How do we make a marriage last that long, though? The current mindset of our society suggests that people aren't even interested in a lifelong marriage. More than half of all couples who marry eventually get divorced (source). Obviously we're doing something wrong if the average marriage has such a short lifespan.
Now, I understand that there are some good reasons to get divorced. Actually, I think there are two: abuse and infidelity. When one spouse hurts the other and/or refuses to remain faithful, it's reasonable for the other spouse to divorce them. (Even in such cases, there can be reconciliation and healing, although that's not always possible.)
But I'm not talking about why a marriage could end. How do we keep that from happening? What can we do to make a marriage last?
I think that in order to keep their marriage strong and healthy for a whole lifetime, couples should avoid making two fatal assumptions: One, that love is a feeling, and two, that marriage is something a husband and wife can do on their own.
Never fall into the trap of thinking that love is a feeling. Attraction is a feeling. Lust is a feeling. Affection is a feeling. Love--real, enduring love--is a choice. It is a decision, and it is a commitment.
Sometimes, on those rare occasions when we're really upset with each other, my husband or I will say to the other, "I love you, but I do not like you very much right now." Love lasts through petty arguments, through financial problems, car breakdowns, difficult pregnancies, whining toddlers, and raising teenagers.
Because love is NOT something we find within ourselves. Love is a gift from God, and it finds its sole source in him. God loves us SO much that his love flows through us to those around us. John wrote in his first epistle, "We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19) We are only able to love each other because God loves us!
Furthermore, we are able to continue loving others because God gives us the ability to do so. Not only did he set an example for us of what love is, he gives us the strength to love because that is something that pleases him (Philippians 4:13).
We do not look to ourselves or our spouse for the strength to keep loving them, including during those times when they don't deserve it or aren't acting loving toward us. We look to God, who knows our needs, hears our prayers, and continues to fill us with his love.
This brings me to the second trap: never think that your marriage is something you and your spouse can do well on your own. A marriage should always be a team of three: you, your spouse, and God. Remember, God created marriage and designed it to last, and he wants your marriage to last a lifetime!
He is willing and able to give you and your spouse the tools you need to build a solid, lasting marriage. Those tools, gifts from him, are numerous (patience, wisdom, kindness, a sense of humor, etc.), but besides love, I think the most important is forgiveness.
As God gives us the ability to love, he also enables us to forgive. True forgiveness is only possible when we realize that we have been forgiven. My husband and I are both sinners for whom Jesus died. He has forgiven our sins, and paid the price for the sins of the whole world. Now that we have been forgiven, we can forgive one another. No sin we commit against each other is bigger than the ones Jesus has already forgiven us for!
So how do you make a marriage last? Look to Jesus. Find in him a love that is so incredible it will flow from him, to you, and to your spouse. Realize that he has forgiven you of every wrong thing you ever did or will do, and realize that he gives you the ability to forgive as you have been forgiven. Make him the center of your marriage--let everything in your life find its focus in Christ. It's with his love, forgiveness, strength, and grace that you can build a marriage that will last a lifetime.
Linking with Messy Marriage, A Wise Woman Builds Her Home, To Love, Honor and Vacuum