Magazine article The Christian Century

Married Love. (Faith Matters)

Magazine article The Christian Century

Married Love. (Faith Matters)

Article excerpt

DEARLY BELOVED: Recent surveys report that adults in their 20s have high hopes for themselves and marriage, but a low appraisal of marriage in general.

You have high hopes for yourselves. You have found in each other a soulmate, a person with whom to share the joys and sorrows of life and practice the art of love. But the institution of marriage is in crisis. Your peers have deep reservations about "happily ever after." One in two marriages end up in divorce, while those partners who stay together often end up "sleeping with the enemy." You are about to embark upon a most wonderful journey, yet dangers lurk.

For some people the crisis of marriage is a crisis of authority. They respond by bolstering the rule of the husband. The man should command, the woman should obey. If he is above and she below, order and stability will reign. But this is a questionable strategy. Unless the man is a saint--and no man is--the woman will either be oppressed or seek surreptitiously to subvert the husband's rule and exercise dominion.

Others seek to avert a crisis by stressing equality--one partner, one vote. The wife should not submit to the husband, but each to the other. It is hard to dispute that, on the whole, equality is better than inequality, common agreement better than autocratic decisions, mutual submission better than the rule of the one over the other. But will the stress on equality steer your marriage out of crisis? It will help. Yet egalitarianism in and of itself will not make a marriage thrive. Each partner can be equal, each free, and still thinking only about himself or herself. Marriage partners are then like business partners. They make contracts with one another, and they will break them to pursue new partnerships if better returns seem likely.

A good marriage is not a contract, but a covenant. Contracts are conditional: we are obliged to keep the terms only if our partners are doing the same. Covenants, however, are unconditional. We are obliged even if the partners break the terms. Contracts are temporary: we are bound by them only as long as it suits us (provided we pay the consequences of breaking them). Covenants are durable: we are bound by the marriage covenant "until death do us part." Contracts are governed by the pursuit of one's interests. Covenants are governed by the demands of love.

Love between partners is a sparkle in the eye, a warm feeling, a throbbing desire of the flesh and the soul. Erotic love is God's wonderful gift, and I hope that you won't let its flame die out. …

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