It’s a wise groom who has to be dragged to the altar. He knows what love is. It’s death! If the lovers don’t know this, they’re headed for trouble. Never will you have your way again. You can’t be happy if the other person isn’t. No matter who wins the argument, you lose. Always. The sooner you learn this, the better off you’ll be.

Love is an exercise in frustration. You leave the window up when you want it down. You watch someone else’s favorite television program. You kiss when you have a headache. You turn the music down when you like it loud. You learn to be patient without sighing or sulking.

Love is doing things for the other person. In marriage two become one. But the one isn’t you. It’s the other person. You love this person more than you love yourself. This means that you love this person as he or she is. We should ask ourselves frankly what that impulse is that makes us want to redesign the other person. It isn’t love. We want the other person to be normal, like us! But is that loving the other person or ourselves?

Love brings out the best in people. They can be themselves without artificiality. People who know they’re loved glow with beauty and charm. Let this person talk. Create the assurance that any idea, any suggestion, any feeling can be expressed and will be respected. Allow the other person to star once in a while. A wife’s joke doesn’t have to be topped. Don’t correct your husband in the middle of his story. Cultivate kind ways of speaking. It can be as simple as asking them instead of telling them what to do.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Married life is full of crazy mirrors to see ourselves — how stubborn, how immature we really are. You may be waiting for your wife to finish because you never lifted a finger to help her.

Love is funny. Its growth doesn’t depend on what someone does for you. It’s in proportion to what you do for him or her. The country is swarming with people who have never learned this. So are divorce courts.

All relationships other than marriage are intended for mutual convenience, such as those we share with friends, roommates, coworkers and neighbors. These relationships are important and, in many ways, necessary for life, as no one is an island. However, they are not covenant relationships. Many disappointments come when we begin to live as if they were and develop expectations of others that we have no right to assume. Some people can be deeply hurt when a roommate moves out or a friend starts to drift away because of other interests. Engagements can be broken, but marriage is supposed to be for life once the vows have been said.

Children are born to leave. The psalmist said, “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. Thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD” (Ps. 128:3-4). There is a major difference between a vine and an olive shoot. A vine is connected to some other form of life and cannot operate independently of it. An olive shoot is not; it is similar to a potted plant. It was created separately and intended to be transplanted some day. In the same way, the child in the womb is not a part of the mother’s body, although the baby is carried and nurtured by the mother. Children grow up and leave their mother and father, while maintaining close ties to their family. Most will seek their own covenant relationship in marriage and bear their own children.

Convenience relationships are similar to two pieces of paper that are held together with a paper clip. With care, they can be easily separated and will leave little imprint on each other. In attempting to tear them apart without removing the paper clip, however, some damage will occur.

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With contractual relationships, the two pieces are stapled together. Both pieces are free to do their own thing, except in the place they are stapled together. Damage is done when one is torn from the other, although the individual content of each page is left intact.

In covenant relationships, the pages are glued, or bonded, together. The two have become one. Lasting damage will be done to both if they are separated. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Gen. 2:24-25).

Criteria for a Successful Marriage
Most conservative scholars credit Moses for writing the first five books of the Old Testament. In the above passage from Genesis 2:24-25, Moses both narrates and instructs: Adam and Eve did not have parents to leave, but they were naked and unashamed. Marriages would be a lot easier if neither spouse had any ancestral baggage to bring into the marriage — and it would be a piece of cake if neither had sinned.

The following points reveal three essential criteria for a successful marriage:

1. First, both the husband and wife need to leave Mom and Dad — physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and financially. However, they are still commanded to honor their parents.

2. Second, they need to bond together in such a way that they become one.

3. Third, they need to have no unresolved issues between themselves and God so that intimacy and transparency are the norm for their relationship.

From Experiencing Christ Together © 2006 by Neil T. Anderson and Charles Myulander. Published by Regal Books, Used by permission. All rights reserved.