Read an Excerpt
The Goal of Marriage
ONENESS: What It Is and Why It Is Important
Several months ago I was working on a rough draft of this book during a flight to New York City. A flight attendant noticed the words 'The Goal of Marriage' written at the top of a yellow pad of paper resting on the tray table in front of me. She asked what I was writing. When I told her I was starting a book on marriage, she said, 'Well, I'm glad, because I really believe in marriage. After six years of living with a man, I decided that I wanted to be married. Since the fellow I was living with liked our no-strings-attached arrangement, I found somebody else who was willing to tie the knot, and we got married two months ago. So far it's great!'
I asked her why she preferred a marriage commitment to merely living together. She thought for a few seconds, then said, 'I think it's the commitment part I wanted. I married a man who seems to be really committed to loving me and working on a relationship. I never felt secure enough to really open up and try to get close with a man who wouldn't make any promises.'
This incident prompts two questions: (1) What was this woman's purpose in exchanging her live-in boyfriend for a husband? (2) How was she hoping to reach her objective?
Consider a second example.
A husband in his early thirties complained to me that his wife was a disappointment to him. She was pretty and personable, a good cook, and a devoted mother to their two children. But these qualities were offset by her constant criticizing, her impatient corrections and rebukes, and her negative attitude. Nothing he did seemed to satisfy her and, he added with a touch of noble frustration, he was the sort of husband many women would be delighted to have.
This man's wife had been staring dejectedly at the floor the whole time he was speaking. When he stopped talking, she spoke without raising her head. 'What he says is true. I'm an awful nag, and I do complain a lot. I just feel so unloved by Jimmy.'
When she raised her head, there was anger in her eyes.
'Sometimes he explodes at me, calling me awful names. He'll never pray with me. Sure, he smiles a lot, and he thinks that makes him a great husband, but I know he doesn't really accept me. His smiles always turn into pushy demands for sex; and when I won't give in to him, he throws a fit.'
Reflect on this couple and ask the same two questions: (1) What was each partner longing for from the other? (2) What were their strategies for gaining their desires?
Think about one more illustration.
A middle-aged couple---Christians, attractive, talented, financially comfortable, faithful, active church members---admitted that their marriage was in trouble.
'I feel like such a hypocrite,' the wife stated. 'If you asked the people in our church to list the ten most happily married couples they know, our names would probably appear on every list. We're sociable, we entertain church people frequently in our beautiful home, we sing in the choir together. We really play the role---but our relationship is miserable.
'We get along---but from a distance. I can never tell him how I really feel about anything. He always gets mad and jumps at me, or he clams up for a couple days. I don't think we've ever had a really close relationship.'
Her husband responded, 'I don't think it's all that bad. We've got a lot going for us: the kids are doing fine, my wife teaches Sunday school, the Lord is blessing my business. That's better than a lot of---'
I interrupted. 'How much do you really share yourself---your feelings, hopes, and dreams---with your wife?'
'Well,' he answered, 'whenever I try she usually doesn't seem all that interested, so I just don't bother.'
'I'd listen if you'd really share with me!' his wife blurted. 'But your idea of sharing is to lecture me on how things should be. Whenever I try to tell you how I feel, you always say something like 'I don't know why you feel like that.' I think our communication is awful.'
Once more, consider the same two questions: (1) What do these emotionally divorced partners want from their marriage but have so far been unable to develop? (2) How are they trying to achieve what they both so deeply desire?
The Need for Intimacy
Let's deal with the first question: What was each of these people seeking?
It is apparent that the flight attendant married in the hope that a relationship of mutual commitment would provide the intimacy she lacked with her live-in boyfriend.
The frustrated husband wanted to feel a sense of oneness with his wife but believed her critical and rejecting spirit was getting in the way. He felt angry with her, much as I would feel toward someone who, after I had gone without food for several days, blocked my path to a table spread with good things to eat. His wife felt unable to give herself warmly to a man who seemed to use rather than accept her. She desperately wanted to be close to her husband, but felt a sense of dread at the prospect of moving toward a man who perhaps didn't really love her.
The couple whose marriage was a well-decorated but empty package felt completely blocked from touching one another emotionally. The absence of real intimacy left a void for them---which she freely and bitterly acknowledged, but which he ignored by focusing on the external trappings of family success.
The newlywed stewardess, the explosive husband and his critical wife, and the couple who could not communicate were all pursuing the same elusive goal: A deep experience of personal intimacy through relationship with a person of the opposite sex.
Nothing reaches so deeply into the human personality as relationship. The fabric of biblical truth is woven from Genesis to Revelation with the thread of relationship:
* Perfect relationships within the Trinity;
* Broken relationships between God and humanity, Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel;
* Loving relationships between Aquila and Priscilla, Ruth and Naomi, and Jesus and John;
* Oppositional relationships between Jezebel and Elijah, and Jesus and the Pharisees;
* Strained relationships between Abraham and Lot, and Paul and John Mark.
The kinds of emotions that develop within relationships are also vividly portrayed in Scripture:
* Agony over lost relationships---David weeping for Absalom; Jesus crying out, 'My God, why have you forsaken me?';
* Bitter remorse from grieving a loved one---Peter after the cock crowed the third time;
* The joy of reunion---Jacob meeting Joseph in Egypt; Jairus's daughter restored to her father;
* The relaxed enjoyment of a comfortable relationship---Christ at the home of Mary and Martha.