Guest Column: How to save your marriage

July 1, 1993

Guest Column: How to save your marriage

By Dr. Robert R. Kopp

Everybody wants to live happily ever after.

Certainly that’s the expectation at weddings.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

Even for marriages made in heaven, every day isn’t a hot-fudge sundae; prompting a buddy to suggest, “Marriage is like flies on a screen, 50 percent want in. 50 percent want out.” Apart from the bliss, mist, dog-eyed stares, and couch-cuddling to the tune of Elton John’s “Your Song,” there are days when wives think husbands come from Mars and husbands think wives come from Venus.

Another friend observed, “The truth is, every couple is going to have problems of one kind or another.” Socioeconomics, gender obsessions, sexual dysfunctions, and family trees along with other tests and temptations threaten marriages.

After almost 30 years of pastoral ministry and presiding over hundreds of weddings coupled with personal failure and redemption, I’ve deduced three commitments necessary to save marriages:

1. Take Jesus Seriously – Our Lord was clear,

concise, and conclusive about personal and marital survival: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).

2. Have Fun – Some favorite verses come to mind:

“I meant to do my work today; but a brown bird sang in the apple tree and all the leaves were calling me. So what could I do but laugh and go?” Even those dusty old Westminster Divines said, “Our chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy

Him forever” (Question 1 of The Shorter Catechism of 1626).

3. Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously – You may have

heard the 12 words that keep marriages together:

“I was wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.” A review of Matthew 7:1-5 is also helpful every now and then.

One more word. If you’re not working on your marriage, someone else will be doing it for you sooner or later. Willard F. Harley, Jr.’s His Needs, Her Needs: Building An Affair-Proof Marriage (1986) should be required reading before walking down the aisle.

Dr. Harley concluded women and men have needs that must be met. Unmet needs destroy marriages. Specifically, he noted, a man’s basic needs in marriage are sexual fulfillment, recreational companionship, an attractive spouse, domestic support, and admiration. A woman’s basic needs in marriage are affection, conversation, honesty, and openness, financial support and family commitment.

Summarily, everybody has emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and sexual needs. Meeting those needs encourages an enduring marriage.

If your marriage is in trouble and starting to sound like an old Gordon Lightfoot song—“I don’t know where we went wrong but the feeling’s gone and I just can’t get it back!”—there’s still a way to save it.

While Revelation 2:1-7 focuses on renewing one’s relationship with God, it also provides the secret to saving marriages: “Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”

Remember everything that made you so passionately in love with each other.

Repent and do them all over again.

Simply, take Jesus seriously, have fun, and don’t take yourself so seriously.

Gary R. Collins wrote, “The most obvious way to prevent divorce is to build stronger marriages—marriages based on scriptural principles and characterized by love, commitment and open communication” (Christian Counseling, 1980).

Or, to borrow a line, “The grass is greener where it’s watered.” That’s how to save your marriage.

Dr. Robert Kopp is the pastor of Bethany Presbyterian Church, Loves Park.

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