Marriage includes a “conscious” and “subconscious” search for love, happiness, and longevity. It is implicit in the bond of marriage as the loving couple recites the marriage vows, solemnized by one who represents the spiritual or civil aspect of the wedding, and witnessed by a throng of family members, friends, and well-wishers.
“A man leaves his father and mother to get married, and he becomes like one person with his wife” ― Ephesians 5:31 (CEV).
The traditions, counseling, the marriage “vow,” and the life of marriage come from “love,” the love (agápē) of God. The husband and wife are co-equals, though some roles and responsibilities in marriage are shared, unique, and dissimilar, founded upon universal principles of love, care, and longevity of the marriage. The love of God that transcends natural love among people is the “bond” that ultimately holds the marriage together. Without love, which is a “reciprocal affection,” no relationship can flourish.
It is only by mirroring God’s love for humanity that marriage partners can attain the ultimate state of fulfillment in the marriage: “till death do us part.” What a fascinating foundation upon which to build a marriage. The website By the Knot provides a compilation of thoughts on various marriage “oaths:”
By the Knot: “Each religious faith has wedding traditions and practices—including standard wedding vows—that have been passed down through generations. Exact phrases vary slightly from place to place and among the different clergy, so ask your officiant to tell you what he or she prefers.”
The basic Protestant vows: “…from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part…”
Traditional Hindu wedding ceremonies have many elements and rituals. Technically, there are no “vows” in the Western sense, but the Seven Steps, or Saptha Padhi, around a flame (honoring the fire god, Agni) spell out the promises the couple makes to each other: “…Let us take the fourth step to acquire knowledge, happiness, and harmony by mutual love and trust…” “Let us take the sixth step for self-restraint and longevity…” “Finally, let us take the seventh step and be true companions and remain lifelong partners by this wedlock” (https://www.theknot.com/content/traditional-wedding-vows-from-various-religions).
People marry for love, companionship, and family. Most, if not all, marriages begin with the notion that it is a lifelong commitment by the couple. However, based on available statistical data, the trend seems to indicate that many marriages fail to deliver longevity and happiness, which are implicit in the wedding vows. The probability of a successful marriage should increase when the couple seeks professional counseling before they exchange wedding vows.
MARRIAGE IS A HAPPINESS CONTRACT
Marriage is a “Happiness Contract” that is underwritten by our birthright to be happy. Failure to uphold the agreement can spell trouble for the marriage partners. Marriage is more than two people living in harmony. It is the first institution of “altruistic” love. Regrettably, many marriages end in separation and divorce, often resulting in unhappiness for the spouses and their offspring. Nevertheless, many divorced couples often move on and live happy lives, even with children in blended families.
“When there is love in a marriage, there is harmony in the home; when there is harmony in the home, there is contentment in the community; when there is contentment in the community, there is prosperity in the nation; when there is prosperity in the nation, there is peace in the world.” ― Chinese Proverb
Happiness can blossom when the spouses strive to maintain the “vows of marriage” and reject the notion of “irreconcilable differences.” We have a choice to take “ownership” of our union and “strive” to “reconcile differences.”
God is the “Author” and co-partner in the marriage relationship (Reference: Figure 1). For better or for worse, many of us get married; hence, the critical need to strengthen the institution. The biblical (religious) view of marriage affirms the presence of a divine element in marriages. The couple must differentiate the wedding sacrament from the wedding.
GRAPHICAL DEPICTION OF HUSBAND AND WIFE AS CO-EQUALS AND CO-PARTNERS WITH GOD, AND WITNESSES TO THE MARRIAGE VOWS
His representative officiates in the capacity of “spiritual” and “civic” authority to perform the sacrament in the presence of witnesses. The witnesses become a testimony to the wedding “vows” that the married couple exchange as a public declaration. The wedding sacrament solemnizes and symbolizes a couple’s commitment. Marriage represents a unity of mind, soul, and body; it likewise involves an understanding of God’s purpose for the spousal union. Husbands and wives are no longer two but one flesh (Matthew 19:5).
This biblical metaphor may be difficult to comprehend, but the reality is for the unity, stability, and longevity of the union. This deeper meaning of marriage is the “permanent foundation” upon which marriage rests. It is the most significant source of happiness in the lives of the couple, and it spills over into the family, neighborhood, community, and nation. Likewise, the five biblical principles may be “new” to some, but they can foster unity, stability, longevity, and happiness, briefly described as follows:
FIVE BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES FOR UNITY, STABILITY, LONGEVITY, AND HAPPINESS IN MARRIAGE
- Principle 1: Companionship (Mark 10:8)
- Principle 2: Completeness (Genesis 2:23–24
- Principle 3: Enjoyment (1 Corinthians 7:5)
- Principle 4: Procreation (Psalm 127:3)
- Principle 5: Protection (Ephesians 5:25–28)
These five biblical principles for unity, stability, and longevity in marriage are intrinsic to the union; form a Biblical perspective, they represent the first set of building blocks upon which marriage stability rests, and the foundation to establish happy families. Other systems of belief, religions, and cultures subscribe to other perspectives to keep and maintain their “bonds of marriage,” but the desire is the same for most, if not all married couples. Some follow the wedding customs of their particular faith while others may not follow any wedding traditions.
