As the latest divorce statistics demonstrate, it seems that people are giving up on their marriages in record numbers. And unfortunately, the number of Christians divorcing is no lower than that of non-believers. Why is that? Why are so many marriages failing?
According to author and speaker Mark Gungor, the problem stems from couples’ expectations about what marriage should be like. Gungor is a pastor and a highly sought-after speaker. His “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage” seminars are attended by thousands each year. After thirty years of ministering to couples, Gungor says the most common problem he sees in marriages is that couples don’t understand how relationships really work.
“People think that if a marriage is meant to be, it will just be,” Gungor says.
He compares it to Proverbs 14:4 which says, “Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much increase comes by the strength of the ox.”
“Like the ox, marriage is a great, productive thing,” he says. “But if you are going to have an ox, then you’re going to have ox poo. There is no such thing as a poo-free marriage. The problem is, many don’t expect to find any poo at all in their marriage, and when they encounter stuff that stinks, they see it as a sign that they married the wrong person.”
Contrary to what many believe, the success of a marriage has little to do with marrying the right person, he says.
“The truth is, a successful marriage is not the result of marrying the “right” person, feeling the “right” emotions, thinking the “right” thoughts, or even praying the “right” prayers,” Gungor writes in his book. “It’s about doing the “right” things — period.”
His belief that there are no “soul mates” and that God doesn’t create one person “just for you” may not be popular with Christians who have been raised to believe that a good marriage is all about finding the spouse that God has created for them.
“Surprising to many, the Bible never tells us to find the one God has chosen. It tells us how to live with the person we have chosen,” Gungor says. “Why doesn’t God have a special person just for you? Because He knows that His principles of love, acceptance, patience, and forgiveness work, and they work all the time, every time — no matter to whom you are married.”
The problem, he says, is that when couples run into difficulties or conflicts in their relationships, they assume they must have made a mistake and that they aren’t really meant to be together.
“Then the unwise voices of modern convention scream in their minds: “If things are bad, you married the wrong person.” “It’s not supposed to be this hard.” “You’ve made a mistake.” “God doesn’t want you to feel unloved.” As a result, couples bail on their marriages.
But couples, and especially Christians, should not succumb to these false beliefs.
“Marriage for the Christian is supposed to be on a completely different footing than the what do I get out of this mindset,” Gungor writes. “We aren’t supposed to be tossing difficult relationships away like some kind of disposable diaper.”
Through his “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage” seminars, and his newly released book by the same name, Gungor seeks to educate couples about the work that it takes to build a successful marriage. He believes that there are “marriage physics” laws that must be followed for couples to have thriving marriages.
“Just as there are laws of physics that affect everyone regardless of who they are or what they believe, there are also laws of marriage physics. Sadly, people keep breaking all the laws and then are stunned by the fact that their marriage stinks,” Gungor says. “If your marriage stinks, someone is breaking the rules of marriage physics. Unfortunately, most are unaware that rules exist, much less know what they are.”
In his book, Gungor explains these rules including discussions about how men and women think differently, communicate differently, and want different things from relationships. His frank discussions about sex, money, expectations, and conflict also help readers identify what they may be doing wrong in these areas and how to find solutions.
In addition to living by these laws of marriage physics, Gungor says that another key to turning around a failing marriage is for couples to understand the true nature and purpose of marriage. Rather than viewing marriage as a way to have their own needs met, the author says, couples should consider marriage as a training ground to help them become more Christ-like.
“God wants to kill you,” Gungor writes in his book. “Not the physical you, but the selfish you. Jesus taught us that if we don’t die to our selfish nature, we will never be able to experience all the blessings that God wants to bestow on us. Well, if there was ever an institution designed to kill the selfish you, it’s marriage. In fact, it is virtually impossible to succeed at marriage if you don’t learn how to let the selfish part of you die.”
Gungor’s advice should be required reading not only for married couples but for anyone considering marriage in the future. His relatable writing style and candid humor offer not only relational insights for spouses, but his book offers a message of hope as well. Regardless of the problems that spouses are having, with God’s guidance and the desire to make the marriage work, building a happy and successful marriage is possible.
Copyright © 2008 Belinda Elliott, CBN.com . All rights reserved.
Want more tips about how to have a successful marriage? Check out Gungor’s book, Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage.