The History Of The Jewish Betrothal English Literature Essay

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What is marriage and where did it come from? If we do not now the intended use of something, we are bound to misuse it and abuse it. Marriage is a covenant that takes place between a man and a woman. When we examine the biblical basis of the marital covenant, it becomes somewhat controversial due to the biblical context and our contemporary culture. We tend to define Adam and Eve as the model for marriage or covenant between a man and a woman. I believe that there is definitely covenantal value in this first relationship between a man and a woman. But we must remember what we are outlining as the model was the ideal context that you and I will never and can never experience. A context where there is only one man and one woman - not simply by choice, but in all of creation - is a context that will never exist again. The relationship was totally supported by God in that He literally provided everything. As part of this ideal context, they had not begun to have children before they were expelled from the garden. There are other facts about this relationship that I will bring out that I believe can be useful to you and me as we attempt to navigate through the difficult relationship of marriage.

This relationship was a monogamous relationship, by force, not by choice, and as more humans were created through the first family, the practice of monogamy ended as incest entered the picture by necessity. Before the Law of Moses, incest was permitted in order to populate the earth, and the command was given to be fruitful and multiply. The Law of Moses introduced the laws of social relationships or the divine expectations of God upon the interpersonal relationships of humankind. Specifics on the law of covenant were introduced between a man and a woman. With this law came the law of adultery that defined sexual commitment to marriage. The Law of Moses also introduced social laws of human sexuality in general, thus restricting sexuality to relations between a man and a woman (outlawed same sex relations and bestiality). Incest was also prohibited, because there needed to be some order within the ranks of human relationships. Sex was restricted to a covenantal relationship that created a structurally functional context for raising emotionally healthy children.

Marriage, however, was not defined in the Hebrew scripture as that which takes place between one man and one woman. In fact, what we refer to as polygamy was perfectly legal and spiritual under the Law of Moses. When God gave Moses the laws that governed human relationships, polygamy was not mentioned as something God forbade. While I know this may seem very difficult to understand, for the time being, let's simply stay biblically accurate even if it is seemingly inaccurate culturally. The man that God called "a man after God's own heart," David, was clearly a polygamist in our modern day vernacular. In antiquity, it was permissible for a man to have multiple wives, as long as he had the resources to provide for each wife and their offspring. What governed how many wives a man could have was how deep his pockets were or how resourceful he was.

These ancient biblical truths allowed for a covenant to be between one man and multiple wives. However, it did not permit a woman to have many husbands. When I think about this divine structure, I must conclude that this very structure lends itself to some insights into the wiring of a man and the wiring of a woman. One man could satisfy the biblical expectations of a wife, but the wealthier a man was, the more he was allowed to increase his capacity to raise emotionally healthy children (and satisfy his own sexual needs). This is just a small nugget that makes you say, "Selah." I don't want you to think that I am advising men to go out and get multiple wives based upon their wealth. I do mean to say that the Bible did not seem to have as big of an issue with polygamy as the traditional views of colonial Christianity. This is one of the reasons why the Mormon Church (Church of the Latter-Day Saints), as heretical as it is in its doctrine, once saw polygamy as permissible. We must remember that the Bible, however, instructs us to follow the laws of our government as long as they do not cause us to break the laws of God.

When we look at marriage as an historical institution, we must realize that its framework is different than our contemporary framework. We can see the structural framework for marriage throughout the book of Genesis through what is called the betrothal.

The Jewish Betrothal

The Jewish betrothal was the engagement and marital system of covenant between a man and a woman. The New Testament is full of teachings that refer back to this system of covenantal relationship. Understanding the Jewish covenantal process of betrothal is key to understanding the New Testament. God used this paradigm of betrothal to communicate a spiritual message to humanity. We must first explore the ancient Hebrew context for marriage by examining the biblical context of marriage.

In antiquity, when someone wanted to marry another person, there was protocol that had to be followed. What is betrothal? It is the act of becoming engaged to marry. Marriage was a process in the Bible, even when it came to the first informal marriage of the Bible. Adam dated and didn't find the right animal that met his needs. God then put him to sleep and brought him Eve. Adam had worked in God's garden faithfully and kept the terms of the agreement; but he was lonely and God brought him a woman.

