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My pal Stu over at www.TheMarryBlogger.com writes about "encouraging stupendous marriages." I love one of his recent posts, where he clarifies that a "stupendous" marriage is not a "perfect" marriage. Take a looky at his post when you get a chance, because he makes some fabulous points. (He has a tendency to do this. I'm just saying).
I had been thinking of writing a post along these lines for quite some time, and Stu just gave me reason to stop thinking and get to writing.
I, obviously, am usually looking through the lens of sexual intimacy, so I thought I could add a few additional points. People often (erroneously) assume that because my husband and I have fantastic sexual intimacy that our marriage is the equivalent of a sweet romantic movie.
Now, don't get me wrong. Sex does indeed have some fabulous positive effects on marriage well beyond the bedroom and the orgasm. Couples who nurture their intimacy with great care do tend to be endeared to one another -- extending more grace, appreciating their friendship more, showing more willingness to work together as a team, and so on. There's even been research on this type of thing (not that I could quote the data right now, but trust me. There are stats to back it up... couples who nurture sex tend to journey a bit better than those who are complacent about their intimacy).
Even so, amazingly tender sexual intimacy is not a panacea for all that ails a marriage. My Beloved and I really like our intimacy. I mean off-the-charts really. Even so, we (like every married couple) still have marriage challenges. Our challenges may not look like yours and vice versa, but they are challenges nonetheless. And all the great sex in the world is not going to "fix" challenges that we can only address with the tools of good communication, prayer, discernment and so on.
Marriage is hard work. Sometimes I think that's what the marriage vows should say....
"Do you handsome dude in a tux know that you are going to encounter difficulties with this hot looking woman in white that are downright treacherous and debilitating? And do you lovely woman with such beautiful presence know that this nice-smelling guy to your right is going to aggravate you at times to the point of insanity? Good. As long as we are all clear about how much work you are getting yourselves into, then you may seal this lifelong endeavor with a kiss."
Marriage vows like that would kind of put a damper on the romance of the day, right? But it's true, isn't it? Marriage, while richly rewarding and divinely created, takes a tremendous amount of effort. I am never shy to say, "Don't think that having a wedding has anything to do with being married."
But enough about the wedding day. I was talking about sex not being a cure for all marriage woes. Ironically, I think herein lies the greatest hidden treasure. Not only did God give married couples the powerful expression of love through sexual intimacy, He also allowed marriage to be one of the best ways to grow into His likeness. It is within marriage where we are daily (often hourly) presented opportunities to learn how to live in harmony, to encourage one another, to not leave when things get a little frustrating, to see the best in one another, and to learn life's greatest lessons about self-sacrifice and forgiveness.
And that is hard work. It sounds all nice because I used the word harmony, but anyone who has been married for any amount of time will tell you that having your lives completely intertwined requires a steadfastness that is not found in any other relationship. Two-becoming-one. Never has something been so wonderful. And so hard.
As my friend Stu said so clearly in his post: "I believe a Stupendous Marriage is one that has had many 'valley' experiences, yet the husband and wife have kept traveling, climbing, and grasping together to get to the mountain top. They have chosen to stay the course and keep learning, and growing as a couple. They have felt the pains of life, weathered them together, and both have the scars to show for it."
Amen to that. I couldn't have said it better myself.