[Photo is a composite I created—based on the initials of my wife and me and on the fact that we are celebrating 36 years of marriage]
The cover story of the upcoming TIME magazine (6/13/16) is “How to Stay Married (and Why).”
Marriage does matter, despite what the liberal culture says, because the family is the building block of society. As the family goes so goes society.
Writing for TIME, Belinda Luscombe writes, “Most Americans of every stripe still want to get married—even millennials, although they’re waiting until they’re older.”
Luscombe adds, “For those who can stay the course, indicators that a long marriage is worth the slog continue to mount. Studies suggest that married people have better health, wealth and even sex lives than singles, and will probably die happier.”
She goes on to note: “Most scholars agree that the beneficial health effects are robust: happily married people are less likely to have strokes, heart disease or depression, and they respond better to stress and heal more quickly.”
I find it interesting that Luscombe observes that Christian counselor Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, is “arguably the country’s most successful marriage therapist.” Luscombe does not mention the biblical framework out of which Dr. Chapman conducts all his work, however.
I interviewed Dr. Chapman for Christian television about ten years ago. Chapman told our viewers: “I realized early on in my counseling of couples that what made one person feel loved didn’t make another person feel loved.”
For example, a couple sought counsel in Dr. Chapman’s office. The husband was hard-working, and he helped with all the housework. He asked his wife, “What do you mean I don’t love you?”
And she turned to Chapman and said, “You know, he’s right. He’s a hard-working man, but we don’t ever talk. I want him to sit down and talk with me.”
Chapman recognized that one person experiences love one way—others in different ways: “From these kinds of counseling sessions, I realized, people were trying. They were loving, but they were not connecting with each other.”
After about 15 years of this, “I realized that I was hearing the same stories over and over again—when someone said to me, ‘I feel like my spouse doesn’t love me,’ what did they want? I had it in my notes, and they fell into five categories. And I later called them the five love languages—And everybody has a primary love language out of the five that really speaks to them deeply. And if you don’t speak your spouse’s primary love language, then they won’t feel loved, even if you’re speaking the other four. So, that’s the concept.”
Chapman said the five love languages are: “words of affirmation,” “giving gifts,” “undivided attention” (time), “acts of service,” and “physical touch.”
Chapman adds, “When couples learn how to speak each other’s language and they connect emotionally, it’s like the love tank inside them begins to fill up. And really, there’s a whole new climate between the two of them emotionally.”
Chapman is grateful to the Lord that He has used his book so well. He told me, “It’s been really exciting to see the way God has used that concept to help so many couples.” He said often couples tell him they were just about to get divorced until they discovered the book and put its Christian principles into practice.
The God-factor can make a big difference in how long a marriage lasts, and can also impact its quality. I know it’s an old cliché, but I think it has generally proven to be true: “The family that prays together stays together.” But often we’re told that it doesn’t necessarily matter.
In their book, The Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths About Marriage and Divorce, Shaunti Feldhahn and Tally Whitehead affirm religious commitment does make a difference.
They write: “The rate of divorce in the church is not the same as the rate among those who don’t attend worship services….Several studies have found the rate of divorce among church attenders falls by roughly 25-50 percent” (p. 131).
In the men’s Bible study that I attend, recently all seven of the participants, shared how long we have been married. The longest was 40 years; the shortest—only because he’s younger in age—was 20 years or so. Some of the other attendees are celebrating 30 years and 37 years. By the grace of God, my wife and I will be celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary later this month.
When our study group leader prayed, he thanked God for the “centuries of marriage” represented by everyone around the table. Centuries of marriage—that’s quite a gift. And not often found in various contexts of our society.
Marriage is God’s gift to individuals, families, and society at large. I thank God for my marriage and my wife—for putting up with me all these years.