Marriage: Interdependence with a touch of Independence
Independent behavior is so pervasive in American marriages that most couples need clear guidelines so they can avoid this destructive tendency. Too much independence is often a major issue in marriages and can lead to separation and divorce. In nearly 40 years of ministry I’ve heard the following kinds of statements uttered far too often:
“We just grew apart.”
“He has his friends and activities and I have mine.”
“We used to do more things together but in the last few years we’ve found we just enjoy doing different things”
“I actually don’t recall any major event that caused our divorce but slowly, over time, we just became distant”
Don’t get me wrong, Linda and I are not perfect, but over the years I believe the Lord has allowed our right attitudes and actions in marriage to outnumber the wrong. As a result we enjoy a healthy, vibrant, and ever-enriching marriage relationship.
One element I believe we’ve done right relates to our decision-making:
When faced with any decision (big or small) we’ve built in the habit of dialoguing with one another PRIOR to the decision being made.
Seems kind of crazy right? The truth is, our culture prizes independence and views reliance upon one another as restrictive, weak and confining. I would suggest to you, however, that if couples do not have some kind of guideline about these daily living decisions, then the inclination toward independence will simply take over and relationships will slowly but surely drift apart.
The Bible describes marriage as “oneness” characterized by a deep unity of one’s spirit, soul and body with their mate.
Elohim (Our Creator God) describes marriage as “one flesh”:
“24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 NASB).
“Joined” carries a sense of a permanent union. “One flesh” speaks of a complete unity of parts making a whole, thus the marital union becomes complete with two people. It also implies sexual completeness.
Of course independence, in the sense that couples maintain their individuality, is healthy in any marriage. But independence at the expense of interdependence will gradually erode a relationship.
By agreeing that all decisions will be arrived at mutually and with hardy approval from each other, there is great opportunity for extraordinary care, love and understanding to be experienced!
Willard Harley in his fine book, Defending Traditional Marriage, defines this well. He classifies it as the:
“Policy of Joint Agreement: Never do anything without an enthusiastic agreement between you and your spouse.”
I encourage all married couples to evaluate how you are doing with regard to this amazing truth. I have found that a commitment to it promotes unity, fluidity, understanding and empathy within marriage.
Stay tuned for the second part of this teaching that will post this Friday, August 19th.