Doing Family Right

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Marriage: Is There Two in Your Marriage, or Three?

Toward Understanding the Spiritual Dimension in Marriage

Keep the two people in a marriage in mind when you read this:

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken”  (King Solomon – relational wisdom from 950 BC*)

We know it’s true. Two people can succeed better, can help each other, can keep each other warm and can defend each other. What a powerful picture of what a strong marriage can be like. Yet, it’s the braided part that caught my eye.

I can remember when my mother first taught me how to braid. I still remember being intrigued by how the cords stayed together – how they wrapped around each other and how they were so much stronger than one or even two strands alone. Two cords can’t be twisted together like three can. It’s just not possible. To braid is to weave together three into one. What a concept.

What if there were three in a marriage and not two? Relax, I am not talking about a “threesome.” I am talking about what I have seen work over and over in so many strong marriages I have observed – a husband and wife agree to braid God into their marriage. The couple plus God equal three.

At the risk of being controversial, I want to address this aspect of marriage because of the significant bearing it has on the success of the relationship. I want to explain the impact that including the spiritual dimension in your life as a couple has on the strength and satisfaction within your marriage.  Many people have a nostalgic faith – it doesn’t really affect their daily lives and relationships. That shallow inclusion of God doesn’t make their relationship stronger. Some have a genuine faith that affects who they are and how they treat others – especially their spouse. This authentic inclusion of God is when the 3-fold cord creates a strong and lasting bond.

Stay with me. This commentary about the spiritual dimension in marriage is as much a professional opinion as a personal one.

Braiding God into your marriage appears to be a good thing. Research is showing that couples with a shared faith and common spiritual values are amongst those that enjoy a longer, more satisfying marriage (see John Gottman et al.). Of couples that pray together daily, a mere 1% of them have a chance of ever experiencing divorce. How’s that for a statistic? It’s a powerful motivator for braiding God into our primary relationships. But why are there still so many marriages ending in divorce – even from those with a faith tradition? Research also reveals that 92% of couples don’t pray together. Well, that’s the whole picture.

Conclusion: A genuine faith where husband and wife braid God into their lives and pray together daily makes the couple almost immune to divorce.

There are many reasons why. A strong and sincere faith is anchored in truths that shape a marriage. Spiritually committed couples are called to be faithful to their vows. Among other things, they should forgive freely, love unselfishly, speak honestly, live faithfully, encourage lavishly and clearly put your spouse’s needs before their own. They are warned toward moderation in drinking and challenged against angry outbursts. What an incredible difference just these truths applied would make in a home!

On the personal side, I can’t deny God makes the non-negotiable difference in my marriage. It was our faith that kept us together when we were on the verge of marital breakdown. For me, this marital triangle is simple but profound. It may describe it best. The closer to God you get as individuals, the closer you get to each other.

I also can’t deny what I have observed in decades of counseling. I have yet to see a marriage fall apart when both husband and wife have soft hearts towards God. To be sensitive to God means you are sensitive to people – especially those closest to you. So, at virtually every wedding I perform, I challenge the starry-eyed newlyweds that the greatest gift they can give their new life partner is to keep a soft heart toward God.

If you want a marriage that is strong and lasts long, you would be wise to look closer at how you might braid God into it. Many have said that our most important relationship is the one with our Creator. Why? Because when surrendered to what God wants in a relationship, you become a better partner, parent and person. That was God’s plan from the start. You’ll never regret putting your marriage and family first.

* – From Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 (NLT)

© Dr. Dave Currie – October 2010

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