There has been a drastic change that has almost given a new meaning to marriage, but sad to say, it's not for better but for the worse.
Marital downfall is caused by the absence of three most important factors: understanding, knowledge and wisdom.
A foundation cannot be properly established without understanding. Know your partner by his or her temperament and know who God created him/her to be. This knowledge could save you from the divorce court.
There are five temperament types — choleric, sanguine, melancholy, supine, and phlegmatic — and we all fall somewhere within them.
Do you really know the person you are planning to marry? Do you know why he or she does the things they do? Do you know his/her strengths, weaknesses and needs? It is important to check the compatibility of the person you hope to spend the rest of your life with.
One way to do this is to seek out counseling before you tie the knot. In sessions with your pastors or a counselor, you can both talk through the many of issues of joining two lives together. You will need to consider financial information as well. What is your approach to money, and your spouse's? Are you a saver and he a spender? How much debt are you both bringing to the union? How will you both resolve the debt? A counselor can help you resolve some of these issues, which can become major areas of conflict in marriage.
Knowledge is the experience factor gained from understanding. Wisdom is that which comes from acting upon the experience of knowledge. These factors are ascertained by changing old mindsets to a renewed mind, letting go of old habits and attitudes, concepts and traditions. Marriage was not instituted primarily for feeling good, to make one happy or just to have one's needs met. These are really by-products of marriage.
God made male and female as equals for the purpose of having dominion over everything that exists, to bring wholeness, provide companionship, completeness, and cultivation of communication and to replenish the earth through procreation. Marriage is a covenant honoring the words, "those whom God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
Sydney Smith says it best: "Marriage resembles a pair of shears, so joined that they cannot be separated, often moving in opposite directions, yet always punishing anyone who comes between them."
I might also add that the shears need both pieces to operate.
Marriage is not a contract with certain escape clauses, or conditions. Marriage is an unconditional commitment of the whole person for a whole life.
In marriage, never meet your spouse halfway — it goes all the way.
Remember that the most valuable thing in the world is friendship. The foundation of a strong relationship is friendship, and friends don't hurt friends.
Dr. Al Hibbert is a marriage and family therapist with Agape Counseling & Training Center. He lives in Decatur.