I have read a lot of relationship advice books in my time of being married. I have listened to counselors. I have read relationship articles on the Internet and in magazines and in newspaper columns. There is lots of advice on how to improve your marriage relationship and not much of it good, even though good intentioned. The topics cover everything from having more and better sex, communication, how to argue and fight fair, be more passionate, tips for dating and vacations together, reignite romance and passion, improve your marriage in 40 steps, how to meditate, take a pill, get some exercise, make time for yourself. Some advice is to just get divorced, but that is not an improvement, that is quitting and is most often the worst possible advice.
All this misses the point. Communication is not the problem. Sex is not the problem. Spending quality time together is not the problem. Raising well-behaved children is not the problem. These are all SYMPTOMS, and is why they don't really work. Aspirin may cure the headache, but it doesn't cure that aneurysm causing it. Most relationship advice centers on personal fulfillment; but marriage is not about that.
There is an excellent movie titled "Fireproof" about a marriage falling apart and the husband who fights to restore it. The acting is a bit flat, but the message is the important thing. The plan is 40 days of different tasks he does that proves his love for his wife and remoulds himself. Still, the movie advice only attacks the SYMPTOMS, but with a divine purpose. Fireproof is really about learning how to submit.
The fundamental problem I see in all marriage failures is one of MUTUAL SUBMISSION. Submission gets a bad rap because it is poorly understood and the meaning is often abused, especially by many Christians. I know many of you are tuning out right now, but please read on. If you are tuning out to what I am about to say then you have closed your mind to the possibility you are wrong, and very much so. Whether you like it or not, the Holy Bible has got it right. Submission is not about a master-slave or blind obedience relationship, or putting out whenever your spouse wants it in any way they want it, or putting up with every whim your partner comes up with or making your spouse do dishes or raise the children. That is not submission; that is slavery. Most relationship advice centers on personal fulfillment, but that is inherently selfish and is not submission and guarantees failure.
Now, you are thinking, "Yeah. But who are you to give marital advice, Robomarkov? You are divorced
. You know nothing!"
Wrong again. I have learned A LOT in the last two years. It is my nature, and my day job, to investigate things when they are broken. I must root-cause the problem. It is a compulsion. I have lots of data. Lots of painful painful painful data. I kept a diary, as well as other documentation. It goes back many years. I have spent the last two years investigating and educating myself. The popular advice was obviously not right, so I kept on reading. I kept searching for the source of my misery. I even read "The Power of Now", by Eckhart Tolle, a good book, overall, but a bit "new-agey", even with all of its references to Jesus. Not even that popular tome hit upon what the missing part was. Reading The Bible was not working (note there is a difference between reading and studying!). Then I found what I needed. There was a Bible study at work and the study group, all men, decided to study a book on marriage to improve their own. The book is "Every Man's Marriage", by Stephen Arterburn, and Fred Stoeker. This was the missing piece of the puzzle. It revealed to me the lack of understanding I had in parts of The Bible regarding marriage relationships. It made all the other bits of data from all the other books, articles, and advice, fit. (There is also a book for the wives called "Every Woman's Marriage"). I was depressed for a few weeks after having read it, having my faults laid open before me.
Now you are turned off and tuning out again. Robomarkov about to get all preachy and stuff. Just stick with me. Obi Wan Kenobi was wrong. Truth, real truth, is true from no matter the point of view. The advice regarding submission, as *properly* understood in The New Testament, is correct regardless of whether you believe in God and Christ or not. The fundamentals still apply. What do I mean about *properly*? One of the problems with taking The Bible at face value is that the ancient historical and cultural references and understanding are not present. For that, one must truly do some deep research and study. Fortunately, others have done that so you don't have to.
Let us examine the passages from Ephesians, chapter 5, verses 22 to 33:Ephesians 5:20-33
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Marriage Like Christ and the Church
22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church [d]in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she [e]respects her husband.
[d] Ephesians 5:27 Lit glorious
[e] Ephesians 5:33 Lit fear
The wife is to subject to the husband, we have all heard that a zillion times. But, the HUSBAND IS TO BE SUBJECT TO THE WIFE, TOO!!! Verse 25, folks! It is mutual submission to one another... Husbands are to submit to their wives
as Christ did to The Church. Wives are to submit to their husbands
in the same fashion that The Church submits to Christ. Look at verse 32. That is how we are to have mutual submission. What does that mean? Look at the leadership qualities that Christ displayed in how he gathered people together. "Christian leadership isn't a selfish exercise of power over others. Rather, it is a call to greater service to those we lead" (Wood, Stephen. Christian Fatherhood
, p. 57).
He did not make dictations and demands from on high as some tyrant. He worked WITH the people healing, and nurturing, and loving them. He dined with sinners not to become one, but to give compassion and bring them out of their sin into new life. He unabashedly and publicly proclaimed His love and gave His life, literally and figuratively.
There is another element in the passage that bears examination. The word "head", or kephale
, in Greek, is used in verse 23. This is important. In that ancient culture, the head represented not the intellectual center it does now, but the source of life. One cannot live without a head! Translate verse 23 and you see that the husband, in the context of this usage of kephale, is the life essence of his wife and thus the marriage. Without submission, the life essence becomes retained by the husband and "death" of the relationship ensues. Likewise, the Dead Sea is dead for the reason it gives nothing away and retains all the life-giving water entering into it
. The submission MUST be mutual.
I get it, now.
I understand my piece, my
part, in what went wrong with my marriage.
I was bad at submission. I was good at submitting in some areas, but rather bad in some, apparently key, other areas. I was faithful to my wife, but I was not faithful to God. I didn't submit to God, nor my wife, properly. The issue is not "togetherness" or "communication" or even being happy. It is mutual submission. The other things will improve on their own if we will just submit, in a Christ-like way, to our spouse. Learn from my knowledge. If I only knew then what I know now.
I cannot strongly recommend enough the books "Every Man's Marriage", and "Every Woman's Marriage". I have read them both. (Actually, I was only halfway through the book for the wives before I gave it away to someone. I will get myself another.) If you have a good marriage, then read them anyway. If you are having marital troubles, REGARDLESS OF THE TROUBLE, coming from a failed marriage, or you intend to get married, then, absolutely, these books are for you, even if you are not Christian. If you value your spouse and your marriage, then you will want to read these books.Note to non-Christians
: wouldn't you love the irony of living a better "Christian" marriage than your "Christian" friends? Christianity is more than a philosophy, it is a way of life.