F. David Moyer
There has been much written about the causes of unhappy marriages. As a counselor who has worked with hundreds of couples, I can safely say that nearly everything has been blamed for the breakup of the home, including the family pet.
Major issues of blame fall upon finances, the arrival of children, or new live-in relatives. Sex is an explosive issue, whether a lack of, or a demanding too much of, or extramarital affairs. So also is the demand for rights of "personal space" or attention. At the height of the list is the lack of communication, the inability to express feelings, and the blaming of the partner for holding in feelings that need to be expressed.
If we would take a hard, close, personal look at all the excuses offered for the collapse of the home, the preceding list would teach us that each of those things are only symptoms of the real problem, not the cause itself.
When two individuals complain about an "issue" in the marriage, the real problem is that the two are having difficulty relating to each other in the way God created the marriage to work. They are not abiding by the love principle.
To understand the real issue, and not be caught up in the smoke screens, we need to discern the basic premise which God has ordained for the smooth functioning of any relationship, and that is, "Love your neighbor as yourselj"'(Mk.12:31). This was called by James the "royal law" (Jas. 2:8).
When we make the application of this law to the marriage ' it would translate as, "Love your partner as you love Yourself. " This is another way of expressing the "Golden Rule" of "Do to others what you would have them do to you" (Matt. 7:12).
Twentieth century mankind has either never learned, or has forgotten this command, because now everyone is demanding their "rights" as the foundation of their relationship. This immediately sets up an antagonistic base in which each person is expecting the other to love (respond and perform) on demand - the right to expect the other person to behave in a certain way. Yet this goes contrary to God's plan which is based on the love principle.
Consider what Paul said, ". . . husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself" (Eph. 5:28). This is the practical application of Jesus' royal law. Certainly the same principle applies to the wife as well, and the wife must respect her husband" (v. 33).
Let's put this concept into usable terms. For the husband to love his wife, and the wife to respect her husband, each must give to the relationship, not demand. "If you could love your wife, and treat her exactly the way you would like to be treated, then chances are she will respond to that love. . . . If you would love her, serve her, lift her up, and praise her, you may get that back, but to demand her to be that way because you have a right to is expect the impossible, and clearly goes against God's love principle."
So often I've heard husbands complain that their wives will not do what they are told to do, that they will not serve, or clean, or contribute to the home; that all they do is complain and moan about their situation - they are not submissive. (Submission is a dirty word by modern definition and understanding! After all, we have the right to do what we want to do without having to consider another person's feelings?) The real reason for their dissatisfaction (and hear this men) is that husbands are not loving their wives in the way they would like their wives to love them in return the love principle is not being applied! If you could love your wife, and treat her exactly the way you would like to be treated, then chances are she will respond to that love. But how can you possibly expect her to be how you would like her to be, and not be that way yourself? If you would love her, serve her, lift her up, and praise her, you may get that back, but to demand her to be that way because you have a right to is expect the impossible, and clearly goes against God's love principle. (The same thing is true for wives as well.)
I've never talked to a wife who has difficulty giving of herself to a husband who is kind, considerate, loving, and nourishing; who gives of his time and energy to make her feel like the most important person in the world; who, by his actions and attitudes, lifts her up to be a glorious woman, without any defect or weakness, who is radiant because of the love he showers upon her; and who, by his words, removes any impurity ever perceived. When love is shown, love will be returned; this is the love principle in action. (This is "just as Christ" loving as described in Ephesians 5).
I've also never talked to a husband who has difficulty giving of himself to a woman who exhibits all of those same qualities just listed. There are the guiding tenets of the love principle found in Ephesians 5:21-33. When these are applied, submission loses its dirty connotation, and takes on the sense of freely giving of the self to the other because it's an act of love. The husband voluntarily submits to his wife (v. 21) by the giving of himself sacrificially to his wife as Christ freely gave himself for his bride, the church. The wife voluntarily submits to her husband (v. 22) by the giving of herself to her husband as the church does to her husband, Christ. And what a beautiful relationship comes as a result: no selfish and arrogant demands for rights, but the giving of self in response to the love principle - two individuals who give of themselves and get 100 percent in return.
This principle is described as to its focus of interests in Philippians 2:4, "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." In other words, when you make an emotional and intellectual investment with the other person, you are acting out of love. That's what Jesus did (Phil. 2:5-8), giving of himself to be of service to the one he loves. He lived the love principle perfectly.
When John wrote of God's love for us in 1 John 4:10, he said, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us. " God showed his love without us showing it to him first; in fact, we were hostile to him when he showed his love (Rom. 5:8-10). It is not our response to God that prompts his love being shown, but his desire to show love to us. For husbands and wives this character of love must be demonstrated, not in order to prompt or demand a response from the other, but simply to show the love and let them make the choice. With two people showing love in this way, there will be two individuals receiving the gift of perfect, unconditional love, and the formulation of a base which will bring the two together so that neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor demons, nor the present, nor the future, nor any powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate them from the love they share. And that is a marriage which will last through whatever storm or trial may come. They love each other enough to see it through -separation or divorce is never an option.
It is my firm belief that the underlying problem for so many couples is not finances, children, sex, or the family pet, but that they do not love each other enough. This is the message . . . from the beginning: We should love one another" (1 Jn. 3:11).
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 17, pp. 513, 533