Monday, June 14, 2010

Making the Case for Marriage

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV)

My "Beloved" (Yes, I really call him that. And yes, I have friends who laugh at me.) and I just celebrated our eighteenth wedding anniversary. While remarkable, it causes one to reflect on what keeps a couple together for better and for worse through those years. Candidly, it hasn't always been a picnic. Between repeated misfortune with joblessness, miscarriage, infertility, financial woes and kids with various chronic diseases, it's a miracle we've survived with a marriage intact.

Why would we stay together when the statistics of an 80%-plus divorce rate for parents of special needs kids is stacked against us? Do we have some out-of-the-ordinary relationship, of the ilk that you read about in novels? Truthfully, no. But our marriage is the result of hard work and dedication to both each other and God. That effort and commitment pays off in spades in more ways that one:
  • First, unless a spouse is physically abusive, children benefit from an intact marriage. They learn problem solving skills when they see their parents work things out. The sense of belonging and teamwork that is built from a shared family experience with parents of both gender is difficult to replicate elsewhere. Ironically, children may also learn what not to emulate when they become married themselves. There's no shortage of information on the heavy toll divorce takes on our children. Anxiety, depression, poor sleep, lack of appetite, slipping grades and behavioral issues are all common results.
  • Second, if you think you have difficulty working out the details involved in caring for your special child while you're both under the same roof, imagine how difficult it is when you're each living separately! While your spouse may not always offer you what you think you need in the way of support, it is still a support system. Figuring out how the medical expenses are going to be paid for along with daily living costs when you're dwelling in 2 separate residences can be daunting. Further, consistency in medical treatment, boundaries and basic routine are much harder when you and your spouse no longer reside together.
  • Third, staying together pleases God, and that should be the main purpose of our lives when we're in relationship with Him. In Malachi 2:16 God is clear and emphatic that he hates divorce. It's not that He hates the people getting divorced, but His intent for marriage is for it to last. He is as hurt as those divorcing when we walk away unable to work things out.

It never ceases to amaze me when I hear that the divorce rate in the Christian community is higher than that of the non-believing population. Yet, I do hear many a Christian trying to justify calling it quits. There is no doubt that God wants better for His people.

So what are some things that help a couple over the inevitable hump of disliking each other in the course of a marriage?

  1. Devote yourself to marriage. Taking the attitude that quitting is not an option will help avoid the easy mindset of "Well, if it doesn't work out, I can always leave."
  2. Think of your kids instead of yourself! You may be unhappy or challenged, but have you thought of how unhappy a divorce would make a child who is already fighting the battle of a special need?
  3. Realize that God loves that spouse just as much as He loves you! When you find yourself in that self-righteous position of thinking you've been wronged and the other person owes you, remember that God sees each of you as His precious children. Strive to treat that partner in the same way that God sees them.
  4. In Colossians 3:23 we're told to do EVERYTHING as if we're doing it for God and not for men. Marriage is included in that command. When you're challenged by your spouse, remember that you're pushing through those difficulties not just for the benefit of the two of you, but for the sake of God's larger plan.
  5. Remember that you're not flawless either! Romans 3:23 reminds us that we're all less than perfect. Be courageous enough to take a long, hard look at yourself admitting your shortcomings. Marriage is give and take. Could it be that you're taking as well as giving?

In short, if I have to leave my kids with one bit of marital advice to take into their adult life, it's that marriage is hard work, but well worth it. Hopefully, our kids will cherish that advice and remember how I joke with my husband, "We're lucky we found one another because no one else would put up with either of us!"

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