Adam and Eve were given the mandate to have dominion, be fruitful, and multiply. This union was a model with a spiritual message that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 5:30 when he writes, "for this reason shall a man leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become flesh." The Bible teaches us first that which is natural and then that which is spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:46.) Adam was a type of Christ (sleep = crucifixion and resurrection) and Eve was a type of the church (blood and water that came out of His side) called to be submitted to Christ. The tree was a type of stewardship, and the mandate to be fruitful and multiply was a type of discipleship. While Adam's relationship with Eve was a journey, it was not a betrothal. However, we discover the first example of betrothal that already existed in the culture in Genesis 29 (well before the law).

So Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the East. And he looked, and saw a well in the field; and behold, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks. A large stone was on the well's mouth. Now all the flocks would be gathered there; and they would roll the stone from the well's mouth, water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the well's mouth.

And Jacob said to them, "My brethren, where are you from?"

And they said, "We are from Haran."

Then he said to them, "Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?"

And they said, "We know him."

So he said to them, "Is he well?"

And they said, "He is well. And look, his daughter Rachel is coming with the sheep."

Then he said, "Look, it is still high day; it is not time for the cattle to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and go and feed them."

But they said, "We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and they have rolled the stone from the well's mouth; then we water the sheep."

Now while he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherdess. And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother, that Jacob went near and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother. Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice and wept. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's relative and that he was Rebekah's son. So she ran and told her father.

Then it came to pass, when Laban heard the report about Jacob his sister's son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house. So he told Laban all these things. And Laban said to him, "Surely you are my bone and my flesh." And he stayed with him for a month.

Then Laban said to Jacob, "Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?" Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah's eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance.

Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, "I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter."

And Laban said, "It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me." So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.

Then Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in to her." And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast. Now it came to pass in the evening that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. And Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid. So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. And he said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?"

And Laban said, "It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years."

Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also. And Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as a maid. Then Jacob also went in to Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served with Laban still another seven years." [1] 

This narrative discusses the practice of betrothal and gives us insight into the historical Jewish engagement and marriage process. This biblical text demonstrates how Jacob saw Rachel and desired to cut covenant with her, so that she could become his wife. Jacob made a contract with Laban, the father of Rachael, a dowry the equivalent of seven years of working in Laban's vineyard. After he concluded the seven years of labor, which paid the price of the dowry for Rachel, another issue emerged. Cultural norms demanded that the oldest daughter marry first. So in order for Jacob to claim Rachel, he had two choices: 1) wait until someone came to marry Leah, the oldest daughter of Laban; or 2) he could marry Leah, which would require him to provide an additional dowry of seven years of labor in Laban's vineyard for Rachel. So Jacob worked an additional seven years for the hand of Rachel, and the first seven years translated into the dowry for Leah. The Bible stated that he hated Leah but then impregnated her with multiple children.

This story demonstrates the acceptance of polygamy and the betrothal process. There are cultures today that still practice polygamy or multiple wives and engage in a betrothal process. But the most popular betrothal process was that of the Jews. The following is a simple outline of the Jewish betrothal process:

The man or his family had to identify a wife. This involves the finding of a wife (not finding a husband) - "He that finds a wife, finds a good thing" (Proverbs 18:22). It was not culturally acceptable for a woman to identify a man or be flirtatious with a man; she had to be chosen by the man. In addition to the Bible stating that a man must find a wife, the Bible also asks the question, "Who can find a virtuous woman?" (Proverbs 31:10). When a man or his family searched for a wife, they looked for certain behaviors of virtue. A wife would have to have a physical appeal to the potential groom. The wife would have to have domestic abilities that demonstrated she could keep house and raise children. The virtuous woman also contributed to the household economy by her proven skill sets (Proverbs 31:10-31).

The next step was to cut a covenant of mutual agreement with the father. For example, in Jacob's case, there was a covenant of labor for the exchange of the covenant of marriage to Laban's daughter.

The next step was the payment of a dowry (a set price which included both labor and/or money). This price was established in the agreement and paid at a set time and place. Once the agreement was set and the process began, the woman was considered unavailable in the marital marketplace. The betrothed woman was spoken for and was as good as married, simply waiting for the consummation.

The next step of the betrothal process was performed simultaneous with the agreement. The bride-to-be was given covenant pieces that served to demonstrate to the public that she was not available and that she was responsible for keeping up with her pieces. The three pieces that were believed to be given by the time of the New Testament writing was: a coin, worn around her neck that demonstrated she was betrothed; a headpiece; and a lampstand burning with oil.

