Marriage is NOT about Love

I spend a lot of time thinking about marriage—my own marriage, other people’s marriages, and cultural attitudes about marriage. I’ve learned many things on this journey. But, I’ve reached one conclusion that may sound odd possibly even startling. Marriage is NOT about love. 

As it pertains to marriage, maybe Tina Turner’s song title “ What’s Love Got to Do With It?” captures the point best. The answer as it pertains to marriage is mostly “very little”. 

Many centuries ago, Virgil, the greatest Roman poet wrote “Love conquers all things, so we too shall yield to love.” Was Virgil ever married? Nope.

My wife and I speak around the country on growing a successful marriage using my Marriage ROCKS model. I’ve read countless books on the topic of marriage. I’ve counseled many couples on how to move their marriages to a better level. My wife and I lead the marriage enrichment ministry at the local church that we attend. I’ve lead national marriage initiatives. I speak to community marriage initiatives—as I’ll be doing later this month in Atlanta. So, for me, there is no question that helping married couples discover one another and God in their relationship is part of my DNA.

Here’s how the process unfolds…

Two people fall in love. The romantic fervor is intoxicating. They feel awesome—on top of the world. Their bond is inseparable, at least that’s how they feel. They want to experience that forever. At some point, many of these couples decide that they should marry and spend the rest of their lives together to have nonstop access to this fountain of bliss. 

It all sounds so good until…

How to Make Beauty from Marital Ashes

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified” – Isaiah 61:1-3

I love this passage from the book of Isaiah because it is a reminder of the three elements of my own commission.
  • First, as an educator my goal is to bring good news to those needing some-particularly as it relates to relational challenges.
  • Second, as a psychologist I seek to help others see the psychological and relational chains that weigh down their aspirations.
  • Third, as a Christian to offer Christ as the perfect substitute for the heaviness of spirit that causes many to languish in unfulfilling relationships.
Marriage relationships (and other intimate relationships) have tremendous power to dictate how liberated we feel in life. These relationships influence how we see ourselves and the world around us. Many spouses are struggling in the marriage because they see the relationship as limiting and binding. Does this describe you?
The differences in expectations, preferences, and needs may be wreaking havoc. Despite your attempts to improve communication and reduce conflict, it seems you just keep repeating the same patterns over and over again. And, many times there is no one to talk to that really understands your struggle.
If this is you, the word of the Lord today is “beauty for ashes.” In the Old Testament the custom was to mourn in sackcloth with ashes placed upon your head. The ashes are significant because they represent complete destruction. When something is broken, it may be fixed. But, when something is reduced to ashes it is destroyed.
God, however, is promising to replace your mourning over that which you see as destroyed with something beautiful. You may wonder “where is this beauty” when you think about your marriage relationship.
Isaiah gives us a clue. It is in the joy and the praise.
It is seeing the glass half full rather than half empty.
It is appreciating the beauty and wonder in the small things that surround you.
It is in the splendor of the telephone call or email that came right when you needed to hear good news. It is in the warm smile that you exchange with the neighbor or someone in the grocery store.
When we experience this beauty it reminds us in a quite tangible way of the magnitude of God’s glory. Married folks (particularly those of us who are mourning aspects of our marriage), let’s challenge one another to see the beauty with which God surrounds us.
What ideas can you suggest for turning the ashes or trouble spots in marriage into beauty?