This is the second part to this post. The first is available here
I also think that it is so powerful to develop an understanding of the different parts of marriage and what action you could take to improve each part equating to a stronger whole BEFORE you get married, as that could help inform your choice of a suitable partner. For instance, for me, after thinking about these things, one really really obvious characteristic for my husband that I know I cannot afford to compromise on is that he has to be absolutely committed to doing everything it takes to make his marriage work. Otherwise, if it so happens that we do hit difficulties x years into our marital enterprise, I would hate to be investing everything I could do to salvage the relationship, while he just shrugs indifferently. Marriage takes two. Three, including God. What I would love is if I had a man who was as committed and as concerned as I am, to identify whatever the problem could be, to get counselling, to talk it over at whatever length could be necessary, to read books, to take possibly difficult action to remedy the situation. To pray and pray and pray and pray. A man who would not just sit back and wait for me to do everything, but who would proactively exercise his leadership in making sure our marriage works. Can I get an Amen?!
I often think that in marriage it must happen that a couple develop a growing awareness from a few weeks after the wedding, that actually, they are perhaps not the best fit for one another after all. However, part of being committed means saying: “Because I have taken that step of commitment, even if I know from the outset that this was possibly not the best choice I could have made, I am going to invest absolutely everything I can into THIS marriage (not the marriage I should have made) to make it the most excellent marriage it could be.” I am emphatically not going to sit around and dream about how things could have been if I had made the “right” choice. Once I am married, that is the right choice, period! I also absolutely insist on a man like this, who is not just going to mentally give up on the whole thing just because it was the “wrong choice”, but is going to invest his 1000% effort and determination all the same, even if he has realised that it was the worst choice he could possibly have made. I am obviously not planning to make the wrong choice. However, by the grace of God, I am planning to invest absolutely everything into it so that whether it is the best possible choice I could have made, or merely an OK one, no-one would be able to tell the difference – not even I myself.
OK, I have actually made it thus far without actually telling you what the different parts are, or could be. With this you could go on forever, dividing and subdividing to identify different parts of the marriage, but I believe that what is useful is to have an overview that you can work with. If you agree that all Christian marriages will have some parts that are common to them, no matter what, and you have an understanding of what these different parts might be, then you could keep a mental account of each part, to see how you are doing in that area, and what you could work on. If you cultivate honest and open communication with your spouse, then they could tell you what they think of each area, and how they think the marriage is doing on the whole, then together you could work on different parts, identify priorities, etc. ALSO if a crisis arises then you could try to diagnose which part of your marriage it has arisen from and invest extra effort into that.
I don’t want to bounce too hard on this “body” analogy but it also occurs to me that there are some aspects of your body which are common to different parts. Like for instance your hands and feet do different things, but they are both made of muscle and bone, as are other parts of your body. Similarly, blood flows to every single living cell of your body. I think that in a marriage “communication” acts like the blood of your body – or could communication be like your muscles? I think this because it is not a limb that you could lose like a foot and still carry on living, if a little “impeded”. If your blood stops circulating then your body will fail very quickly. So it is with communication in marriage, (although it might take longer than 3 minutes for your marriage to fail and die!) So my point is that there will be some distinct parts of your marriage, which might be like limbs, or organs, and then there are some parts or systems which undergird them all, which in a way are more crucial. As in a human body all the living cells need blood, so then, in a marriage you might need to deliberately plan (and practise?) communication about all the important parts, if you want them to stay alive. Another important point about this is that something like “muscle tissue” might be crucial to all your organs, but might play different parts in all your organs. For instance, your heart is essentially 100% muscle, with valves etc, but your hands are muscle and bone. So for your relationship you could say that “Communication is essential to every part of our marriage, but some parts consist entirely of communication, but other parts need communication and time – or whatever! (I know I said communication was like blood, but perhaps it could also be considered like muscle!)
The reason I don’t want to overstretch this analogy is because I don’t want to make it seem as if each part of your communication has to correspond to a specific characteristic of your blood flow, for instance, or that you have to painstakingly find a part of your relationship to correspond to every part you can identify in a human body. It is an analogy; I believe a useful analogy, but all the same an analogy.
24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:…