This is why the parable of the lost coin is significant for it demonstrated that the woman had lost not just lost any coin, but she had misplaced the betrothal coin that the bridegroom would be looking for when he returned for her (Luke 15:8-10).

"Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!' Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." [2] 

The anxiety of the woman in the parable stemmed from the fact that the groom could return at any time. If she was not wearing the coin, the wedding was off and its cancellation could have major implications - financially and otherwise. Thus, when she found it, she had grounds for celebration. The second betrothal piece was the headpiece, which served as her covering, which could represent two things: the woman was under the covering or provision of her father's house or she was betrothed to a bridegroom. The third and final betrothal piece was the lampstand burning with oil. This lampstand had to be with her at all times and the light had to be maintained with sufficient oil at all times. When the bridegroom returned the light in the lamp had to be burning or the wedding was off. The parable of the 10 virgins of Matthew 25 speaks to this cultural practice. This lamp demonstrated her ability to sustain a relationship with not only husband but also her children. These covenant pieces demonstrated to everyone that the woman was betrothed for marriage and unavailable to anyone else for marriage.

The next step was the bridegroom had to prepare a place for his wife, which was normally done on his father's land plot. This demonstrates how important family real estate was in antiquity. The preparation of housing was the man's covenantal responsibility to the wife and her family. The bridegroom had to demonstrate that he had ample provisions and resources to care for the betrothed wife, who held great value. The wife was so valuable that a dowry was paid; she was valuable to her father, thus she was going to be valuable to her husband. While modern culture may tend to view the betrothal as male chauvinistic, the wife was expected to be treasured and cared for, not thought of as an indentured servant. Thus, this is a covenant of care and responsibility where the bridegroom was required to prepare to care for his wife.

Imagine if this was a prerequisite for contemporary marriage whereby a man had to have a house and resources, as well as pay a dowry for his bride-to-be. There would either be fewer marriages or more grooms who were responsible, if financial sustainability had to be demonstrated before marriage.

The next step was the bridegroom would return at his own subjective time for his bride after the dowry is paid. The bridegroom would return unannounced, and the bride was required to display all of her covenant pieces, which demonstrated daily expectation for the arrival of her groom. She must have all the pieces in place or the covenant was considered broken, and the marriage was off. This could be interpreted as a sign of irresponsibility and possibly unfaithfulness.

The last step was the consummation of the marriage. This involved sexual intercourse. The groom would spend 7 days of celebration and feasting with his bride. After the sexual union took place, the groom would take the sheets that were stained with blood and show it to the public. This was proof of the woman's honor and faithfulness. The blood was the result of the hymen being broken which demonstrated the woman's virginity.

Chapter Two: What is Marriage?

Marriage was designed by God as a relationship that would provide humans with personal social companionship, allowing them to serve God with a greater sense of contentment and purpose. Marriage was intended to provide each person in the marriage a sense of peace. The first relationship between man and woman serves as a model and the place of illumination for the purpose and practice of human heterosexual relationships. We will explore the relationship dynamics between the first man and first woman later in this book. But we can safely say that a relationship between a man and a woman was the foundation of human creation.

Relationships truly are the bedrock of a society. Relationships are and have always been a very interesting field of study. The discipline of sociology focuses upon human interaction, and great minds such as Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Karl Marx have endeavored to study the social relationships among humans. Thus, sociology is the systematic study of social behavior and human groups. This discipline studies the impact that social relationships have upon the attitudes and behaviors of people and how societies are established and changed. Sociology researches the impact that culture, socialization, class, age, sex, race, and groups have upon the personal behavior of individuals and groups. While sociology covers a broad scope of human relationships, the foundation of all relationships is the family.

Family is extremely important when you are discussing the establishment of a society. Family has been thought of as having the greatest impact upon human behavior. Some define "a family" by the nuclear family; for others, the extended family is a family unit. Family consists of two or more people connected by covenant or blood line/DNA. Family programs individuals with an understanding of who is important in terms of family relations (paternal, maternal, kinship), a sense of where one should take up residence, where one should live, and who rules or who is in charge. Family is also fulfills a number of functional roles such as religious training, education, and recreational outlets. Yet, there are five paramount functions performed by the family, and these practices suggest the continuing primacy of the family, which is considered the product of a marriage:

Reproduction or the perpetuation of the family line.

Provision of socialization and protection (security, acceptance, belonging, identity, affirmation).

