The Reality of Marital Bliss After “I do”
This week marks 44 years since I said, “I do.” One of the funniest memories of that day was my wife’s aunt approaching me at the wedding reception after she had dipped a bit too heavily into some adult refreshments.
Warning me Janet deserved a good husband after all that she had been through (including the death of her first husband in the Army), her aunt wagged a finger and said, “We’ll be keeping an eye on you.”
Not the least bit nervous, I nodded and said, “Okay.”
Of course, I didn’t know all that lay ahead. That undoubtedly is one inspiration for the old adage: “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
After all this time, I could add another observation: too many people go into marriage with a romantic image of their spouse. And when reality can’t match this image, the marriage is in trouble.
It’s not the fact that our marriage has thrived that makes me wax poetic, though. It’s an ever-growing appreciation for that time-honored Scripture repeated at so many weddings: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:6 NIV).
What God has joined together. We all too often rush through life thinking we are making all our decisions while ignoring those spiritual moments that give evidence of bigger forces at work.
I think of my parents’ chance meeting on a train from Chicago to Minneapolis. Dad was returning home to Minnesota after treatment at the VA Hospital in Chicago for the wounds he suffered in Italy during World War II. Living then with her oldest sister in Chicago, Mom was on her way to become a bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding.
That divine meeting happened on Oct. 1. Three months later, they said “I do”—and stayed that way for 42 years, until cancer claimed my mother’s life.
In between there were plenty of bumps and bruises. But despite the problems, they stayed together. So did my wife’s parents for 60 years, despite their challenges.
Not spilling any beans here, because every married couple has problems. It goes with living together with another person, regardless of how good one’s intentions or certainty in the decision to marry.
Surviving Tough Times
To act as if our marriage has been all sweetness and light would be to engage in flights of fancy and bearing false witness. My experience led me to come up with the saying that often prompts laughter. And yet I am deadly serious when I say that the first 20 years are the hardest.
A key moment in our oft-conflict-ridden marriage came 15 years into it, when we attended a marriage seminar. We missed the first session because we didn’t learn about it until after the workshop had begun.
Within 10 minutes of starting, the material the leader was using posed the question: “Based on Genesis 2:22, did you ever think that when you’re fussing and feuding with your wife, it’s like shaking your fist in God’s face and saying, ‘I don’t like this woman you’ve brought to me’?”
Wow! Talk about being punched between the eyes. Suddenly spats and arguments weren’t rooted in animus against my spouse, but anger towards God and a lack of appreciation for His work in bringing us together.
Changing the course of our marriage took longer than that. But I still think of that as the turning point when God changed my outlook and things got better.
Now I appreciate what God has done. In fact, more deeply with each passing year.
Marital bliss comes with work—and recognition of its spiritual roots.