When I was a young husband, I read a lot of manuals on having a great marriage, written by ‘relationship experts’. I read even more literature and heard numerous sermons by ordained ministers of God on this subject. There were many good things I learned from both secular and Christian writings and preachings on marriage. But far more than what I gained from them were vital insights that I did not gain from any of them.
After nearly four decades of being a husband to one woman, I have learned many, many, truths about staying married and about what makes a marriage safe and going for life. I could even give a few tips on how to pep up your bedroom life. Perhaps such insights are available elsewhere too, but since I havent come across them all in one place yet, I hope that this message will be helpful to many men (and perhaps women too) who earnestly are doing all they can to ensure the lifelong stability of their marriage, but who may have some vital truths missing in their understanding of what makes the marriage institution absolutely safe for life.
I have deliberately avoided words like ‘happy’ and ‘exciting’ when referring to what my insights could do to help a marriage relationship. And one of the most vital truths about marriage I want to share with you in this message, and the one I want to mention first, relates to the subject of happiness in marriage.
To ensure that your marriage will last your lifetime, you should not set your heart – that is, base your life happiness and your sense of success – on a ‘happy’ or ‘exciting’ marriage.
It’s the exact opposite that Hollywood tells us, both on screen and behind the screens. A man meets a woman, falls in love, and the next goal in their life is to have a happy marriage. In movies about man-woman relationship, the film usually ends with a radiant couple looking forward to a happy life together. Back in their homes, the actors and actresses cannot put up beyond a few years the act of having a happy married life. Most of them quit their old relationship and look around for the right partner to get the happiness that eluded them in their first marriage.
According to some media information, 8 out of 10 marriages in Hollywood end in divorce! The official divorce rate for the whole of US in 2009 was 52 percent. It could only be even higher now, several years later, at the time of writing this.
I dont have the world divorce statistics, but simple observation is enough to convince us that the divorce rate is rocketing even in countries where marriages had been traditionally stable. India is one sad example. My own state, Kerala – where until about a decade ago most wives, except the rare crazy ones, simply cleaved to their husbands no matter what – now has officially the highest divorce rate in India, and possibly, in Asia.
‘[In India] divorce rates have gone up by 150% over the past decade. Kerala, the most literate Indian state, has seen a rise of 350% in the past ten years.’ divorcerate.com
The first need in your marriage is not happiness but ‘protection from destruction’. After you have ensured your relationship with your wife or husband is safe for life, you may think of having a happy and exciting married life.
I wish somebody had counseled me that unhappiness in marriage is inevitable and that couples who are locked together in blissful union during the first few months of married life are very likely to lock horns with each other within a few years.
I think, from my personal count of unhappy marriages, that in 9.9 out of 10 couples, it is the man who is the first to display his unhappiness at something he didn’t like in his life partner. Women, who are more discerning and shrewd by nature, may actually be the first spouse to encounter unhappiness in a marriage, but they are likely to keep their feelings concealed for many years, revealing them only when they are totally exasperated with their husband.
Remember that it is normal for a couple to encounter their first unhappy moment with each other a few weeks, or surely a few months, after their wedding day bliss. If a couple had a continuous happy walk from the aisle to their first anniversary, then they must be an exceptionally patient and forgiving couple, both husband and wife.
So, safety rule No. 1 for couples, especially husbands: Enter marriage with the foreknowledge – the expectation – that you will have to live through many unhappy days in your married life because of perceived or actual shortcomings in your spouse that you hadnt noticed prior to living together as one flesh.
This attitude, this mental acceptance, of marital troubles as a natural part of your marriage process sets in place a firm foundation for you to confront and overcome the future marital irritations, misunderstandings, quarrels and disappointments, which if left to themselves would fester and turn cancerous, and eventually destroy the marriage. Which is what has happened to all those marriages that had begun with the ecstasy and excitement of a fairytale wedding but ended in acrimonious divorce settlements and custody battles.
Once you have accepted the truth that your spouse has many suppressed and repressed faults as you have, which will sooner or later unveil themselves in es dealings with you, you have done about 10 percent of what you could do to ensure the lifelong protection of your marriage.
The next protective step on the husband’s side is to ensure in his own heart that he has a limitless reserve of patience and forgiveness to see him and his wife safely through the trials of living together.
Let me emphasize this truth above everything else in this message:
Unless you receive God’s power to quickly forgive the faults of your spouse, your marriage risks a short lifespan.
Betrayal and bitterness are the two supreme reasons for the failure of marriages. An embittered husband who continues to keep his resentment within him reaches a stage where he cannot endure the acerbity anymore and looks for a sweet solution elsewhere. This is the reason Paul admonishes married men: ‘Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them’ Col 3:19
As for wives, their most serious fault is their failure to maintain the same sense of respect for their husband that they had when they first fell in love with him. A few years into marriage and the wife sees a different man than the one she thought she was marrying. With the man’s exposure of his previously hidden flaws, the woman naturally finds it hard to maintain the same sense of awe and respect she had once felt for her lover. This is the reason Paul tells married women: ‘let the wife see that she respects her husband’. Eph 5:33
The husband’s greatest danger is not that he might lose respect for his wife, but that he might lose his love for her in his bitterness.
The wife’s greatest risk is not that she might become bitter and lose her love for her husband, but that on getting to know him better, she might start to lose her respect for him and begin to use words and attitudes that would embitter her husband.