Regulation of sexual behavior. While over time changes take place in a culture, the family normally sets the tone for sexual behavior within the family circle. The family normally defines what the normal parameters of sexual behavior are for individuals - what is acceptable and what is not, e.g., molestation.

Affection and companionship (the family provides members with warm and intimate relationships that aid in helping them feel satisfied and secure. Family satisfies the emotional needs of its members by caring for them and being there when they need them.)

Provision of social status, subject to the status of the family and its legacy. If the family has a stellar or favorable image in the community or society, it can provide social status.

While many today still desire to have families, research demonstrates that many no longer desire to marry, and many who are married are divorcing. In a study that was conducted on singleness as an alternative to marriage, the following was revealed:

Attractions of Being Single

Attractions of Being Married

Career Opportunities

Economic security

Sexual availability

Regular sex

Exciting lifestyle

Desire for family


Sustained life

Freedom to change and experiment

Security in personal relationships

The State of Marriages in the USA

While the country is experiencing a 50% plus average in the rate of divorces, in the African American community, the rates are believed to be at 70% or higher.

That means that only 3 out of 10 African American marriages are staying together.

Key Findings in Marital Research

Marriage trends in recent decades indicate that Americans have become less likely to marry, and the most recent data show that the marriage rate in the U.S. continues to decline.

Of those who do marry, there has been a moderate drop since the 1970s in the percentage of couples who consider their marriages to be "very happy," but in the past decade this trend has swung in a positive direction.

Americans have become less likely to marry. This is reflected in a decline of nearly 50%, from 1970 to 2004, in the annual number of marriages per 1000 unmarried adult women. The sharpest decrease in marriage is among African-Americans.


The number of unmarried couples has increased dramatically over the past four decades, and the increase is continuing. Younger Americans now spend some time living together outside of marriage, and unmarried cohabitation commonly precedes marriage.

The belief that living together before marriage is a useful way "to find out whether you really get along," and thus avoids a bad marriage and an eventual divorce, is now widespread among young people.

However, available data on the effects of cohabitation fail to confirm this belief. In fact, a substantial body of evidence indicates that those who live together before marriage are more likely to break up after marriage.

As you can tell, the relationship we refer to as a "marriage between a man and woman" is having a very difficult time in America. If the current trend doesn't cease, the whole of our society will be in danger. While my research findings and the quoted research in this book focuses upon North America, other countries are sharing some of the same alarming trends. It has been recorded that in the breakdown or destruction of great nations such as the Roman Empire, one of the trends that led to its destruction was the breakdown or failure of the family, which is a failure of marriage. When a man and a woman become married, they officially become a family.

So, you should understand the definition of marriage and its interconnectedness to family and the importance and role of family in modern societies. Make no mistake about it; marriage is extremely important for the sustainability of a society and the emotional health of individuals. As we explore other variables that are critical to a tolerable marriage, one of the most important things you must leave this chapter with is that marriage is a covenant of purpose that forms the bedrock of society. Your marriage is important, and in this book, you will learn how to make it tolerable.

Now I know some of you are wondering why I continue to use the word "tolerable" when it comes to your marriage fulfillment. I use tolerable because most humans by nature prefer to have event and situations go 'their way' in a relationship. Normally in unhealthy and unsuccessful relationships, the stronger of the two personality types emerge and secure their dominance in that relationship. But in a healthy marriage, both people realize that they cannot have their way and learn how to give and take, or compromise. This compromise makes marriage tolerable, which is a positive state. People tend to define happy marriages as those in which they get their way. But I'm defining marriage for you as a tolerable place - a place where you can live for the rest of your life, not one where you are constantly asking yourself, "How long can I put up with this bull?" So, please understand that tolerable is a very good place, especially when you consider that no two people are exactly alike and no two people desire the same exacts things and at the same exact time. People must learn to leave fantasyland and come to the real world, not one of idealism, but of realism. People must also understand that others are not placed here to make them happy, but to serve God.

However, you can create a context in which you can serve God and tolerate each other for the rest of your lives. Toleration is the breaking point of a marriage. It's when you cannot tolerate a marriage that you begin interpreting your challenges in the extreme, and become very negative about the relationship. In this book, I'm going to teach you the foundational elements that must be present to make you marriage tolerable. Let's continue to explore the nature of relationships or marriages and what is the current reality of most marriages.

