“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)
Not too many of us, when we get married, think that marriage will demand out of us what it does. Marriage demands a toughness to weather storms we never knew we’d have to battle. But that’s a big part of what happens. We’re often blind-sided by the difficulties. To make it, we must build an infrastructure of commitment to get through the tough times.
So, to help us get through those tough times, we’ll be sharing something Dr. Neil Clark Warren wrote. You can find it in his book, “Learning to Live with the Love of Your Life” (Tyndale House Publishers). On this subject Dr Warren writes:
Marriage Demands Toughness
“For most people, the demands of marriage are mind-boggling. It requires all the energy you can give—and then it asks for more. It involves a continual need for negotiation and compromise, for give and more give.
“Mind you, I’m a big believer in marriage. 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.
The Structure of Promises
“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.
“…The problems for a marriage in this society are too demanding for out-of-shape marital players to handle. There are so many ways that a marriage can be destroyed. In order for it to be successful, both marriage partners must be highly focused and highly energized. This focus and energy come directly from a keen sense of the promises they have made. These promises must be as current as their breathing.
Preparing for Demands Ahead
“If these promises haven’t been burned into their brains, the inevitable problems will roll right over the top of them. Their marriage will be demolished. My experience tells me that a high proportion of married people are totally unfit to face complex marital challenges. Often, they have become flabby from inattention to their original decision—their early commitment. They have done almost nothing recently to prepare themselves for the demanding events that are always lurking.
“They’re like tennis players who haven’t played for a long time. When they face an opponent who is well practiced and in peak condition, they get slaughtered. They aren’t ready! How come? Because no one warned them to stay tough! Why not? Because everyone, especially the two of them simply assumed that they could make it fine on the basis of their love, warm feelings, and past success.
“This assumption is absurd, but it’s responsible for the overpowering of out-of-shape marriage partners by the enormously demanding, but inevitable, problems involved in building a successful marriage.
Good Marriages Take Toughness and Skillful Strength
“I’m convinced that until we start seeing marriage more realistically, the divorce rate is going to stay at epidemic levels. Marriage is incredibly difficult! We had better start recognizing this. Anyone who is going to succeed in marriage needs determination. Obviously, great skillfulness is required, but the development of the necessary skills often takes time.
“That’s why you need to have a current, deeply owned, thoroughly rehearsed set of promises to your mate. If you don’t have this, if you’re out of shape. If you aren’t ready for a slew of tough battles that will test your strength and your endurance, then you’re in danger of becoming a divorce statistic.”
“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 great “pledge of allegiance” to marriage vows? 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 Marital Toughness
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!
Steve and Cindy Wright
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