Bitterness toward the wife cannot be overcome by the husband’s struggle to be rid of it. But once he realizes the acute danger that bitterness can cause to his relationship with his wife, he can seek God’s intervention fervently.
I know from experience that marital situations that would be absolutely impossible for a man to resolve in his own wisdom and strength become possible to deal with effectively once he earnestly and perseveringly seeks God’s power to do so.
I wish somebody had told me before I married that if I did not do something to curb my tendencies to keep hurt feelings and dwell on my wife’s shortcomings, it would eventually lead my marriage to a crisis. But because both my wife and I feared God from our youth, he delivered us from marital tragedy. But not before we went through decades of needless quarrels and severe heart wounds. But if I had understood before I married, or even in the early years of my marriage, about the serious consequence of the accumulation of hurt feelings, my marriage would not have gone through all the excruciating travails it had to go through until God drew me to his Son after 30 years of flawed husbanding.
You, man of God, who have been given the awesome gift of a life-partner, do risk keeping within you even an ounce of anger or hurt toward your wife beyond a few hours at the most. Once you realize there is something that is preventing you from loving your wife as God intends you to, then the first and most urgent priority in your life is to daily seek from God his love and power to drive out your hurts and resentments.
Do all in your power through Christ’s help not to go to bed without resolving the matter that has been rankling you throughout the day.
‘When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down.’ Eph 4:26 AMP
Again, let me emphasize, a man’s own struggle to get to bed with a heart free of anger, after he has been wronged by his wife, is impossible for the normal husband.
So, instead of gritting your teeth and struggling to get rid of hurt feelings out of your system, quietly beseech your Helper in heaven to fill your wounded heart with Christ’s love so you can totally and unconditionally forgive your wife.
I am not giving you sentimental Christian platitudes that sound wonderful but in practice are impossible to live by. What I am passing on to you are precious truths that have worked in my own marriage and in the marriages of many other servants of God who have suffered great tribulations in their relationship with their wife.
There are many other vital insights about marriage that I wish somebody had given me when I was a young husband. I will be sharing all these insights in my various messages in this section for couples, which is set up to encourage God’s people in laying an unshakeable foundation for a safe and blessed marriage.
But before I close there is one little insight, but which I think is a vital insight for all healthy men, unless they are eunuchs. Oh, how I wish some wise counselor had given me this little vital insight before I married. It’s about how a wife naturally responds to the amorous overtures of her husband.
I heard a saying long ago that succinctly states the difference of attitude between men and women to sex, but which I in those days had dismissed as someone’s frivolous observation:
‘Men give love to get sex; women give sex to receive love.’
But as my research into marital relationships went deeper, I realized that it is a fairly accurate analysis of the male and female syche in all physical acts of intimacy in a marriage.
I wish someone had counseled me in my bachelor days that women by nature are not interested in sex per se. In plainer language, women can survive a marriage devoid of sex without feeling emotionally and physically devastated…unlike men.
Is there any divorce that was granted on the grounds that the wife wasnt getting all the sex she wanted from her husband? Unless a woman is afflicted with a rare tragic sickness called nymphomania, no sane wife will discard her husband on the issue of sex alone. Not so the other way round. If a man cant get all the sex he demands of his wife, she isnt going to get the chance to sleep with him much longer.
Do not be surprised, feel hurt or become sullen on the many occasions that your wife will treat your romantic advances with outwardly frigid responses. The mistake men make is to interpret the nonresponses as an indication of a diminution of their physical desirability in their wives’ mind. When a wife doesnt respond with passion to her husband’s sexual urges, it is not because she does not desire her man making love to her, but because of several factors that act as suppressants of her sexual ardor.
If the woman has been hurt by the husband during the day, and the husband has not soothed her emotions back to normal, she cannot be expected to be very responsive in bed. Perhaps it may not be her husband at all that affected her emotions during the day. It could be worry, or fear, or insecurity, or any of the myriad factors that take away the sense of tranquility that a woman needs in her mind for her libido to awake in her body.
If you desire a great bed partner in your life companion, the best way is not to try to arouse her only when she comes to bed. The budding and blossoming of her physical desire for you is a process that takes many hours, and should start at least twelve hours before bedtime. I dont mean that you start your amorous demonstrations half a day in advance. The best way is to show affection to your wife in a nonsexual way throughout the day for her to be able to be receptive to your sexual affections at the end of the day.
Touch her tenderly now and then as you talk to her in the normal course of your daily interactions. Let your eyes emanate gentleness toward her. Especially, take the greatest care with the tone of your voice. The gentle tone of your words throughout the day arouses and prepares your beloved for physical intimacy far more effectively than your impassioned foreplay could by itself.
And one last tip on this subject. Do not tell your wife that you want to make love to her. Something in a woman’s constitution immediately puts up a defensive shield against all sudden proposals of a sexual encounter.
When you have done your work of preparing her carefully throughout the day for her total receptivity to you, then just go ahead and make love. A woman’s syche enjoys unrequested, and even unexpected, submission to her husband more than it would after a planned and pre-determined submission.
The above insights are the foremost of what I personally wish I could have known before I married. There are, of course, far more, and I hope to share them with you in my future messages.
In the meantime, God bless your relationship with your wife, and give you even more insights on how to have a lifelong blessed marriage as you diligently study his Word and keep his commandments.