Chapter Three: The Complexities of Relationship

Relationships aren't always easy. Differences come up, communication breaks down, and sometimes it's simply tough to figure how to work it all out. Even the best-matched couples can struggle with seemingly "irreconcilable differences." Did you ever wonder what he is feeling? Ever wish you knew what women really wanted? We can all feel at a loss for answers! This chapter is designed to help you get closer to answering some of these very important questions.

Everyone is interested in marriage, but very few possess the attitude and skills to make a marriage successful. Part of the reason why that is so difficult is because people place false expectations upon marriage. Marriage is an institution of purpose, not an institution of convenience and comfort. While many people desire to get married, you have just as many desiring to get out of marriage. Why? Because marriage is difficult! This is not a biased opinion of a married man stuck in a failing marriage. Nor am I basing this conclusion on a ton of research that demonstrates that marriage is not working. This is based on the scriptures.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:28 that marriage is trouble in the flesh. I would even say that marriage is inherently difficult, especially when you understand the intricate differences that exist between a husband and a wife. Author Maggie Scarf writes in her book, "Intimate Partners", that opposites first attract and then later on attack. Her research suggests that the things that opposites were initially drawn to become the issues that caused them to become distant. Differences in the interim can make life interesting and break the monotony of one's personal life. However, over time, people realize that their personal desires and lifestyle were not that bad, and once again begin to desire them. They realize that they cannot exist as they want to within the context of marriage, and eventually they become dissatisfied and frustrated.

This is a part of what I call the relationship cycle, which consists of a five-step process:

Euphoria (the green zone, "go for it") - consists of unrealistic expectations based upon nothingness.

Reality (the yellow zone, "be cautious; they are not who you thought") - discovery zone, you are not just alike and don't really enjoy the same things from the same perspectives; you are different!

Conflict (the red zone, "I can't get pass this") - strong differences on how things should operate and the relationship should work. Conflict moves the relationship into a potential collision if the differences are not resolved appropriately. Differences can become the haven for bitterness and resentment. At this point, the marriage moves into the critical decision point of free moral agency based upon self-preservation.

Negotiations or offense - This is the stage where a relationship must weigh its pros and cons; whether or not the potential for mutual satisfaction exists, or future disaster.

Mature love or divorce - Divorce can be mental or physical. This stage either recreates a new cycle or ends the cycle.

The Bible and Marital Complexity

Paul uses one of the greatest and most respected institutions on earth to discuss the ramifications of a covenant. He uses the metaphor of marriage to discuss the topic of covenant. In doing so, Paul selects marriage, the union and institution, that best reflect and model God's relationship or desired relationship with His creation. Marriage was so sacred in antiquity that one had to be given a written paper of divorce in order to be relieved of one's obligation to the marriage. When Christ came, He stated that the written letter of divorce was given, not because it reflected God's attitude towards breaking a covenant. A letter of divorce exemplified the condition of the human heart and its inability to get over personal offense. Christ stated that divorce should not take place except in the case of adultery - and that is only if a person so desired. The Roman Catholic Church interpreted marriage as a sacrament, or that, which imparts grace. They see marriage as an institution that imparts grace to the participants in order to forgive them for the personal inadequacies that would be expressed in the marital relationship. In essence, grace was required for two imperfect beings to co-inhabit a space and bring children into the world for procreative reasons. The act of childbirth is a grace that God granted couples.

However, make no mistake about how the Roman Catholic Church felt about the union of marriage in their gut, because they prohibited their clergy from sexual and marital union due to the nature of the conflict and high maintenance that was required to live with another human being. Thus, marriage was a covenant of grace and, for the Roman Catholic Church; it was an act of God giving you a context to receive grace for your sexual proclivities. Of course, the Protestant position is not the same as the Roman Catholic Church. Marriage is not a sacrament, or that which imparts saving grace, but it is an institution and covenant that requires all the grace God can give! One of the first things Martin Luther did, after gaining his freedom from the bondage of the Roman Catholic Church and its traditions, is get married and 'get busy'!

Marriage, in my opinion, is one of the toughest contexts for human relations in existence. In fact, the Apostle Paul advised those who could keep themselves pure sexually to avoid it, but not feel guilty if they chose to marry. Marriage has the potential of creating an environment where one can feel like a trapped animal that begins to fight for its existence and preservation. Additionally, the difficulties that exist in the male and female relational context have served as fertilized ground for the worldwide homosexual phenomenon. It is extremely difficult to love someone who it is different from you, who have opposite tendencies than yours. Then when you consider that marriage is supposed to last a lifetime, these differences become even more glaring (you might or might not appreciate them for the rest of your life). Thus, one solution is to opt for relationships with those who have fewer differences, because they are the same sex - it's just easier and simpler. Yet and still, marriage is the context that the Bible uses to discuss His covenant with the church. This is also the context that God uses as a metaphor to discuss His relationship with Israel. In scripture, He calls the wilderness a "honeymoon experience" and states that He, "…saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also."

