We are real people with real human tendencies. There has never been a marriage free from human ups and downs, both good and bad, and ours is no exception, however, as two individuals bonded by the holy sacrament, and bound by our covenant before God, we have, by his grace, remained faithful to one another. Through the years, we have watched the dissolution of the marriages of some of our friends, and others forgo marriage altogether to live outside of God's sacrament. All of the sad examples we have observed have caused us work harder to remain free of the pit into which other relationships have fallen. Just in the last two months, two couples that we know have separated.
30 years ago, Cynthia and I agreed that we would adhere to three guidelines in the way we communicate:
ONE: We would never use cutting, negative humor, the kind which uses the other as the brunt of a joke or jokingly cuts the other person down. We determined that life was hard enough, and that we didn't need one another throwing jabs, even in jest. We would always attempt to be positive. This has come in handy when we went through seasons in which we didn't like each other very much or were in a state of selfishness.
TWO: We would never joke about, consider, or even talk about divorce. In fact, we would never even use the word relating to one another. Divorce would never be an option, no matter what. The world gives us too many reminders of that option, that "easy out". We agreed that we would fight such a temptation by not acknowledging it.
THREE: The worship of and service to our God would be the first and foremost determinate for every decision we made, great or small...period. Our lives were not our own but we were bought with a price. Our marriage is a tool for the Kingdom of God to be built in us and in the world.
Somehow, these three guidelines have helped us retain the fruit of long-suffering in seasons of intense stress. The idea of enduring happiness in marriage is overrated and not realistic. Marriage will not always be happy because life is not. The joy of the Lord is our strength, not happiness. Joy is unshakable. Happiness is fleeting.
I once heard a fiery Protestant evangelist lower the boom on men by saying,
"Some of you men, here, get married and you are attracted to your wives. Then, a few years into the future, after your wife has had a few of your children and she doesn't look quite the same, you say, 'I'm just not attracted to you anymore. Our love has changed,' or some other lame excuse for your own selfishness. Then, you start looking in other places and find some other young woman to become attracted to and you decide to get a divorce. You men ought to get on your bellies and crawl out of here like a snake!"
If there are seasons where you don't "feel" the way you once did about your mate, and there will be seasons, then fall back on the covenant and commitment you made to God..