|By Brian Jones (an old and happily married man)|
Greetings to All FiancÚs, especially young ones,
"Summer is a comin' in
Loud sings cuckoo" so begins an old English ballad As you well know,
there's a lot more activity in this season than the full throated warbling
of wood birds and the swelling of green buds. All manner of hormonal
stirrings conspire to launch an insurrection against the kingly power of
reason. And hence in the month of June wedding bells chime all across the
land. Vows are feverishly (or flippantly) exchanged, champagne flows in
streams, hastily ravened delicacies are discreetly followed by Alka Seltzer.
Next morning the streamers are in shreds and the balloons wilted. Then
assemble the sobering realities of home-making, or home-breaking, depending
not on chance, but choice.
And here begins advice that sounds trite and terrible to young lovers.
Advice that seems to lumber along like the very antithesis of Romeo and
Juliet's sublime palpitations and burning passions . But let us remember
that in the melodrama both these lovers had the unenviable destiny of dying
young under the most futile circumstances.
So let us begin with the first principle: Build on the right foundation.
Passions fade, or, worse, they alter into something fiercely resentful and
destructive. No marriage can take healthy shape if it's foundation is lust
and emotional attachment. Emotions are subject to great fluctuations and
fickleness. Once the desired object is attained, it rapidly loses its
novelty, and in the context of marriage two partners are now brought
(psychologically speaking) into naked confrontation with one another's
personalities and character, such as they are. They might discover at that
point, that they are two strangers who would much prefer to be unknown to
each other. Antipathy can rapidly replace attraction. For them the divorce
court waits with a weary sigh and jaded eye, impersonally adept at dividing
the spoils. The divorce court, that is, if black eyes, police intervention,
and refuge at a women's shelter don't come first. What is the right
foundation then? It is love from the Source of our being. God is love.
Only if our lives are deeply anchored in His life will we have any valuable
and lasting resources to bring to marriage. Otherwise imbalances and
injustices of every kind will mar the "relationship," such as it is.
Let the Lord always have supreme place in your life and you will be able to
weather every storm and grow in grace through every trial and every season
of delight. Miseries do not have to be your unmaking any more than your
joys. Marriage is the ultimate proving ground for the development of
self-transcendence. It is a happy thing to the extent that self is dead and
God's love is fully alive within. To newlyweds this may sound like insipid
moralism now, but the truth of this observation will become increasingly
apparent as your lives together unfold -- if you give them a chance to do
Look out for each other's best interests. Be kind, thoughtful, considerate,
courteous, never uncouth, sarcastic or cruel in your words. Solomon said,
"There is that speaks like the piercing of a sword, but the tongue of the
wise is health." Don't forget to reinforce each other with kind actions and
words. That's worth more than medicine and more than a thousand marriage
counseling sessions. On the other hand if you insist on acting like a
bilious rat, don't be surprised if you get eaten by the cat. That "cat" is
a metaphor for the ravaging hand of self-made misery that often leads to
quick extinction, especially in this perilous world.
Another safeguard: let your conversations be cheerful, pleasant and
communicative, but be careful about teasing each other -- teasing is often
the gateway to arguments. Let go the fatuous temptation to joke (however
banteringly) at one another's expense, in company or even in private.
Jokes that begin like a vine of blossoms often end up like a crown of
thorns. Love is often sorely wounded, yea, even slain at the dagger point
of a jest. So learn how to have happy conversation without having to talk
like a comedian. Foolish talking and jesting corrode healthy
relationships, and have no more substance than the foam of the sea.
Now here's another practical point -- keep your home clean and tidy.
Clutter and filth are depressing. They drive sociability out of the heart
and quench all the finer sentiments. It will make you both want to stay
away from home and will make you both brew with resentment toward one
another for your mate's contribution to the ever increasing chaos. If you
wonder how to find time for housework, expel the television from your home.
Consider it an unwelcome guest, a lazy intruder, a foul-mouthed interrupter,
a spinner of time-entangling yarns, a hawker of useless wares, a robber of
sleep, and alienator of friends, mates and family members, a halitotic boor.
What a blessed peace would come to most homes if the television were under
permanent ban. People would once again start to talk sense (instead of
grunt like mesmerized animals), look one another in the eyes, read books,
sing hymns and pray, as they did in days of yore, when men and women were
people of solid achievement, sturdy constitutions and a clear sense of
direction. In conjunction with good home management -- learn and practice
the rules of healthful living. Not only will this keep you fit, it will
also help you to maintain sturdy self-control and an even temper.
And, need I say it? Rule out adultery. Throw away the sex magazines, throw
away the phone numbers and memorabilia of erstwhile lovers. Keep your heart
single for your mate or don't bother even thinking about marriage. You lack
the character and maturity for it.
Don't be jealous, possessive or suspicious. If you are, in all probability
it is you who are untrustworthy, and you are attributing to your partner the
faults that hold you in bondage. This poisons love at its fountainhead and
stifles every noble, generous impulse.
Well, here's one more piece of avuncular counsel, doomed to probable
oblivion, but if just one person heeds this advice it will have been worth
my while to emit this cry in the wilderness of human self-infatuation. So,
here is the parting word: it never works to try to form another person into
our ideal image of what they ought to be like. Married couples must give
one another plenty of latitude to grow, as well as be open to one each
other's advice (not so easily done as said). That is why there needs to be
a strong compatibility from the outset, and total harmony on life's basic
principles and values. Even with these firmly entrenched commonalities,
there is plenty of tribulation in the flesh, because of:
a)satan's jealous animosity;
b) the world's pressure and impersonal demands (including environmental
stress which is so pervasive that we may hardly notice it);
c) and most of all, our own multifarious imperfections coming into
with those of our mate. Here's where self-crucifixion becomes an
principle, if marriage is not to degenerate into a well-honed truce, over
which a mask is stretched so tight that one can hardly breathe,
You can indeed have a happy marriage; it is not beyond attainment, but such
happiness is not the stuff of dreams or romantic fables. Conjugal bliss is
forged, not in a torrid release of libidinous energy, but in the crucible
of life's 1000 degree refining processes. If you have drive and ambition,
it must be so; but if you are passive then peace may come as easily as
honeysuckle vines in an untended garden during mid-summer, but so will many
other weeds that choke life at its roots so that no fruit is brought to
perfection. It would be much more profitable to get all your seeds from the
Sermon on the Mount -- the incorruptible seeds of the everlasting gospel.
And then your personal and home life will like a tree planted by rivers of
water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not
wither -- and whatsoever you do shall prosper.