Having lived over 50 years now, I have experienced two marriages with a combined experience of over 25 years, as well as a number of failed dating relationships. I feel like I can say a little something about relationships. Marriage and relationships are the source for some of the most devastating pain in our world - from the parental, sibling, and dating to the marital relationship. Marriage can be harmful and helpful, humbling and hurtful. It is my strong opinion that nothing makes marriage work but time, maturity, the fundamentals for a tolerable marriage, and six factors of toleration. The six concentrations will be discussed in the sequel to this book. Time is needed to accept the things you cannot change (or in many cases, even attempt to change) and maturity is required to not interpret differences as negatives. The fundamentals for a tolerable marriage are so important that even if you implement the six factors of toleration, without the fundamentals, the marriage will fail.

This appears to be what God does on a much higher level. He allowed the time and longevity of His relationship with Israel to take place, and He didn't hold their weaknesses against them forever. The strongest traditional variables in a marriage are forgiveness, conflict resolution, humility (not self-righteousness), and sacrifice. I refer to these as practices of toleration: the ability to forgive, to resolve conflict, and to humble one's self to the point you don't view yourself as superior to your spouse in any area of your relational life. Marriage is the place where you must compromise, not simply enjoy! It can also be said that it is the place where one learns to die to one's self, or sacrifice. We must revisit our idealism about marriage and what it brings. Failed expectations tend to be one of the most crucial attitudinal disappointments that married couples go through. The problem with this type of disappointment is that research has found that neither partner goes into marriage with well-defined expectations. Thus, it is impossible to meet undefined and/or unrealistic expectations. Marriage is a very complex union, and we have statistics to prove it. Let's consider the following research to measure the successfulness of marriage as a whole:

Facts about Marital Distress and Divorce

Scott M. Stanley & Howard J. Markman

Younger people in the U.S., who are marrying for the first time, face roughly a 40-50% chance of divorcing in their lifetime under current trends.1

Of first marriages that end in divorce, many end in the first three to five year period. (As one example, for first marriages ending in divorce among women aged 25 to 29, the median length of marriage before divorce in 1990 was 3.4 years).2

Adults and children are at increased risk for mental and physical problems due to marital distress.3j0351873[1]

Mismanaged conflict and negative interaction in marriage predicts both marital distress and negative effects for children.4

Marital problems are associated with decreased work productivity, especially for men.5

A variety of studies suggest that the seeds of marital distress and divorce are there for many couples when they say, "I Do." These studies show that premarital (or early marital) variables can predict which couples will do well and which will not with accuracies of 80% and up to 94%.6

Many more couples live together prior to marriage than in the past - recent estimates are in the range of 60+%. These couples are less likely to stay married, probably mostly due to the fact that they are less conservative about marriage and divorce in the first place.7


Money is the one thing that people say they argue about most in marriage, followed by children.8 But, there are many reasons to believe that what couples argue about is not as important as how they argue.9

Married men and women in all age groups are less likely to be limited in activity (a general health index) due to illness than single, separated, divorced, or widowed individuals.10

Children living with a single parent or adult report a higher prevalence of activity limitation and higher rates of disability. They are also more likely to be in fair or poor health and more likely to have been hospitalized.11

The "triple threat" of marital conflict, divorce, and out-of-wedlock births have led to a generation of U.S. children at great risk for poverty, health problems, alienation, and antisocial behavior.

As you can see, marriage is producing some very alarming statistics that are having a negative impact upon all parties involved, especially the children. If you are feeling stressed out about your marriage, please understand and accept that this is normal and can be overcome if you have the right tools, the right attitude, and you work on the right actions. You probably have more reasons to work on your marriage than you realize. In my second marriage, I have come to realize what is most important and what is least important. While I believe in personal fulfillment and happiness, I realize that no other human being can make me happy. I'm using the word 'happy,' because most of you are familiar with this emotionally powerful term. But what is more powerful then happiness is joy, which is rooted in an internal disposition. Happiness is based upon what's happening, the impetus is the outside that rules the emotions on the inside. Joy is based upon being free from ultimate judgment and destined for eternal life with God. Hence, 'joyous' is a state you must be in by yourself! People cannot make people happy, because they don't have the capacity to do so based on their self-centered human nature. Whenever a person enters a relationship with someone and thinks that the person is going to make him or her happy forever, they have entered fantasyland.

