Q. I don't understand how marriages last. As single people, we are attracted to many people, and it's not like that attraction stops once the ring goes on your finger. But no matter how wonderful a person you marry, you'll eventually meet someone funnier, smarter, cuter or whatever. How do you not want them instead of your spouse? How do you know that your spouse will stay with you? I'm not even engaged, but I just wonder.
A. Great question. Sooner or later every married person confronts two troubling facts: we are restless people, and our partners are not perfect. Even when life goes well, sometimes you do think you'd rather be with somebody else—that another partner would be more attractive, more fun, more encouraging. Those thoughts grow all the more troubling when, as happens in every relationship, you're struggling.
Such times are when married couples must clearly understand what the institution of marriage is all about. Marriage is more than just a personal decision to hook up with somebody. Yes, before the wedding you get to make a choice. You ask yourself whether this is the one person in all the universe you want to live with and love for the rest of your life. After the wedding, however, the question changes (assuming you understand what marriage is all about). After the wedding, you don't ask whether you want to live with this person forever, you ask how. The "whether" part is settled when you say your vows.
That's because your relationship and marriage is no longer just your decision. It's your decision plus your partner's. It's your decision plus all those people who witnessed the ceremony and stood behind you in your commitment. Most importantly, it's your decision plus God's. When you make a pledge of marriage, God decides to stand with you, and he does not change his mind. And he is serious about marriages going the distance. Jesus said, "What God has joined together, let man not separate" (Matthew 19:6).
Asking whether you still want to be married to your spouse is something like a soldier asking whether the war he's volunteered for is really such a good idea. When the bullets are flying, a soldier is bound to wonder whether he really meant to volunteer. But you can't quit in the heat of battle, unless you want to be a traitor to everyone fighting on your side. It was your decision alone to join, but it's not your decision alone to quit.
If marriage is a battle—and despite its many benefits, it sometimes feels like a battle—always remember this: God never quits. Of course, that doesn't mean you won't sometimes wish you were with somebody else. But it does guarantee you will get help. On a practical level, two people who take their vows seriously can overcome temptations, because they can get help from their friends, their church, and from God. A lot of times, temptations are fleeting: If you ignore them, they usually go away. Even if temptations and difficulties persist, you can overcome them.
But how do you know your partner will keep loving you? That's one important reason to marry a serious Christian. If you both understand that a marriage commitment is God's commitment, you can stand secure. Your partner also may be tempted by others, but with God's strength, you and your partner can overcome any difficulty.