“Marriage demands toughness, and toughness proceeds out of commitment. No marriage will ever be stronger than the commitment that serves as its infrastructure.” (Neil Clark Warren)
These are powerful and true words! Not too many of us, when we marry, think that marriage will demand out of us what it does. In looking back, Steve and I were in “La La Land” as to all of the demands that our “love” would require us to make after marrying. Marriage demands toughness and sheer commitment to weather the many storms that will assault the promises we make.
Actually, it’s good that we didn’t know what the future would bring. We probably would have run the other way because of the tough times we’ve had to weather. But in looking at the overall picture—it would have been sad if we had run the other way. Sure! We would have missed the tough times. But we also would have missed the precious times we’ve embraced, as well. And they have been sweet! They have truly made the tough times worth it.
Yes, we have weathered so much together. But we BOTH are stronger because of it. And so is our marriage. It is strong, but it is also sweet as a result of the infrastructure of commitment and will power we’ve had to build upon to get through the tough times. Building a good marriage demands no less of us.
Marriage Demands Toughness and More
Steve and I totally agree with something that Dr Neil Clark Warren wrote:
“I have never seen happier, more deeply satisfied people than men and women who have made their marriages work. But neither have I met many people in highly successful marriages who got there without an enormous expenditure of energy, courage and determination. There were times when they simply had to be ‘willful.’
“Virtually every successful marriage requires all kinds of willpower. Sometimes issues arise and the partners don’t have the necessary skills to manage them. They essentially have two choices: they can give up and run away. Or they can get about the task of developing the required skills. Partners with will power always adopt the second alternative. They wouldn’t think of giving up. They’re ready to go to work on the problem—ready to do whatever they must to keep their marriage healthy for a lifetime.” (From Dr Warren’s book, “Learning to Live with the Love of Your Life”)
Dr Warren goes on to make this point we want to emphasize:
“The foundation of willpower is a set of marital promises. It is this set of promises that serves as the steel structure of every great marriage. Both partners need to know exactly what they originally promised to each other. Also, they need to be currently committed to those promises so that their willpower will always be stronger than any opposing force.
“Marriage doesn’t just happen! It takes a solid set of decisions, a huge amount of skill, and enormous willpower. I contend that people in extremely healthy marriages built those marriages just as you build a mammoth bridge or a skyscraper. They made their marriage triumphant because they simply wouldn’t settle for less.”
Marriage Demands No Less
Are you settling for less? That’s one of the questions we want to ask you. Are you determined and boldly willful in building upon your marital promises you made on your wedding day? Do your words actions reveal and reflect the heart of Christ within your marriage? We realize that you can’t build a good marriage on your own. It takes determination on both of your parts. But are you doing your part? Marriage demands toughness. Are you applying toughness—even tough love, when it’s required, in your loving approach in your marriage?
It’s easy to say we love each other. And it’s easy to make promises that we will love and show love to each other “til death parts us.” But it’s another thing to do it. Sometimes we get so preoccupied with making life work for us that we fail to do what it takes to grow our love. Love and marriage demands that we prove our love through our words and actions. Good intentions fall short of making that happen. We’re told in the Bible:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Love does not dishonor others; it is not self-seeking. Love is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Are you living out those precepts in your marriage relationship? According to the Bible, we “gain nothing” if we do not do the tough stuff of what love requires.
I believe another concise list of the toughness that marriage demands is found in Galatians 5:22-23. We most often refer to these as the “fruit of the Spirit.” We covered a lot of this in last week’s Marriage Insight. But as I read them again I also see them as what marriage demands of all of us. Marriage demands toughness in our resolve to live with each other in such a way that the fruit of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” are continually being exhibited.
Let me suggest that we all take a few minutes and read this list again. This time pray through it and make it a “gut check” to see if we are really living up to these attributes (i.e. demands). Sometimes it’s tough to do what it takes to bring out that type of fruit. We’re sinners who live with sinners. And that can bring it’s own set of challenges each day.
As Cindy’s husband I often pray, “God, am I really loving Cindy the way you want me to? Am I displaying a joyful attitude? Do I bring peace into our marriage and home?” You get the idea how this works. And Cindy often asks herself the same questions. We see this as a requirement that God wants from both husband and wives. If we didn’t do this, there is no way we can “live a life of love” within our marriages as we’re told to do in Ephesians 5:1.
Conviction and Changes
You’d be surprised that if you are sincere when asking God about theses that He is only too happy to convict us if we are failing in one or more of these. If each of us (husbands and wives) did this just once a week it could bring about huge changes in the atmosphere in your marriage.
Now, I’m going to add one more: Loyalty. The dictionary defines loyalty as “…devotion, constancy, allegiance, fidelity; all imply a sense of duty or of devoted attachment to something or someone.” We cannot allow anyone or anything into our marriage that would take us away from our devotion, allegiance, fidelity or attachment to our spouse. Being loyal in marriage demands toughness sometimes. There are a lot of temptations waiting for us in today’s world that can pull us in a wrong direction. We MUST stand strong.
Take a few moments this week and ask God to search your heart on this one, too. I caution you to do this only if you are serious about making any necessary changes He may reveal to you. That is because marriage demands more than just showing up.
Here’s one last thought Dr Neil Clark made in his book that we want to emphasize:
“Don’t kid yourself. Great marriages are the result of backbreaking work! They simply do not come easily. Two people must be skillful and strong. They need to be tough! Strength and toughness come from reciting over and over [something two clients, Sue and Jim, came up with]:
“’I will love you when times are good or bad. I will cherish you even if I am upset with you. Plus I will honor you at all times. I will never be disloyal to you. And I mean this forever. So help me God.’”
Aren’t these words a type of “pledge of allegiance” to the marriage vows we make? It’s something we all need to embrace as married couples. Plus, it’s something we need to teach young couples who are about to be married. Another way of saying it is, “Marriage Isn’t for Wimps.
A Three Strand Toughness to Marriage Demands
In our marriage, we have made the unswerving determination that NOTHING is going to separate us — “so help us God.” As a result, our relationship continues to grow healthier and more satisfying each year.
Our marriage toughness is founded on the scripture where God tells us:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend [marriage partner] can help him up. But pity the man [and woman] who 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)
If you haven’t already committed yourself to this marriage toughness —this three-strand commitment, today can be a new beginning. Ask God to help you to begin to make it so, starting NOW!
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
We give a lot of personal stories, and more practical tips to grow your love for each other in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to invest in their marriage. Just click on the linked title or the “Now Available” picture below to do so:
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