It is an unrealistic expectation that another human being can make you happy. If you are not happy within yourself, there is nothing another person can do for you except offer you a temporary mind-altering drug of relational experiences that will soon wear off. People are referring to temporary states as personal happiness. Joy must originate from the inside; it is a state created by the person alone. Other people can only accent your joy at particular moments, but cannot be your happiness! We feel happy when people do good things for us or to us, but when they are not doing these things, we cannot stop 'feeling happy.' This is another reason why I argue that marriage is an institution of toleration, which is a positive thing. In my opinion, we are over-emotionally involved in marital relationships today. Our emotions attempt to eat the other person alive. We desire too much attention, which means that in order for the relationship to work, someone must give up all his or her desires and affections to cater to the affections of the other. If he or she does not, it is a sign that they "don't really love" you.

I refer to this as relational manipulation that is characterized by guilt and emotional threats in order to move the person to do what the other person want to be done. These types of practices are a violation of a context of toleration, because people cannot tolerate threats and guilt their entire life - they will eventually seek freedom. Even in our relationship with God, He removes the power of guilt and uses the power of agape or self-surrendering love to find value in the object of His love and give us room to reciprocate. As humans, we must also create the environment of toleration. The context of toleration is correlated with the attitudes of forgiveness, conflict resolution, and humility. These three practices must accompany any relationship that will have the potential of surviving the black hole of divorce that is sucking every married couple towards its cavity of desolation.

John Gottman, a Jewish psychologist who wrote "Why Marriages Fail or Succeed and How Yours Can Succeed," indicates in his research that divorce cannot be based upon simply having a volatile relationship, but upon a ratio of bad experiences to good experiences that is less than 5:1. Gottman's research suggests those successful couples whose marriages were sustained and not being sucked into the black hole of marital desolation, demonstrated the 5:1 ratios. This simply revealed that for every five heated conversations or arguments, there was one intimate or loving moment of communication. In other words, Gottman's research revealed that we must be tolerant. Gottman's research also focused upon the pattern of divorce and the behavior and issues that were present in couples of divorce. I must admit that I have observed these patterns after serving as a marriage counselor for over 25 years.

Marriage is complex and can be extremely emotional and painful if you don't understand that there are rules to being married. Gottman clearly articulates these rules in the ways that we communicate with one another. When we communicate from a posture of toleration or mutual compromise, we tend not to be offensive. We are offensive when we blame others for our state of being or mind. You can recognize blaming by looking for statements like this: "You hurt me!", "You always think about yourself!", "You make me so angry!" etc. Marriage must be approached from a spiritual perspective that is accompanied certain relational skill sets and attitudinal practices to be discussed in detail later.

Every marriage goes through periods of conflict and isolation, but what makes the difference is the quality of friendship that is present in the relationship. It is the building of a life together, based upon shared meaning and purpose - not simply romanticism, which fosters vision, value, and a spiritual legacy. These are so important, and bring the type of existential value to a marriage that allows one not to focus on the conflict, but the friendship. This is why I referred to marriage as an institution of purpose not convenience. Marriage can only work long term when mutual fulfillment is accompanied intentionality in attitudes and practices for friendship.

Marital Complexity in Today's Society

We live in a time of familial ambiguity, because we really do not have a model of what today's family should resemble. It varies according to our changing culture and its changing mores, beliefs, and values. This ambiguity puts our families in jeopardy.

The United States of America has the highest divorce rate of any nation in the world; yet, it claims to be a Christian nation. This means that we must really pay attention to the cultural context in which we raise our families, because our culture impacts us in very subtle ways. The devil is trying to destroy our marriages, even trying to destroy the potential of people getting married. He knows that strong families are the foundation of a strong nation; thus, he seeks to tear the family apart in order to tear the nation down.

