Three Steps to Finding the Perfect Marriage Partner
A Two-edged Sword
This article was prepared as a breakfast talk for a group of men, but as far as I can tell everything here works just the same for women. Just substitute "her" for "him" etc. The ideas here are like a two-edged sword, it cuts both ways!
Do we have a problem here?
Everyday observation suggests we do indeed have a problem. If we did not have one, how come so many marriages end up in the divorce courts?
The 2010 Australian Census figures show that there were 5.4 marriages per 1000 head of population in 2010. For divorces the figure is 2.3 divorces per 1000 head of population. There are a lot of factors underlying these stats, eg, how many of the divorces are from new marriages, and how many from old ones, etc. Still, it is a fair approximation to say that 43% of marriages end in separation. That's nearly half of them! The typical duration of the marriages that end in separation is 8.8 years. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3310.0
Certainly it shows that many Australians (and I do not think we are unusual among the Western cultures) have a lot of difficulty picking a marriage partner.
Three Steps - Take 1
- get into a spacesuit
you'll be needing it
- climb into your rocket-ship
and light the fuse
- leave old plant Earth
you'll never find her here!
"An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels." Proverbs 31:10 ESV
"Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins." Ecclesiastes 7:20 ESV
Not convinced that going to another planet will help? Try Take 2....
Three Steps - Take 2
- Pick a complete stranger
- Share one another's intimate details for 30 minutes
- Gaze into each other's eyes for 4 minutes without talking
"Not likely!" you are thinking? Well, this experiment was conducted on a group of volunteers by Professor Arthur Aron of Stony Brook University, New York, with surprising results. Many of the couples found themselves deeply attracted, and one marriage resulted! http://queensjournal.ca/story/2010-02-12/postscript/how-do-i-love-thee/ http://matthewjohnstone.com.au/2012/04/j-is-for-journey/ http://www.psychology.stonybrook.edu/aronlab-/
I wondered myself if this was a joke, or an urban myth, but the references seem credible. Certainly Dr Aron is real, and he has not published any rebuttal.
Even if it turned out to be less than accurate, it certainly illustrates what we see in everyday life, that people can "fall head-over-heels in love" very quickly.
So, is this the way to find the perfect marriage partner? Starting with a complete stranger? I think the answer is still a NO. Why?
- Falling in love doesn't last
and rarely goes for more than 2 years. Think of all the couples who fall in love, live rapturously together for a year or two, get married on the strength of the "we were made for each other" feeling, then separate after a few more years. Something is missing.
- A lot of "falling in love" is caused by hormones
glorious, wonderful, golden-hued, enchanting hormones! When we fall in love our bodies release dopamine and other hormones, the pleasure hormones This stage of love is known as limerence http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limerence. We need less sleep, have more energy and become quite obsessed with our beloved one (often boring our friends). Just to see her is delightful, turning our life from black and white to vivid colour in a moment. "But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun." (from Romeo and Juliet).
Now, this stage of love is good, it is great, it is a gift of God. It is one of the great themes of that love poem in the middle of the Bible itself, the wonderful Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon) in which the two lovers alternately lavish adoring praise on each other. "Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful" "His head is the finest gold; his locks are wavy, black as a raven" SS 1:15, 5:11 ESV.
But the fireworks, the enchantment, cannot last. How could it, being a sort of delightful, temporary madness ("This Crazy Love")? You cannot live on fireworks and enchantment. The hormones withdraw (to be replaced by other, softer and less dramatic ones). We have to move on to the cosy glow of the fireplace, the warmth of mature love.
The Dangers of Enchantment
- Love is blind
at least this stage of love is. The beloved is already "perfect", and the lover has no eyes for her faults. When the enchantment wears off will there be any strong enough motivation left to overlook her faults? This is harder work, and takes the rest of your life to do well (and remember, she will have to do the same with you!).
- "I must have been mistaken!"
"when I thought she was the one for me. The magic has gone. I must start again and look for the right one - surely this time I'll find her." Probably not! You will just keep on making the same mistake of thinking that enchantment is the real thing, not realising that it is just the glorious appetiser before the main course.
