During a recent speaking engagement and the conclusion of the session, a young lady approached me and asked what my thoughts were on someone who is thinking of staying away from marriage. Her question was loaded with more than what she was actually saying. I didn’t provide a direct answer, but provided her with some questions of my own. This encounter reminded me of the day and time we are living in presently.
I think most people who hold a traditional and historical view of marriage will agree that the institution of marriage as God defines it, is under attack. A simple glance at the talk shows on television or a peak into the dialogue taking place on social media quickly reveals that we have become a society divided on the value of marriage.
We cannot begin to correctly speak of the institution without addressing the mindset of the people who enter or leave that institution. The reality is more and more people are not functioning at an acceptable personal level of understanding, maturity and awareness. It is important to understand that a marriage relationship is the combination of two sets of life experiences and worldview. The two individuals, who come together to create a life-long union, are coming from a life-long historical background that is peppered with contrasting experiences. It is necessary to understand the experiences and overall narrative of the person you are in the relationship with. A relationship is only as strong as the disposition of the people in it.
Quality Time–vs–Attentive Time
Quality time is an idea that is thrown around very loosely today without much thought of exactly what it means. Successful relationships are usually the result of two people spending intentional time together listening to and delving deeper into each other’s story. I would like to propose that we replace the idea of quality time with attentive time. Relationships work best when people are attentive to the story of the person they are with. Simply spending “quality” time together does not promise the fruit of a successful marriage. Quality time could mean we are having a great dinner or watching an interesting movie. However, spending attentive time with each other creates an undeniable atmosphere that fosters growth and relational development. Attentive time is time set aside to learn about each other and grow towards each other. This could be once a week, once a month or by carving out a time for a weekend getaway. The fundamental idea is to be aware of what you are learning from each other regularly.
Tension & Attention
The thrill of marriage usually dissipates quickly when relational tension introduces itself to the couple. Every relationship experiences some form of tension at one point or another. Living with the fallacy that only your relationship faces relational tension is neither real nor fair. The way to deal with the presence of tension is to engage in paying selfless attention your partner with the sole purpose of growing with each other beyond the ever-present temptation of remaining stagnant. When a relationship faces tension, rather than view it as an indication that we are heading towards a demise, take the position that this is our exclusive invitation to further develop and strengthen our grip on the future we have together.
Finally, remember that God’s design for marriage is the colored beautifully when the differences are celebrated rather than marginalized. By adapting the preceding truth or wisdom, you greatly increase the chances of defying the odds currently being presented by our society. When faced with the opportunity to conform, godly people always align with the words of the apostle Paul when he writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” Romans 12:2). May you experience the richness of His blessings as you pursue the path He has set before you for the growth of your relationship.
By: Dr. Phil Phillips