Vol. 31 Num. 49
“The Myths of Marriage (2)”
First Published: December 17, 1998
Last week, we started a series of very helpful articles on marriage by Dr. Glen Knecht (of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC). We continue them this week.
The Myths of Marriage (2): Our marriage will be happy if my mate will do things my way
We are considering together some of the common misconceptions about marriage that have found their way into our thinking. They influence our expectations and our behavior and may even threaten the health of our homes. They must be revealed and dispelled.
This second myth might be stated this way: The goal in married life is to get one's mate to submit to one's own way of thinking. We recognize that we are to be one flesh, that these two are to become one, but we want our mate to be “just like me.” We would like to make our mate over into our own image. If only I could change her into my way of thinking and deciding and acting and then things would be just fine.
It is natural to think this way, but our minds must be changed if our marriages are to be successful. We have to give up the mentality of winning, for married happiness does not come from winning, but from losing! We have to get rid of our own expectations and insistences and gripes and decide that in so far as possible we are going to become like the other person instead of making her into a replica of myself.
Marriage is an exercise in learning how to submit to another person when we don't feel like it. It is practicing that great sentence, “Let's do it your way.” If you think of marriage as a kind of tug-of-war, then drop your end of the rope and push it hard toward your spouse. Determine that she will win. That whatever happens, you will not emerge as victorious in this tussle.
Mike Mason calls marriage an exercise in “one downsmanship.” The goal is to see how often and how completely you can give in to the likes and desires and longing and dreams of the other in such a way that you lose your own selfish agenda, and begin to meld into true oneness with this one whom God has given you.
This submitting ourselves to one another, in the spirit of Ephesians 5: 21, is the most demanding, most difficult, and most important assignment in the school called “Marriage.” It is to be done not with gritted teeth, but with a heart of love and meekness and joy, in the belief that one is fulfilling the very will of God for one's life.
Another way to put it is to say that marriage is all about the giving up of rights. Instead of standing up for them and insisting on them, we gladly give them to our mate and thus draw very close together. As Christians we are called to give up rights anyway and in marriage we have a grand opportunity to practice!
That is not to give up our responsibilities. Those can never be forsaken. Those too, are clearly outlined in the Word of God. Rights are dispensable and should be dispensed with. Responsibilities are God-given and we shall be held accountable to God for them.
May the Lord Jesus, who surrendered his rights and glory for our sakes, enable us by the grace of the Holy Spirit to surrender our rights for the sake of our mates and marriages.