any further. The reality is that people don’t get married in the context of Genesis 1 and 2. Married life is now more complicated than that. Ever after Adam and Eve and their rebellion, all marriage happens in the context and shadow of Genesis 3.
Adam went from calling Eve, his beloved (“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” – Genesis 2:23) to blaming her for his disobedience of God’s command (“The woman you put here with me – she gave me some of the fruit from the tree, and I ate it” – Genesis 3:12).
Humanity moved from loving adoration to shifting blame onto the other, from being both “naked and unashamed” (Genesis 2:25) to covering our nakedness and hiding from one another and God. Instead of mutual care and self-giving, there is now selfishness, inordinate desire and seeking dominance over the other (Genesis 3:16). Something entered our lives and has complicated this beautiful relationship given to us by God.
Even though people get married in the shadow and wake of Genesis 3, the opening verse quoted from Proverbs still holds true. Finding a marriage partner is finding a good thing.
Reflecting on marriage while writing to the Christians in Ephesus, the apostle Paul recalls what was said in Genesis 2 and reminds them that when two people get married, something monumental takes place – the two become one flesh. But then he drops the bombshell that human marriage is an echo of the relationship that Jesus has with his people. This is a “profound mystery”, he writes (Ephesians 5:32).
As such, marriage is this weird mix of the magical, the mysterious and the mundane. The ups and downs of life touch married people in the same way as anyone else under the sun. Issues of loneliness, anger, fear, discontent, and anxiety beset the married in common with everyone else.
While being “magical” in the sense of being enjoyable, there is nothing magical about being married in the sense that it doesn’t insulate you from real life. While being special and a source of great joy, marriage, and married life is not a fairytale. Sometimes, especially for those with an idealized picture of marriage, this may come as a disappointment.
What is married life like?
It is good
As we pointed out above, marriage is still a good gift from God, even amid hearts and a world gone wrong. It is a blessings having someone to share life with, to pick their brain before making a decision, to be deeply intimate with them (emotionally and physically), a partner with whom to laugh and meet the challenges that come to us all – sickness, the loss of loved ones, losing a job, moving house and so much more.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Presumably, the point also applies when a couple lives together – they sharpen one another by giving each other wisdom and guidance to live life well.
Ecclesiastes also makes this observation about human life: “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion” (Eccl. 4:9-10). The next verse then goes on to say, “Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?” (Eccl. 4:11).
This was written before the advent of the electric blanket, but the point is well-taken. Having someone to share life and a bed with is pleasant. Many married couples can attest to the joy of having someone to pre-warm the bed and snuggle up to, and how the input of their partner has helped them to make a better life and business decisions.
It can be mundane
As author Mike Mason put it in his book The Mystery of Marriage, while marriage is a brilliant gift, a miracle even, it is also “full of awkwardness and indelicacy, as unromantic at times as a sinkful of dirty dishes”. Laundry and dirty dishes aren’t a myth for married folk, but an everyday reality.
The trash needs taking out; groceries need to be bought and put away; lawns need mowing, snow-laden driveways need shoveling; and if kids are part of the picture, snotty noses and dirty diapers are par for the course.
All of this can be very unromantic, but there is a beauty in the mundane that can still be celebrated. It is in these small, everyday moments when we can serve the other person, and see some of their best qualities emerging.
Forgiveness is required
Being close to someone else means that they get to see you as you are, the beautiful and the ugly. They are exposed to not only your frailties and inconsistencies but also your humor, generosity of spirit and much more. The weaknesses will often have to be forgiven.
The kindness and consideration that married couples show one another is a lifeline and the lifeblood of a good marriage. Without it, the constant drip-drip-drip of irritations with one another will build up until it’s unbearable. “Be kind and compassionate, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
A Christian marriage, that is, a marriage in which both parties know and serve the Lord, is one in which grace flows from one partner to the other and vice versa, and in which there is an open-eyed understanding that there are two sinners in the relationship. No one person is to blame for the issues in the relationship, and both parties must learn to walk in humility with each other.
Growing together as a married couple
One thing is sure when it comes to life – people don’t stay the same. Yes, there is a sense in which people remain who they are through the years. However, we go through different phases in life, and we experience things that can change our opinion on matters.
The birth of children can change our priorities; the loss of a job can drastically change how you perceive yourself; meeting new people or reading new books can shift our views on politics or other areas of life. In all this, rather than growing apart, a couple can share in one another’s journey so they grow together.
The importance of date night, among other things, is to continue sharing life together and stay on the same page. Life can get hectic, sometimes to the point that a couple becomes like ships in the night – mere roommates and not life partners. Date night helps a couple to touch base regularly.
Ask one another questions about your interests, what’s occupying your headspace; what your dreams, hopes, fears and so on are. In this way, you know what your partner is dealing with, and how best to be supporting them in this season.
Contrary to popular culture (especially idealized portraits of relationships in movies and songs), a good marriage takes work. We know that we are living in the post-Genesis 3 situation, and so this doesn’t come as a surprise to us.
Christian couples counseling
Our marriages need strengthening and for us to grow in listening, handling conflict and hardship constructively. Couples counseling is a great way to continue this growth and address any underlying unaddressed issues so that your marriage flourishes. Whether you are encountering persistent difficulties within your marriage or simply want to continue on the path toward a flourishing marriage, prayerfully consider couples counseling with your spouse.
“In Love”, Courtesy of Hian Oliveira, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Andrew Welch, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hugs”, Courtesy of Candice Picard, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Beach Watch”, Courtesy of James Hose Jr., Unsplash.com, CC0 License