After all, we have an understanding. I put petrol in it and it takes me places. If I take it to the mechanic, the mechanic says there aren't any problems, so I think I'll just save my time and money and trust that the car will be ok for a long time without any special attention.
How stupid does that sound? Of course I need to take my car to the mechanic! Who knows what issues arise under the bonnet that I have no idea how to treat? It would be stupid not to take my car to the mechanic. Heck, even mechanics get their cars looked at by mechanics.
It's a foolhardy approach to take about something that can have such a vital role in your life. And yet, that's how some people will approach their marriages.
It seems the longer people are married, the less they feel they need to put time and effort into maintaining their relationship. They slip into unspoken understandings and assume that things are ok.
And of course there's nothing wrong with the easy familiarity that comes with knowing someone for many years. Yet, even with this level of comfort, married people need to be on their guard!
Couples grow and change. So the person you married 5, 10, 20 or more years ago can be very different to the person they are now. And you've undergone that same transformation.
If marriage is about love – and love is about serving the other person and putting them before yourself – then the way you show love to your spouse now might need a bit of tweaking. Perhaps their tastes have changed towards how to spend free time, how they feel loved, what their dreams are regarding family, career and life. And perhaps yours have – but have you communicated that to your spouse?
'The Marriage Course'
My church is running a course for couples (creatively titled, 'The Marriage Course'). It's open for anyone to attend, church-goers or not. However, I was shocked to hear the response one congregation member received when she invited people along. Couples said, 'Why would I want to go to that if my marriage isn't broken?'
I don't get it.
If you weren't 100% convinced that your marriage is in the BEST place it could possibly be…why wouldn't you go?
Have people forgotten the seriousness of a marriage commitment? And the work and effort it requires for two imperfect people to love one another, day in, day out?
It's a shame that marriage is often viewed as a private enterprise. We're happy for people to marry who they want, when they want – what doesn't hurt me doesn't matter, and it's rude to judge anyway, is the attitude!
Yet, when a marriage fails, the repercussions of divorce echo much more widely than just the immediate sphere of the couple concerned. Parents of the husband/wife hurt. Siblings of the couple hurt. If there are children involved, they are hurt. There's emotional pain all round, and financial pain, too. Therefore, protecting marriages is a beneficial thing for many people, not just the couple involved.
Protecting a marriage has to happen well before it's broken. If you find that the marriage is breaking down, and counselling is seen as a last-resort option, it probably won't work. Just like a termite-infested house is so much harder to save if the damage is only discovered after a critical support beam has been chewed away.
The average couple are not experts on marriage. So why do we think we'll have it sorted out, when so many before us have failed? A marriage is worth so much more than a car. More than a house. And how much time and money do we spend to attend to these possessions? And how much time and money do we spend to attend to a marriage?
So if you're married: don't take it for granted. It is a blessing! A gift! So treat it that way. Take every opportunity to invest in this relationship, even when it seems like things are smooth (enough) sailing at the current time. And when the storms do come, you'll be so much stronger for it.
Sarah Urmston is based in Melbourne and shares a 5x7m flat with her husband, Stephen. She works with RMIT Melbourne's Christian Union group as an apprentice, and loves the privilege of sharing Jesus with the students. Since beginning student ministry, her desire – nay – need for coffee has grown exponentially.
Sarah Urmston's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sarah-urmston.html