Three Steps - Take 3
- Look for Character
what is at the core of her being? Not perfection of course (see "Take 1"), but what is prominent in her life? She will be looking for the same things in you, so its time to work on yourself. Here are some ideas:-
if she twists the truth, even for you, while in enchantment, she may twist it against you afterwards. You will regret being married to someone you cannot trust
towards others, and especially those in difficulty
willing to give of herself to help
to stick to her principles
even to those she disagrees with
whatever she works at she does her best, and doesn't let others down
'Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."' Genesis 2:18 ESV. Man and woman are to be complementary, each filling the gaps in the other's nature. As an example, a shy man benefits from a wife that is out-going
- Give it Time
all of which takes time. You can fall in love quickly, but you cannot get to really know someone quickly. Get to know them before the enchantment hormones kick in and hopelessly cloud your judgment (and hers). Months, not hours, is what is needed.
- Now's the time to start gazing into each other's eyes
let the fireworks begin. Note, too much time can be a problem - over-long engagements can be a real trial. Months, not years, is what is needed. (and yes, I am generalising - YMMV).
Surviving the Main Course
No, I don't mean a case of food poisoning.
- The main course of married life
is the stage after the enchantment wanes. The rhythms of everyday life set in (not always quietly - babies and kids are part of this!). There is always work to be done, and money to find, and bills to pay, and issues to resolve. How do we manage to survive, without the glow of the enchantment to drive us along? It is hard in a fallen world of very imperfect people, but Love is the answer. Not the easy enchanted love of the early stage, but a mature, solid, self-giving, affectionate, generous love. It is a gift of God, but one we have to work at each day.
- Work at it!
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her," (Ephesians 5:25 ESV) Keep on showing affection, being considerate, helping her, listening to her, making her special, getting babysitters and going out together at times, and not forgetting holidays and the occasional second-honeymoon. She's well worth it.
- Hormonal helpers
while the jury is still out, and the science is complex, it does seem that the hormone oxytocin is one of the helpers that sets to work in the main course of marriage. Its been called the "love hormone" and the "cuddle hormone" (no doubt over-simple nicknames), and helps husband and wife to bond with each other, and with their babies, when they arrive. It promotes trust and affection, and is released in both sexes through such things as touch, smiles, the atmosphere of kindness and care, and sharing in sex together. From this it seems that it reinforces the actions that help us release more of the hormone, a sort of "use it or lose it" effect. The more you show genuine kindness and affection the easier it is for both of you to be kind and affectionate, and that's surely a recipe for a happy marriage! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxytocin http://www.apa.org/monitor/feb08/oxytocin.aspx
There was a bit of discussion when I presented this to the men, so I've summarised it here as questions and answers.
- For those who believe in the God of the Bible, infinite yet concerned about each one of us, should not prayer be a vital part of finding a marriage partner?
Yes, of course. In Genesis 24 there is the account of Abraham's servant travelling far to find a bride for Isaac, Abraham's son. The servant prays to be guided, and then sets out to determine the character of the woman he meets at a well. So, it is pray and think; not one or the other. I have (hopefully) presented the material here in such as way as to be useful even to those who have no interest in God (though I wish that all men did have interest, and faith, in the One who made us and knows us intimately).
- Isn't there just one special person that God has planned for me?
Humanly speaking I tend to doubt this. Yes, God, to be God, is in control of all that happens, but He does not tell us all the details of His hidden will. Really I don't think we are capable of grasping how His hidden will and our day by day choices interact. What we are called to do is act with wisdom, as Proverbs tells us, "He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord." 18:22 "An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life." 31:10-12 ESV. See that we are called to "find", that is to use our minds with wisdom in our search, not sit back and wait for her to drop out of the sky, or for an email from heaven saying "Marry Jenny".
- Could you expand on "Love is the answer" to the stresses and strains of marriage?
The love needed is not an emotion, but rather is love demonstrated by actions. Caring, showing affection, helping without being asked, admitting you are wrong when you are, etc, as listed in 1 Corinthians 13. The reward of this love will be an increase in affectionate love and joy in the marriage, ie, will drive healthy emotions of love.
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published: 4 May 2012
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