"Marriage demands toughness, and toughness proceeds out of commitment. No
marriage will ever be stronger than the commitment that serves as its
infrastructure" (Neil Clark Warren).
Not too many of us, when we get married, think that marriage will demand
out of us what it does - a toughness to weather storms we never knew we'd
battle. But that's a big part of what happens in marriage. We're often
blind-sided by difficulties, which require a real infrastructure of
commitment to get past the negativity that comes into a relationship.
To help us keep our commitment strong through those tough times, we'd like
to share something Dr. Neil Clark Warren wrote in his book, "Learning to
Live with the Love of Your Life" (Tyndale House Publishers), on this
"For most people, the demands of marriage are mind-boggling. It requires
all of the energy you can give --and then it asks for more. It involves a
continued need for negotiation and compromise, for give and more give.
"Mind you, I'm a big believer in marriage. I have never seen happier, more
deeply satisfied people than men and women who have made their marriages
work. But neither have I met many people in highly successful marriages
who got there without an enormous expenditure of energy, courage and
determination. There were times they simply had to be 'willful.'
"Virtually every successful marriage requires all kinds of willpower.
Sometimes issues arise and the partners don't have the necessary skills to
manage them. They essentially have two choices: give up and run away, or
get about the task of developing the required skills.
"Partners with willpower adopt the second alternative. They wouldn't think
of giving up. They're ready to go to work on the problem, ready to do
whatever they must to keep their marriage healthy for a lifetime.
"The foundation of willpower is a set of marital promises. It is this set
of promises that serves as the steel structure of every great marriage.
Both partners need to know exactly what they originally promised to each
other, and they need to be currently committed to those promises so that
their willpower will always be stronger than any opposing force.
"Marriage doesn't just happen! It takes solid set of decisions, a huge
amount of skill, and enormous willpower. I contend that people in
extremely healthy marriages built those marriages just as you build a
mammoth bridge or skyscraper. They made their marriage triumphant because
they simply wouldn't settle for less.
"It doesn't matter to them how much back-breaking work it requires; if it
were necessary, they would do a thousand times more. Their willpower gives
them this kind of toughness.
"The problems for a marriage in this society are too demanding for out-of-
shape marital players to handle. There are too many ways that a marriage
can be destroyed; in order for it to be successful, both marriage partners
must be highly focused and highly energized. This focus and energy come
directly from a keen sense of the promises they have made. These promises
must be as current as their breathing.
"If these promises haven't been burned into their brains, the inevitable
problems will roll right over the top of them. Their marriage will be
demolished. My experience tells me that a high proportion of married
people are totally unfit to face complex marital challenges. Often, they
become flabby from inattention to their original decision-their early
commitment. They have done almost nothing recently to prepare themselves
for the demanding events that are always lurking.
"They're like tennis players who haven't played for a long time. When they
face an opponent who is well practiced and in peak condition, they get
slaughtered. They aren't ready! How come? No one warned them to stay
tough! Why not? Because everyone, especially the two of them simply
assumed that they could make it fine on the basis of their love, warm
feelings, and past success. This assumption is absurd, but it's
responsible for the overpowering of out-of-shape marriage partners by the
enormously demanding, but inevitable, problems involved in building a
"I'm convinced that until we start seeing marriage more realistically, the
divorce rate is going to stay at epidemic levels. Marriage is incredibly
difficult! We had better start recognizing this. Anyone who is going to
succeed in marriage needs determination. Obviously, great skillfulness is
required, but the development of the necessary skills often takes time.
"That's why you need to have a current, deeply owned, thoroughly rehearsed
set of promises to your mate. If you don't have this, if you're out of
shape, if you aren't ready for a slew of tough battles that will test your
endurance, then you're in danger of becoming a divorce statistic.
"Don't kid yourself. Great marriages are the result of backbreaking work!
They simply do not come easily. Two people must be skillful and strong.
They need to be tough! Strength and toughness come from reciting over and
over [something two clients, Sue and Jim, came up with]: 'I will love you
when the times are good or bad. I will cherish you even when I am upset
with you. I will honor you at all times. I will never be disloyal to you.
And I mean this forever. So help me God.'"
Aren't Sue and Jim's words a great "pledge of allegiance" to the marriage
vows? It's something we all need to embrace as married couples --something
we need to teach young couples who are about to be married, as well.
Another way of saying it is, "Marriage Isn't for Wimps!"
In our marriage, we've found that as we tough things out, determining that
NOTHING will separate us --emotionally, spiritually, or physically, "So
help us God," our relationship continues to grow healthier and more
satisfying with each passing year. (We're now 39+ years and counting.)
"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down, his friend [marital partner] can help him up. But pity
the man [or wife] who has no one to help him [her] up! Also, if two lie
down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three
strands is not easily broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
If you haven't already committed yourself to this marriage toughness --
this 3 strand commitment, today can be a new beginning as you ask God to
help you to begin to make it so, starting NOW!