Lifetime Marriage: A Reasonable Expectation or Crazy Talk?

1-1203879082HMCpAmong never-marrieds aged 20 to 30 who were surveyed recently, 87% said “I want a marriage that will last a lifetime.” Many in Gen Y have seen their parents divorce and hope to avoid that path. Unfortunately a desire to have a lasting marriage doesn’t mean they have the skills to achieve it, especially as conflict and adversity enter their lives.

A 1995 Monitoring the Future survey of teens found most planned to get married and felt marriage was important, but they were pessimistic about their ability to maintain a lifelong marriage and saw few positive examples of marriage.

This brings us back to the subject of agape or unconditional love  (discussed in a previous post). Many people of faith refer to this type of marriage as a “covenant marriage” and view marriage as a sacred vow rather than a hopeful agreement based on positive life occurrences. Is a lifetime marriage a crazy ideal that few people can hope for, or is it reasonable that two normal, committed people can achieve?

Advocates for a permanent marriage say it is based on commitment, forgiveness, sacrifice, and putting the other person’s needs above their own. This may seem like a way to set yourself up to be taken advantage of. After all, if you could get your way, wouldn’t you do less work and make special requests all day long? (Perhaps there are some spouses who would, but that rolls into the topic of setting expectations and knowing your partner well before marriage. Yes, many people need a better screening process for potential mates.)

For the happily married couples I have interviewed, the opposite tends to occur. Many of them have learned a secret, what I call the “paradox of giving.” The more one person chooses to give, the more the other person desires to please his or her spouse, creating a cycle of giving. Instead of keeping track and waiting to get something back every time they give, they just do their best at being giving, loving people, and their spouse does the same. They’re not perfect, but they make a daily effort.

Everyone has heard the phrase “it is in giving that we receive,” but few live it out.  The immature couple focused on their individual needs and wants never experiences this paradox and never finds anyone who can meet every desire and expectation they have. The mature couple at least has a willingness to try to please one other. The result, at least for many I have met, is that they both end up feeling very satisfied and happy in their relationship.

Lonely or sad people are often told to reach out to help someone else in need as a way to boost their spirits. Most of us feel good when we help someone else, especially as a secret or a surprise. Apply a little of this feel-good medicine to your marriage. Do something nice without the other person even knowing. If you can’t think of something nice to do, ask, “How can I help you today?” Start the giving cycle. Don’t wait for the good to be returned.

So what do you think–is a lifetime married to the same person reasonable or does it sound like crazy talk?

5 responses to “Lifetime Marriage: A Reasonable Expectation or Crazy Talk?

  1. Pleasing your spouse and having a servents heart in ones marriage is something I believe can heal wounds in a relationship. But I believe in order to have a marriage that lasts a lifetime, one must first understand the roles each person plays, under Gods direction. Ken and I struggled with this for many years. I battled him for the position of leader, when that was not God’s biblical plan for marriage. Only after understanding my role as being the heart and Ken the head, were we able to let God be the body of our marriage. Our roles are equal, but different. I believe by trusting God to be the body of your marriage, chains that bind will be broken and your free to live for God’s glory.

  2. Good post, Lori. I am lucky to have a marriage like you describe. I can’t speak for how other people FEEL when they marry someone, but in addition to loving each other, we just plain liked each other a lot. We became best friends, and that has lasted 20+ years now. There’s no one else the other would rather spend time with. My husband, who was married before, is more naturally giving, and in his previous relationship got taken advantage of big-time. In our relationship, I try to be very careful of taking advantage for that reason, and I find that his generosity toward me makes me want to do things for him. It works. Every relationship is different, though, and I am puzzled by the previous comment. Does someone have to be the “head” and another the “heart”? Both people need both parts. Two people can go forward and make it work together without either person “leading.”

  3. Marriage as I know it is to be a sacrament before the LORD and with the LORD’s blessing from day one. At 77 years old I have loved only one woman and my wife who is also 77, has loved only one man, and we have been committed as soul mates for the 59 years of our marriage. We believe in a hereafter and pray to be together for eternity. We have had a very exciting life without destroying our marriage along the way.

    The happiness we have had since I retired in 1996 is wonderful. This is the best path for life.

    • Congratulations on your happiness and your lifelong marriage! Hopefully you can mentor others around you and offer a positive example. Continued blessings to you.

  4. very interesting points you have mentioned , regards for posting

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