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Know who you are — and whose you are — before you commit ’til death do us part’


Recently a man that fairly often shares morning coffee with me casually reported that, after he had been married 22 years with a grown daughter, he and his wife divided everything evenly and went their separate ways. 

Insight | Bailey McBride
This seemed no surprise to anyone at the table but me. My parents were married 64 years. My wife’s parents were married 49 years. Most of my friends have been married decades.

When I looked at my plan for columns this year, I wondered if I wanted to write about marriage near the first anniversary of my wife’s death. I wondered only briefly because I remain as committed to the importance of marriage as ever. 

Since the late 1960s, I have regularly been honored by former students who ask me to perform their weddings. I have never been a marriage counselor, but I have been a careful observer of that complex and meaningful relationship.

When two people stand before God, family and friends to make vows concluding with “Till death do us part,” they need to know who they are. A strong marriage can only develop when two people know themselves. Each person needs to be old enough and have had enough experiences to understand the potential for their lives. A whirlwind romance may be exciting and passionate, but it may keep a couple from knowing as much about each other to be certain they can live up to those traditional vows, which I still think have great merit.

As I reflect on the challenge of spending a lifetime together, I am sure that nothing is more important than each person’s commitment to understanding the heart and mind of the other. We are all very different, and we are all growing, changing. What is true of a person one year will change over time. Keeping up with the spiritual, physical and personality changes in a spouse is not easy, but vital. It means never taking each other for granted. Four centuries ago Shakespeare observed: 

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment. Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove: O, no! It is an ever-fixed mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken; … Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks within his bending sickle’s compass come; love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom.”

In this sexually charged society, many young people believe that sexual satisfaction is the chief measure of a relationship. I recently heard a noted sex therapist counsel that couples should determine sexual compatibility early in a relationship because if other aspects of a relationship are more established, leaving the relationship becomes difficult. 

I have no doubt that God approves of satisfying sex, but I don’t believe it is the measure of a relationship.

I believe that each person should ask the question, “Will this person help me live closer to God and eventually live eternally in heaven?” I don’t think this is a one-discussion issue. Couples should explore their thoughts and feelings long enough to be sure they are on the same page. 

I also believe that couples should talk about parenting. My wife, Joyce, and I both knew we wanted children, and we were satisfied with that. But when our children came, we discovered we were miles apart. Joyce, who was probably the most obedient person ever, had parents who were very strict and controlling. My parents began treating me as an adult as early as I can remember.

I am really happy that most couples today go for marriage counseling. The process begins the open discussion and communication so important to building a healthy relationship. 

“Till death do us part” is a serious commitment and can make life joyful, happy and shared. 

CONTACT [email protected]

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