Building a Solid Foundation for Marriage
I was visiting a home once that had foundation issues. Due to the shifting of the house, there were cracks in the drywall near the front door, lending an obvious uneven feel. The ambiance was diminished as well, furnishings and wall hangings unable to mask the serious problem at hand. I have visited many a marriage with the same presenting problem.
An inherent weakness in the support structure oftentimes evolves from either zero, or inadequate, premarital preparation. A solid premarital edifice must be built, brick by brick, line upon line, to ensure a strong marital foundation. Building a dating relationship is fairly easy but it’s not a level of relationship sufficient to sustain a marriage. Patterns I have frequently seen revolve around three characteristics.
The first is lust. When the physical chemistry is high and the responsibility low, it’s an invitation for disaster. Combined with minimal involvement in Christian community, no accountability, and an unbridled sexual addiction, this couple will marry with the odds highly stacked against them and will often hit a plateau upon the completion of the ceremony, reception, and honeymoon.
Secondly, is the “let’s get married asap” syndrome. This would be akin to rushing your contractor to build your dream home, holding him at gunpoint to cut corners and just get the house finished fast. Short-sighted, is an understatement here. Dating is relationship-lite, while marriage has all the calories (weight) to be carried in a partnership for life. Hence the need for time, to transition and build, to properly undergird the relationship.
If you have friends that are encouraging a no prep rush into a life-long covenant, even to the point of saying they heard from the Lord or had a dream about you being married, remember that it will be your mandate, not theirs, to fulfill for the rest of your life.
Lastly, is the gratifying of “felt needs.” Jesus, at times, met these needs in people on the front end, prior to calling them into the depths of discipleship. Physical and emotional hunger, freedom from oppression, loneliness, desire to raise a family, financial security – these are commonly shared felt needs, and not evil, in and of themselves. Even so, priorities and boundaries need to be in place, lest a felt need being met devolves into a cruel and demanding fetish of sorts. I might add, that it’s not so much the need, as it is the source by which I seek to fulfill the need.
Truth is, the power of affirmation that sweeps over the soul, being loved to the extent that someone desires to spend the rest of their earthly life with you, is a transcendent experience. It’s the missing puzzle piece discovered at last, and fitting perfectly in the space of what you need. The sensation of feeling complete, would suggest that no further confirmation to marry is needed. Remember however, we are talking decades of commitment, and if the other person is having a reciprocal experience, they will be looking to you as well to remain as the ongoing source of their fulfillment.
In my high school years, I was a fan of the singer Carole King. She wrote a song entitled (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. It has been “covered” by several artists over the years, and little known singer Freddie Hughes released a version entitled Natural Man. A sampling of Carole’s lyrics:
When my soul was in the lost-and-found
You came along to claim it
I didn’t know just what was wrong with me
Till your kiss helped me name it
Now I’m no longer doubtful of what I’m living for
‘Cause if I make you happy I don’t need to do more
You make me feel
You make me feel
You make me feel like
A natural woman
Operative phrase here, is how “you make me feel.” When the marital well seems to have run dry, it becomes a matter of “you don’t make me feel” like you used to.
In our book Longing for Eden, I offered this advice: “God is ‘the’ well that I drink from to satisfy my deepest longings. My wife is ‘a’ well that God has favored me with; she too satisfies the longings of my heart. To reverse these two concepts will result in relational idolatry.”
So is it wrong to feel good in a relationship? Of course not. The bigger question: Is how I “feel” the major support structure upon which a marriage can be built and sustained over decades?
Jesus gave us prime advice on how to build:
“So everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, will be like a wise man [a far-sighted, practical, and sensible man] who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them, will be like a foolish (stupid) man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great and complete was its fall.” (Matthew 7:24-27 AMP)
Far-sighted, practical, sensible couples, take the time to build on the rock.