In the Old Testament, God created the covenant to be a binding promise between two parties. A person in a covenant becomes identified with another person, and there is a supernatural co-mingling of two lives.¹ In the marriage covenant, the two separate lives of the man and woman become one as they are pronounced husband and wife.
Marriage as instituted by God
In the Old Testament, we read in Genesis 2:23-24:
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
In the New Testament, Jesus reiterates this covenant message in Matthew 19:4-6:
Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
God created marriage to be a covenant—a bond—as the way to fully unite man and woman as husband and wife. They are to stick together like Super Glue!1
Genesis 2:24 could be paraphrased as follows:
For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall stick like glue to his wife (forcibly intimating that nothing but death should be allowed to separate them) and they shall (become one flesh as they) enter into a covenant relationship.²
What does this mean in practical terms?
When two people commit to spend the rest of their lives together in a covenant marriage, they are in effect promising to do more than their best to serve each other. Did you get that? More than their best.
Contrary to the belief that it is a 50/50 partnership, marriage needs to be 100/100. Both husband and wife need to give 100 percent all of the time. I read this the other day and really like it:
Marriage is not 50-50; divorce is 50-50. Marriage has to be 100-100. It isn’t dividing everything in half, but giving everything you’ve got! —Dave Willis
Life is hard–much can happen on any given day, like work, family issues, sickness, and money problems. All of this “stuff” can easily take our focus off of the Lord and therefore off of each other. Marriage is not the easiest thing, but it is so satisfying when both the husband and wife are trying their best to give 100 percent of themselves.
Some days the wife may need to serve her husband more than on other days because his day isn’t going so well. Something happened at work that he feels is threatening his job. Or maybe the car needs some major repair work done and he is worried about finding money in the budget to get it fixed.
On other days, the husband may see how his wife is having a difficult time with something so he needs to give more of himself by trying to help her. Maybe one of the kids got in trouble at school. Perhaps she received the test results back from the doctor that confirms a serious health problem.
Any of these issues are difficult and can easily cause such distress that we either internalize our feelings or we can lash out at our spouses in frustration. Keeping the details to ourselves can be a huge problem because if we can’t say out loud what is bothering us, our spouse may think they have done something to bother the other. If we treat our spouse harshly because of something that is bothering us—and that “thing” is nothing your spouse has done—your spouse will start resenting you for that ill treatment.
This is where the 100/100 concept comes in.
When either husband or wife is feeling low about some situation, the other spouse can be supportive just by listening, even if it takes time away from another thing that was planned or needs to be done. Sometimes just talking about the issue out loud takes some of the pressure off. Other times some brainstorming between the couple helps focus on a point that wasn’t considered before because of the stress of the situation.
Let’s not forget that there is one more party involved in our marriages: our Lord Jesus Christ.
How great would it be if the first thing husbands and wives did was pray together for wisdom and discernment to figure out the situation as God intends? This doesn’t mean that God will zap an answer to you right away, but the process of prayer can de-stress you so that you can think about things less passionately, more rationally.
Empathy and understanding can help alleviate stress about a situation. Humor can also be used at times. I read a great article at the Focus on the Family site titled, Bringing Laughter into Your Marriage by Les and Leslie Parrott. This is an excerpt from that article:
Let’s face it, no spouse is immune to stress. We all feel like we’re coming unglued at times. And wise experts agree that the best way for anyone to cope is with a good laugh. “Humor makes all things tolerable,” said preacher Henry Ward Beecher. “Laugh out loud,” says Chuck Swindoll. “It helps flush out the nervous system.” On another occasion Chuck said, “Laughter is the most beautiful and beneficial therapy God ever granted humanity.” Arnold Glasgow said, “Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects.” The point is that even when you’ve had a tough day, or should we say especially when you’ve had a tough day, you need to laugh. It will help wash away the stress and keep the two of you together when you’re coming unglued. So help each other to find something funny even when it’s not easy.³
The orange theory
When Rick and I were in premarital counseling, our pastor used this illustration to show how God created husbands and wives to complete each other. If you take an orange and rip it in half with your hands (instead of cutting it), you have two pieces with very jagged edges. That orange can only fit back together one way—by fitting those uneven edges together exactly. That’s the way husbands and wives work together within marriage. The strengths of one may be the weaknesses of the other, but fitted together—in other words, by working together—they can solve a problem or complete a task that one of them may not have been able to do alone.
Let’s take a look at this in practical terms, using one of the examples I wrote about above. A husband tells his wife that their car needs some major work and he is worried about finding money in the budget for the repair. These days the first thought is usually to just use a charge card to pay for it, however, this couple has agreed to use cash whenever possible.
After praying together about this, his wife suggests several ways they can save enough money. She will buy groceries only on sale for a time. Or maybe she has been stocking up on sale items so that now she can prepare meals with what is in the pantry and the freezer. He might suggest carrying his lunch from home for a few weeks rather than buy lunch out, and even eliminate their once per week dinners out. Perhaps they have been able to afford manicures or frequent hair appointments for her, but she offers to stop those for a time, thereby putting that money toward the car repair.
Did you see how well the jagged edges of their orange fit together? Because the husband’s thoughts were initially so centered on the situation, he couldn’t immediately see how to handle it. After praying together, husband and wife together came up with good and workable ideas to save more money.
How not to keep score in your marriage
It is natural for us humans to keep score. Most of us want to know that we’re not the only ones putting forth a lot of effort. Husbands and wives need to avoid keeping score as to which one is getting more and which is getting less. Some days the husband will need to give more in serving his wife, while on other days the wife will need to do more to serve her husband.
Alvin, married 63 years, said, “Don’t consider a marriage a 50/50 affair! Consider it a 100 percent affair. The only way you can make a marriage work is to have both parties give a hundred percent every time.
And Kay, married 54 years, said, “… anybody that goes into marriage saying, ‘Oh, this is going to be 50/50,’ it doesn’t happen. You can’t live in the same house with the same person all those years and always divide it down the half.4
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he reminds them to:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. —Philippians 2:3-4
I think all married couples would do well to keep this in mind as they learn to give of themselves, their time and their God-given talents to helping each other.
One plus one equals one may not be an accurate mathematical concept, but it is an accurate description of God’s intention for the marriage relationship. —Wayne Mack
1 PreceptAustin.org: The Covenant of Marriage
2 CovenantMarriage.com: What is a Marriage Covenant
³ FocusOnTheFamily.com: Bringing Laughter into Your Marriage
4 FamilyLife.com: The 50/50 Myth