Marriage: The Difficult Years


Chuck Swindoll was preaching a series on marriage when someone handed him a note that said, "The most difficult years of marriage are those following the wedding." (Marriage: From Surviving to Thriving, p.79) I’m sure more than a few couples would add a hearty, "Amen!"

Three factors make marriage difficult. The first is obvious but is worthy of frequent mention: men and women are so different. Even if we come from similar ethnic, geographical, religious, economic and social backgrounds, one person in the marriage is a man and the other is a woman. That is a recipe for fireworks and, occasionally, even an explosion.

While we often look at the similarities we share with the person we love, the differences cry out for recognition. Our bodies, communication, and emotional/mental processing are different. We both crave intimate connection with our spouses, but experience it differently; one uses communication to bond, the other to convey information; one looks for love, the other for respect; one defines romance in terms of emotional bonding, the other in terms of physical connection. We can never erase these differences, and it would be counterproductive to even try. But, we can recognize that they are a factor in how we become one flesh with our partner.

Secondly, marriage is difficult because it is goes against our selfish grain. It is a natural tendency to pursue our own interests. We were free to do that for years before we were married; why should it change afterwards? Now, we even have someone to help us in the pursuit of our desires!

The challenge of two becoming one flesh (Genesis 2:24) is that it is unnatural in the fallen world.
The first act of rebellion against God was motivated by selfish desire: Eve wanted to become like God. How ironic that Eve would sin to become more like the God who was sinless! Deceitful! Selfishness is so dangerous because not only is it sinful, but it masks its real essence in attractive-looking/sounding lies.

In the process of becoming one flesh we must learn to set aside many of our individual desires in the interests of serving the health of the relationship. We may give up hobbies that take time from the family, habits that are offensive to our spouse, and attitudes that rub the relationship raw.

The third reason marriage is so difficult is because we are called to connect so deeply into the life of another person. Our thoughts, actions, plans and goals merge into one. We know and become known - emotionally, spiritually and physically - at a level impossible to achieve in most other relationships. We make ourselves vulnerable in every possible way (Genesis 2:25), trusting that our partner will love and accept us, not mock and reject us.

This, to me, is one of the most practical reasons to encourage young people to wait until they are married to experience sexual intimacy. Marital sexuality, as it matures over time in a loving relationship, is about a mutuality of sharing, meeting needs, and enjoying faithful companionship. That occurs in the context of a committed relationship where both partners know that, in spite of faults and failures, the relationship will continue the next day, and the next, and the next.

People engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage are too often seeking personal gratification. Their interest in the encounter is often immature and selfish, with little or no understanding of the commitment (accompanied by the vow!) necessary for a healthy relationship. It often ends up with someone, often a young girl, being hurt, disillusioned, and feeling abandoned. What kind of preparation is this for either of the young people for a lifetime marriage? One may enter thinking, "Ah, this will be a blast," and the other, "It’s only a matter of time before my partner hurts me deeply and this will be over." Keeping the marriage bed pure (Hebrews 13:4) not only pleases God, but is just good sense. (If you haven’t kept it pure, understand that God stands ready to forgive and help you heal the moment you call on him).

I’ve observed that the more mature a couple is before they marry, the less traumatic the transition to becoming one is for them. So be patient. Trust is God’s timing. Know that the years after the marriage will at times be difficult ones, but know also that through patience, love and growth, God can and will help us become one flesh.

Warren Baldwin

Connect with Marriage Mondays on Julie's blog.

Also, I am having a give-away for my book, Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks and Other Gems from Proverbs. Leave a caption for the photograph in the post and my youth group will be picking a winner in another week.


Kay said...

I think that deserves an "AMEN!"

Karin said...

Yup, the years following the lovely wedding ceremony are the most difficult - all 44 of them in our case, lol! But, I would not have wanted to miss a moment - mountain tops and valleys - all God used to shape and grow both of us! The best is yet to come - and it doesn't get easier when we retire, get older and health issues creep in!

Wesley said...

Thanks for sharing. I think we forget that marriage takes work. We forget that it takes intentional efforts our the part of both people. Thanks for reminding me of this.

Warren Baldwin said...

Thanks Kay, karin and Wesley.

I'll be at a preacher's seminar and won't be responding for a coule of days.

mbensonkw said...

Insightful. Thanks Warren.

mbensonkw said...

Insightful. Thanks Warren.

Sharon Cohen said...

All around great advice. I've come back about six times today to digest it all.

Beth.. One Blessed Nana said...

oh, yeah. that's a great post and even after 25 years of marriage, one that i needed to read! i think it needs to be printed out so i can refer to it often.

i need to work on not being so selfish and i don't know why I am! i get territorial with my diet root beer and that's crazy I know! (but don't drink my root beer!) haha

revival is going great in New mexico - pray for the church - good things are happening!

ComeHaveaPeace said...

Such good wisdom here, Warren. Marriage IS hard, but when we pursue it God's way, it's such a joy. When two become one it is a miracle, and when two live as one, it's evidence of God's power in two yielded lives.

Thanks so much for linking this great post to Marriage Mondays,

Marsha Young said...

You have a number of solid reminders to us regarding not only the difficulty of marriage, but also the special opportunities for growth, maturity and contentment in that relationship, when we work at it, and when we daily ask God to bless our efforts to be gentle, loving partners.

Hope your seminar is a fruitful one. Marsha Y.

septembermom said...

So much here for me to reflect upon Warren. There are many times when marriage can feel like something we just "do" instead of something that we "celebrate."