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Eight Myths of Marriage, Part 4

04/01/2005 - This is the last of a four-part series which has included discussion of the following myths of marriage: 1) The purpose of marriage is our personal happiness, 2) The goal of married life is to get my mate to submit to my way of thinking, 3) Love is what holds a marriage together, 4) Love is a feeling, 5) Only minor changes are needed to adjust to marriage and the other person, and 6) It takes work to make a good marriage. These myths are outlined in several different sources by Michael McManus, founder of Marriage Savers an organization designed to help communities (primarily through local churches) prepare for lifelong marriages, strengthen existing marriages, and restore troubled marriages. Concluding this series is the following discussion of myth #7 and myth #8.

7) The goal of marriage is the fulfillment of the individual. The concept that the purpose of marriage is for individual fulfillment fits in nicely with the popular philosophy known as "secular humanism". The Secular Humanist Declaration of 1980 states that "As secular humanists we believe in the central importance of the value of human happiness here and now. We are opposed to absolutist morality, yet we maintain that objective standards emerge, and ethical values and principles may be discovered, in the course of ethical deliberation." I'm not sure that too many couples get past the phrase "human happiness here and now". If a secular humanist is going to have a healthy marriage, he or she will have to find a way to come up with the "objective standards and ethical values" in the midst of a culture that is hedonistic and self-serving to a large degree. The result is that half of all first marriages in the United States end in divorce and the statistics are higher for subsequent marriages. The Judeo-Christian values related to marriage include "oneness", unselfishness, and self-sacrifice. That means that an individual's happiness "here and now" is transitory at times and does not determine whether a person chooses to stay married or divorce. Clearly, there are cases where staying married is not an option (e.g., cases of abuse, danger to children, and other situations). These cases, in my opinion, are the exception rather than the rule. Unfortunately, what people say they value does not necessarily have any impact on personal choice. I would challenge each of us to evaluate what we believe and to live what we believe when it comes to marriage, fidelity, and commitment!

8) I can change my mate. The often-quoted Serenity Prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr petitions God for assistance in accepting what I can't change, changing what I can and having wisdom to know the difference. Basically, we have no control over other people not even our spouse! We can focus on the changes we need to make in ourselves and, in so doing, our partner may change as well. Changing our partner should never be the motive for self-improvement. It's important to realize prior to taking vows with another person that, for the most part, "what you see is what you get". This illustrates the importance of the selection process when it comes to marriage. People do make adjustments to each other in healthy marriages but when it comes to personality, temperament and basic strengths and weaknesses, those are set for the most part. One of the benefits of marriage is that you may have a life partner who is strong in the areas you are weak (and vice-verse) and you complement each other if you see the differences as assets rather than liabilities. You may even help each other grow in those identified weak areas bring out the best in each other.

Comments or suggestions for future topics? Mailing address: Highland Park Community Church, 411 S. Walsh Drive, Casper, WY 82601 Email: rkirk@hpcc.cc

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