My husband, David, and I knew each other for 10 months when we exchanged our vows on June 1, 1985. Given this short duration, research by Penn State University suggests our marriage should have failed in seven years.
Penn State’s PAIR Project shows that the happiest couples in marriage are the ones that dated an average of 25 months. Marrying someone you’ve dated—much less known—for less than 12 months is risky, and David and I are not risk-takers.
Editing the articles for this issue, particularly the ones by Cheryl Dueck Smith and Matthew Gallagher, reminded me that having a healthy relationship with your spouse requires work. So, I asked David why he thought our marriage has lasted 37 years. A handful of family members and friends have experienced divorce. Why not us?
We couldn’t identify anything concrete that we have or haven’t done for the past four decades. But David noted that in general our extended families and church community, our work colleagues and friends have created an environment that supports marriage, while recognizing that unhealthy and abusive relationships can and sometimes should lead to divorce. And, even when relationships dissolve, a strong commitment to marriage remains.
For example, one conversation from about a dozen years ago that still inspires me was with a man whose first marriage ended in divorce. At the time, his second wife had made a series of bad decisions. When asked why he remained committed to his second wife despite her actions, the man’s answer was simple: he didn’t believe in divorce.
How can we foster an atmosphere that affirms and sustains marriages? This issue of Christian Leader focuses on marriage, and our BodyLife story, “Refreshing marriages,” highlights three churches that have recently hosted an event or class designed to strengthen marriages. These USMB congregations, and others that have done something similar, demonstrate how local churches foster atmospheres that support and encourage men and women to regard marriage as a lifelong commitment, a decision that Tom Friesen, in his online essay for this issue, calls a subversive act.
More often, I think it’s the little things we do that prove marriage is important to us. David and I communicate our subversive commitment every Sunday by simply sitting side-by-side at church.
My husband and I are thankful to be part of a congregation that is committed to healthy marriages. I encourage us to be people and congregations that intentionally nurture healthy marriages.
Despite what studies show, marriage is a risk, whether we knew our spouse for 10 months or 25. Let’s commit ourselves to being people and churches that do all we can to create an environment that says “we do” when it comes to marriage.
Congregational Prayer of Blessing
Most gracious God, pour out the abundance of your blessing upon this man and woman.
Defend them from every enemy.
Lead them into all peace.
Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts,
a mantle about their shoulders
and a crown upon their foreheads.
Bless them in their work and in their companionship
in their sleeping and in their waking;
in their joys and in their sorrows;
in their life and in their death.
In your mercy, guide them to that table where your saints feast for every in your heavenly home;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns one God, for ever and ever. Amen.