Mary Coleman: Mature marriages

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Monday, August 27th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Mary Coleman now on what married people can learn from the art of car maintenance.

MARY COLEMAN, COMMENTATOR: My husband Joe and I were married 35 years ago today. As we prepared to leave for our honeymoon, our car wouldn’t start. My dad joked that because we are “Joseph and Mary” we should find a donkey to ride.

My brother was more helpful. He hitched the car to our parents’ van and dragged it around the neighborhood to jump start it. To no avail.

In the end, my mom offered us her car. But we couldn’t resist staging a farewell photo with our VW Square Back, bedecked with paper flowers and a Just Married sign.

Since then, we have owned 12 vehicles. As our children became drivers, Joe and I made sure our cars received ongoing attention. We paid professionals to change the oil and rotate the tires. When we were alerted to problems, we readily agreed  to fix them. By my estimation, we have spent over $75,000 just on car insurance since 1983. All because we wanted our cars to last.

Well, having a marriage that lasts is similar to having a car that goes the distance. And I’m convinced counseling is one key to a healthy marriage maintenancer plan.

Joe and I never sought counseling until we felt our marriage was like a stalled Volkswagen, about 25 years in. It’s not unusual for marriages to reach a breaking point in mid-life. The empty nest may be empty of people, but it’s filled with unresolved issues that have been shelved in the name of forgiveness.

We have learned there’s a difference between forgiving something and fixing something. We can certainly forgive another driver for rear-ending our vehicle; but it needs the body shop for repair and restoration. In the same way, a counselor can help couples repair their damaged relationship.

Newly married couples should receive counseling throughout their first year. What they learned in pre-marital counseling will certainly be put to the test. Once in the habit of sharing their hearts with a trusted pastor or older couple, it will be easier to continue in a posture of humility and learning.

And that’s what counseling requires: Humility to confess our sins. Willingness to admit that we know what the scriptures say about marriage, but we don’t know how to apply it all. It’s okay. Joe and I have found new accountability with a former pastor who has gently guided us to a satisfying union.

Since counseling is too expensive for many couples, churches should divert some of the funds allocated for kids’ ministry to support a part-time marriage counselor. I can’t help but wonder how many children ride home from church on Sunday in a well-maintained van, driven by parents with a broken-down marriage. It need not be this way.

Our marriages are supposed to last until death parts us. Let’s make a new commitment to maintain them. In whatever form this marriage counseling takes, we need it. Let’s admit it. And let’s pursue it.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Mary Coleman.

(Photo/Mary Coleman)

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