Emotional Factors In
This is the final article in a series of five on Christian marriage. This series contains material used in marriage counselling classes at Toronto, Canada.
The brethren engaged in this work are: Laurence Elder M.D. of Greenwood assembly, active in a varied work among assemblies. H. E. Kay M.D., Eglinton assembly, prime mover in Bethany Lodge. Fraser MacKenzie, Leaside assembly, Director of Boys’ Camp at Mini-Yo-We. Derek Park, Greenwood assembly, Manager of Mutual Funds, Company, Financial Counsellor. Angus Henderson, Elder in Bendale assembly, Christian busness man.
I would ask you to read and consider Ephesians 5:21-33 at the onset of our consideration of this topic. These important verses written by the Apostle Paul under the direction of the Holy Spirit of God declare the fundamental principles of the married life of the Spirit-filled believer as illustrating Christ and the Church. These are principles which are vital to a happy and successful Christian marriage, but unfortunately we all are guilty of not adhering to them as we should. All too apparent in the world today, and sometimes even in the Christian sphere, is the breakdown of marriage vows. The husband-wife and family unit has been in the mind of God since creation. “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh” (Eph. 5:31) is a direct quotation from Genesis 2:24. The Lord Jesus used the same words of Scripture when he spoke to the Pharisees in Matthew 19:4-6 about the sanctity and closeness of the marriage union. Therefore marriage should be a permanent union broken only by death or sin and is an ordinance originally planned by God and substantiated by the Son of God. Paul uses marriage as a symbol of the blessed union between Christ and His church.
Specifically in this article we are going to deal with some of the emotional factors and adjustments which must and will take place in a Christian marriage. When a young man and a young woman leave their parents and are joined together in the bonds of matrimony, they begin an entirely new type of life and face new problems. The basic personalities of the partners and their spiritual, social, economical and emotional characteristics must be blended together to form a happy, spiritual and emotionally successful marriage.
To live a successful, happily-married life should be the goal of every married couple and all those contemplating marriage. Success in this most important phase of life does not come by mere wishful thinking but rather by an intelligent approach, common sense, and hard work. Successful marriages do not just happen, but are made by two persons who set out on the most wonderful voyage in the world with the determination to make a successful trip of it. More often than not, successful marriages are started by successful courtships. It is not likely that a successful marriage will result from a courtship filled with emotional agonies, arguments and disputes. When there have been too many difficult hurdles in courtship and these problems are not solved successfully early in marriage, the couple must face the important but possible task of re-building their emotional approach toward each other. They must learn to love properly in order for their marriage to grow into a successful marriage. This can be done, although it is better to settle a good share of their problems before marriage.
The state of marriage is a complex whole made up of spiritual, physical, emotional, social, economic and other components. Those entering marriage expect to derive through each other the utmost mutual satisfaction of their basic needs for (1) love and emotional security, (2) physical gratification, (3) parenthood. The couple is expected to maintain their relationship through their own efforts and to attain an ideal stability. They are expected to grow and develop together in this relationship, plan for children and equip themselves to be good parents so that their children can be given the love and security they need for their emotional and character development. Of course, a sense of the Lord’s presence and the Holy Spirit’s power and guidance are essential factors in maintaining and preserving this new relationship.
Each marital partner has certain individual capacities which are constitutional and genetic; however, learning and education make young people desirous and capable of using these capacities. It will be essential to make many adjustments such as (1) to each others personalities, (2) to each others individual emotional reactions, (3) to each others role as husband and wife and later as parents, and (4) to the environmental problems which each will need to face as a new unit. In acting as a new unit they will also need to adjust themselves to many other new people and situations such as the spouses family, relatives and friends and at times a different way of life. Emphasis is laid on the fact that how we react in all areas of the marital relationship depends on the kind of people we are.
In an analysis of the dynamics of marriage, two factors need consideration: (1) the persons and the marriage and (2) the characteristics of the individuals involved and their interaction in the marriage. Two unique personalities come to marriage. They have characteristics common to all human beings, but they also have individual characteristics due to (1) their sex, (2) their genetic inheritance and, (3) the ideas, feelings and attitudes that they have acquired as a result of their development in a particular family, and in a particular place in the family constellation, and in a particular social group. There is, however, the other factor involved in marriage which is the inter-relationship that results from the interaction of these two different personalities. In marriage the two individuals have to adjust themselves to each other as well as to many other new people. They have to be able and willing to give up much of their personal freedom in order to make a satisfactory adjustment to the new relationship. They must be able, as well as willing, to share the basic satisfactions that men and women seek in marriage. To make the many compromises and adjustments required for a satisfactory marriage, a person has to have a flexible and mature personality; in other words he has to be physically and emotionally grown up.
