Remember what it was like when you first began dating your spouse-to-be? The excitement and discovery of the other person was a feeling unlike any other. If you are like me, you spent much of your time putting on your best “face”, so to speak. The last thing you wanted was for this wonderful person to discover the “real you”.

Ultimately, you begin to peel off those fancy layers and become comfortable with him/her. But all of the layers don’t come off until after the marriage begins. It’s then that we are supposed to be able to completely be ourselves. We have found the one person in the world who loves us and has committed to be by our side “until death do us part.”

Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Divorce in this country is reaching a staggering rate. According to The State of Our Unions, 45 percent of all marriages end in separation or divorce. It has simply become too easy to bail on the marriage instead of digging in and doing the hard work it takes to make a marriage last. Often our fantasy of “happily ever after” clouds the real view of what marriage is. So, what can we do?

We must look at marriage differently. We must stop looking at marriage as a temporary relationship and begin to see it as a covenantal relationship.

Covenantal relationships are binding to us. They are not something meant to be broken. If you look at the history of covenants throughout the Bible, you will see that these are eternally binding “agreements”. In Tim Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage, he says “in a covenant, the good of the relationship takes precedence over the immediate needs of the individual.” Whoa! Does this mean that my needs are not always the most important needs within the relationship? That is exactly what it means! Keller goes on to say that marriages today simply are lacking in commitment. “Today we stay connected to people only as long as they are meeting our particular needs at an acceptable cost to us.” After that, we tend to bail.

The Bible sees marriage different and, as Christians, we must re-evaluate our look at marriage. We must begin to see it as the deep covenant that it is meant to be. As I said earlier, covenants are found throughout the Bible. What makes marriage so different is that it is a covenant between, not only the man and woman, but also between the couple and God. Malachi 2:14-15 says:

God was there as a witness when you spoke your marriage vows to your bride, your covenant wife. God, not you, made marriage. His spirit inhabits even the smallest details of marriage. So guard the spirit of marriage within you.

So looking at marriage with those words in mind, it is much more intimate because it involves the Lord.

You might ask, then, how to deal with marriage when things are seemingly without hope. First, you must pray. Prayer opens the door for God to come in. Since God is the one who made marriage, He is the only one who can bring healing within marriage. He won’t enter into the marriage, however, if you do not invite Him in. So pray! The best marriages are built on prayer and faith. If not, it is built on sand, just waiting to crumble and wash away.

Marriage is a work in progress. You cannot just set it aside and hope it flourishes the way you want it to. You must spend time working and cultivating it. There will be times that one spouse seemingly does more then the other. Do not allow yourself to think such things. Remember 1 Corinthians 13:

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Read that last line again. “But keeps going to the end.” The end is not when we say it is because we did not create marriage. The end is when God says it is.

One of my favorite exercises with clients is implementing the “date night”. I know. I know. Date night is not a new idea. Unfortunately, many couples do not practice this idea, even though they have heard it for years. But dating your spouse is significant. As we journey through this life, we all change dramatically. Whether you have been married one year or 50 years, you are not the same person you were on the day you said “I do.” For that reason, we have to spend time dating our spouse in order to fully know him or her.

I knew a couple who experienced infidelity within their marriage. They decided to give the marriage another try because they believed their love was strong enough to withstand the hurts. The first thing they both had to do was mourn the loss of the person they were married to. That couple is gone. The innocence that once surrounded them was shattered by the infidelity. Instead of trying to get back to the way things once were, they mourned then began “dating” this new person they were married to. They had to learn to love again.

I know that we can all become complacent within our marriages. But we should never be less then what God requires of us. Genesis 2:24 says:

a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.

But God doesn’t stop there. In Matthew 19:6, He says,

so they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate.

There is a quote by Elizabeth Elliot that really sums up today’s marriage. It says, ” the love life the Christian is a crucial battleground. Therefore, if nowhere else, it will be determined who is Lord: the world, the self, and the devil—or the Lord Christ.”

Lord, I pray that you hear our hearts, and help us to understand our marriages. You know us, Lord, and know exactly how to help us. Please show us the path you want us to make, and help us to see that we are not the marriage. Help us to love our spouse in a way that is pleasing to you. Amen.