A bonanza at the beginning
is no guarantee of blessing at the end.
Proverbs 20:21 (The Message)
Many couples are in for a rude awakening when they get married. We’re enamored with wedding ceremonies in our society. Big celebrations. Articulate designs. Perfect wines and hors d’oeuvres. Elegant gowns and fantastic floral designs. The average wedding costs $28K. But folks, if we compare a wedding and marriage to building a building, the wedding is the first shovel ceremony with the President of the Chamber of Commerce and the Mayor and City Fathers all present and then the senator makes a speech and turns the first shovel full of dirt and everyone present shakes hands and rejoices at the future of this building…but the empty lot still sits there. You have to build the building yet. Then you have to use the building. Then you have to pay for the building and keep the building maintained. And furnish it. And decorate it. A dedication is a nice thing and gets everyone pumped, but the work is just beginning.
For most couples there’s this euphoria at the beginning of their relationship: A bonanza of love. They spend time together, they call each other, they do nice things for each other, they overlook each other’s problems, they have a forgiving spirit, they call each other, flirt with each other, make love a ton, and can’t keep their hands off each other. And then life happens.
This is as it should be. If this did not happen it would mean that both of you are brain dead. You wouldn’t have a memory. The newness wears off because you have a memory. Your brain doesn’t need to be reminded over and over. Newness is replaced by loyalty and respect and mutuality, if it’s working. If it’s not, the newness is replaced by insecurity, doubt, loneliness, resentment, anger, lashing out and shutting down. You don’t reach out to me like you used to. You never call. You won’t make love to me anymore. You never touch me. You’re always on the computer. You’re nicer to the cat than you are to me. You make plans without me. You don’t take my thoughts into consideration. You act like you don’t even need me. You…You…You…You.
It doesn’t take long for this finger pointing to grow old, especially if you are the one being pointed at….Bad, bad, bad. OK, I get it. The average divorce occurs after 7.2 years of marriage. 7.2 years?!! That’s it? That’s all the perseverance we’ve got? If marriage is a football game, we’ve only gotten to the first commercial break!!! What? How can we know the outcome of the game already? If we compare it to building the building, we’ve just laid the foundation and haven’t even put in the sewage pipes! If the average wedding is around age 26 and we add 7.2 years? What? How old? Oh, 33 or so? Is there anyone more selfish than a 33 year old? What are 33 year olds doing? Finishing their graduate degrees or their undergrad, working their way up the ladder at work, trying to make their mark in the world, struggling with a balance between work and home and ego and friends and family and trying to be a good parent to these two little crying kids and grandparents making snide remarks and the creditors calling cuz we overbuilt on our first house and we had to buy furniture and now we can’t afford it. Or we bought an old house and we’re working overtime to paint the dumb thing. We’re going to divorce now? We just got started!! That’s it? We’re going to have great excitement in the spring and plant a harvest and then we’re just going to let the harvest lay in the field and just drive away and that’s it?
What’s the rush to give up? I’ve been happily married 33 years. Really. That’s why I became a marriage therapist. It was the one thing I really had down, mostly due, no doubt, to my wonderful wife. But you know what? I feel like I just figured this marriage thing out. It started around year 29 or so. Oh…? You’re kidding me. You mean I could have? What? Oh, man. The Bible says that one of the great mysteries of the world is the way of a man with a woman. This mystery is constantly playing out right before my eyes…in our living room…kitchen…in the car…on a walk…in the bedroom…at Target. A lot of the time I’m speechless. I’m constantly learning. And so now year 33 with my wife is the best ever and I anticipate the best is yet to come. My mom and dad are celebrating 60 years this summer. My wife and I are barely half-way there. High-five.