Men and women seek love and emotional security in marriage. The need for emotional security vital to the infant and the growing child remains a need throughout the life of the adult as well. A mature love relationship between a man and a woman is a source of such security. Mature love and an ability to express it and give it freely is an essential base for a good marriage. Not all people, however, possess the same degree of feeling nor can they demonstrate their feeling with equal facility. If we accept the fact that people have varying degrees of emotional capacity, then all one can expect is for the individual to express his feeling to the extent of his own capacity. Love between a man and a woman, therefore, has been emphasized as a prerequisite for marriage since without it the many irritations, frustrations and sacrifices that both partners of a marriage will experience will not maintain their proper proportions or be readily tolerated. The ability to love is a sign of emotional maturity in contrast to the need to be loved, which is characteristic of children.
Another important element in marriage is the desire to have children and raise a family. Most married couples want children and only a small percentage remain voluntarily childless. A child that is planned and wanted should be provided, if possible, with the following: (1) a good parent relationship, (2) a healthy environment, (3) a good example, (4) a knowledge by the parents of the modern concepts of child rearing, (5) physical and intellectual opportunities for growth, (6) a good education in school, and (7) a healthy spiritual atmosphere with a parental desire and prayer for his salvation and future encouragement for his spiritual growth. Those contemplating marriage should take a good look into the personality and the social and economic background of their future partner. The matter of understanding one’s mate is more important than many couples realize. While courtship may go far in getting couples acquainted, it cannot go all the way. Only after the couple is actually married and living together can there be the fullest understanding of each other. This is impossible outside marriage because only the most intimate living can bring out all the finer traits in a marriage partner. Understanding a person is half the solution to any difficulty which may arise with him. If one completely understands another he has the key to his actions, moods, attitudes and even his silences. Perhaps one of the most golden keys to happy married life in its earlier stages is this key which is provided by simply understanding each other as husband and wife. If misunderstanding is said to be at the root of half the trouble in the world, is it not likely to be the cause of much trouble in married life? If this is true, is it not the sensible thing to begin studying ones companion with a view to a better understanding of him or her? Without an understanding of the basic personality traits of an individual, one cannot possibly know his essential needs. Unless one knows the needs of another, he cannot duly appreciate him nor help him in the way he should.
Very vital of course is an insight into the spiritual background and beliefs of each other before marriage so that there will be no misunderstanding and discord about this most important aspect after marriage. Where possible, without compromising convictions, it is well for the couple to come to an agreement about matters of their Christian faith and their assembly participation and viewpoints. Every married couple needs Christ as the head of the home, the mast of the ship of matrimony, and the charter of the course of life. Where Christ is the head of the home, the husband regards the wife as he properly should and each member of the family is treated as he should be — as an individual. Christ in the home becomes the balance of power for the right in every case. His presence assures each member of the dignity of personal rights, and gives the solemn assurance that all is well. The winds of adversity often rock the boat of married life, but with Christ at the helm the couple will ride out every tempest and come safely into the desired haven of mutual peace and happiness. The trials and difficulties of life, with Christians, serve only to draw them closer together; whereas with the unconverted, often they serve to blow them apart. This is where the beauty of Christianity comes into the practical side of life.
In concluding I would like to enumerate what could be called “Ten Commandments of a Happy Married Life.” (1) Try to understand your mate: “Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established” (Prov. 24:3). (2) Be reasonable in your expectations of each other: “Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love, in honour preferring one another” (Rom. 12:10). (3) Do not criticize each other publicly. “Let us not therefore judge one another any more, but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way” (Rom. 14:13). (4) Be comrades in a common cause: “They twain shall be one” (Matt. 19:5). (5) Talk it over: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Col. 3:18, 19). (6) Keep up the love pattern: “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned” (S. of S. 8:7). “Husbands love your wives” (Eph. 5:25). “Teach the young women … to love their husbands” (Tit. 2:4). (7) Treat your partner with courtesy: “Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). (8) Be loyal to each other: “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10). (9) Practice the golden rule of wedded love! “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matt. 7:12). (10) Take Christ into your home: ‘If any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20).
If the married couple will take these Ten Rules and apply them seriously, they will aid in solving many problems they face in life and give them the happiness God intended marriage to bring.