Principle I Companionship
The principle of COMPANIONSHIP affirms, “I am alone without you.” I am unable to achieve my fullest potential in life without you. With you in my life, I can experience the oneness of “heart” and “head” working together to achieve “our” fullest potential. The words us and ours, best describes our companionship as opposed to my, or mine.
Principle II Completeness
The principle of COMPLETENESS affirms that each married couple is saying, “I have carefully checked and examined my life and concluded that you are the best person to meet and fulfill my needs. Since my needs are not temporal but permanent, I, therefore, need you in my life permanently. My life is incomplete without you. I will live a life of trustworthiness, loyalty, and fidelity, and will forsake all others “until death do us part.””
Principle III Enjoyment
The principle of ENJOYMENT affirms that the sexual act is not only for the consummation of marriage, but it also strengthens the union. This physical expression within marriage is not merely a privilege and pleasure but also a lifelong responsibility. The married couple affirms, “I enjoy the physical expression of marital sex with you, and I am responsible for the child or children that result from the sexual act.” The mutual enjoyment of sex in marriage helps the married couple to develop self-control and to maintain love, trustworthiness, loyalty, and fidelity within the marriage to the exclusion of all “others.”
Principle IV Procreation
The principle of PROCREATION affirms that children are a gift from God to parents (Genesis 1:28). Children are the fruit of the womb as His reward (Psalm 127:3). Children replenish the earth (Genesis 1:28). Children in the lives of parents ought to make a family happy. Happy children bring joy into the lives of their parents, but children do not grow to become productive, creative, and happy adults naturally, parents must create the nurturing environment for them to flourish — happily.
Principle V Protection
The principle of PROTECTION affirms the need for the nurturing and protection of children who will ultimately influence the direction of the world, “for better or for worse,” as parents and future leaders. The life of the wife also falls under the protection of her husband and vice versa as co-equals, demonstrated by heart and head leadership, which is inclusive for marital stability, and especially for nurturing children that are the first “fruits of the marriage.”
These five fundamental principles help the married couple to build bonds of friendship and a healthy relationship based on mutual needs, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. These five relationship bonds underpin the mutual expectations of the married couple, but the natural desire for human companionship will prevail in spite of the domestic violence, “irreconcilable differences,” and communications breakdown.
In marriage, as in all relationships, the “power of dialogue” creates opportunities to build mutual trust and friendship. Ideally, the right starting point for couples contemplating marriage is as follows: “Increase the dialogue, increase the happiness.” “Increase the loyalty, increase the happiness.” “Increase the friendship, increase the happiness.” “Increase the love, increase the happiness.” Following are twenty key points for dialogue to help create unbreakable bonds for a healthy and happy marriage relationship and the family foundation.
TWENTY KEY POINTS FOR DIALOGUE TO BUILD UNBREAKABLE BONDS FOR A HAPPY MARRIAGE
- Understand God’s plan for the marriage.
- Foster loyalty and fidelity in marriage.
- Engage in long-term family planning.
- Keep communication channels open.
- Establish community activity goals.
- Support each other’s career goals.
- Honor the marriage vows.
- Agree on work–life balance.
- Build each other up spiritually.
- Develop mutual religious goals.
- Develop mutual interests.
- Establish realistic expectations.
- Share responsibilities in the home.
- Mutually agree on work–life issues.
- Develop mutual (intellectual) objectives.
- Accept responsibilities within the family.
- Practice financial management and budgeting.
- Plan for the future care and welfare of children.
- Create plans for family vacations, rest, and relaxation.
- Discuss issues openly and with empathy for each other.
The ability to understand and manage these twenty key points for dialogue in marriage will increase the probability of fidelity, longevity, marriage success, peace, and happiness. Some married couples take for granted that merely maintaining the marriage relationship equates to a successful marriage. Marjorie and I have discovered that one of the most important human attributes that help to sustain all human relationships is LOYALTY.
Writers, Errol A. and Marjorie G. Gibbs are avid readers, inspired researchers, speakers, and mentors. Their journey, which began with their “search for happiness,” led along paths to “Optimum Happiness” (OH), which is a “higher value proposition” for human survival as a viable species than happiness. These same paths await on your “journey of discovery.” “Discovering Your Optimum ‘Happiness Index’ (OHI).”