With today's divorce rate being greater than 60% and with the traditional nuclear family decreasing in numbers, many couples are asking themselves the question, "This is hell - what am I to do?" In Matthew 19, Jesus communicated to the Pharisees that people should not get a divorce for any reason other than infidelity:

"Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings, that He departed from Galilee and came to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And great multitudes followed Him and He healed them there. The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?' And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. They said to Him, Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away? He said to them, 'Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery'." - Matthew 19:1-9

The rationale for Jesus' thought is that when the two become one flesh, if they are truly one, how can either one of them leave? Who can leave if there is only one in the marriage - if there is only one life in the marriage? If two lives exist separately, it is an indication that the bond that should have been formed between them was never formed. While the meaning of "the two shall become one flesh" refers to sexual activity, there is an emotional bond formed between a man and a woman when they sleep together. Sex tends to bring people closer together emotionally, and when a couple is close, they are more sexual. When isolation occurs in the relationship, it is normally due to the entrance of the four horsemen.

As mentioned earlier, history teaches us about the importance of family. The Roman Empire was one of the strongest empires the world has ever known. However, this great nation fell. The birth rate fell, men became caught up in economics and conquering new civilizations, and motherhood was devalued. Homosexuality became a way of life vs. an alternative lifestyle. First century women enjoyed a freedom that was at least equal to that of today's feminists. Moral and social decline hit the Roman Empire just before Christianity arrived, and divorce became the normal course of affairs. All of these factors weakened the structures of families and the undermined the values of the social construct called family. Many researchers who have studied the fall of the Roman Empire have concluded that one of the greatest contributors to its demise was the decline of the family. These situations are quite similar to the days in which we live.

The Tender Gender Factor

A critical factor, growing stronger and stronger by the year, is the increasing erasure of distinguishable differences between the genders. The cause may be attributed to many social catalysts such as the increasing social acceptance of alternative lifestyles. For others, such as Rush Limbaugh, Laura Schlessinger, and Florence King, the world (led by America) has become more hostile toward and masculinity and definitive societal roles for males and females. Boys in America are becoming more and more effeminate as "teachers discourage boys from playing aggressively, loudly and competitively, forcing them to include everyone when choosing sides and playing sports." [3] Parents raise boys who are "grossly overweight, cry and whine regularly." [4] Socially, "everyone gets a ribbon for participation" [5] - competition is now unfair and hurtful and those boys who are considered troublemakers. Katy Grimes, a journalist of CalWatchdog, attributes the rise to divorce and single motherhood, where the boys come out as either "hellions or sissies." [6] Rush Limbaugh and others blame it on feminist women and men's fashion. Dr. James Dobson wrote a book called, Bringing Up Boys: Practical Advice and Encouragement for Those Shaping the Next Generation of Men, which he hoped, in the midst of the confusion about the role of men in our society and the vilification of masculinity, would relieve the suffering of boys raised in this enviroment. Miss King opines, "The feminization of America has made emotions sacrosanct while condemning as cold and unfeeling rigorous concepts such as duty and honor. Propelled by incessant hosannas to woman's "finer" this and "softer" that, we make emotional decisions instead of ethical ones and then congratulate ourselves for having "heart." [7] 

Here are some of the basic ideologies that the feminist movement has advanced concerning gender differences:

Sameness must replace stereotypes in home, church, and society.

Independence must replace interdependence as a lifestyle.

Equal division of labor must replace sexual division of labor at home and work.

Sexual liberation must replace sexual restraint as a personal value.

Careerism must replace being a spouse and a mother as a pursuit in life.

Religion, history, and scientific data are to be reinterpreted in light of feminist ideology.

This philosophy has permeated the whole of society and the world is being greatly impacted by these views. Of course, I don't believe women ought to be discriminated against in the workforce or the church. However, each gender has been created differently for a reason, and each has a gender capacity that distinguishes them from each other. Due to an inability to tolerate the gender differences, will we now ignore and minimize them?

Chapter Four: Woman, Can You Give Him Something He Can Feel?

General Differences between Men and Women

God made distinct differences between men and women. For example, women tend to operate out of emotions more so than men. They are stronger physically (generally), and they are able to operate on a number of levels simultaneously. A woman is physically constructed differently from a man. Biologically, women produce more hormones and a menstrual cycle. They retain more fat than men, but they also tend to have a longer lifespan than men. Sexually, there are differences; in terms of sexual arousal, women tend to be like crock-pots and men tend to be like microwave ovens. Men's testosterone gives them a greater propensity towards sexual desires and thoughts. Further, most women have an innate desire to serve and nurture, unless their culture and/or upbringing have altered this inherent characteristic. I know this is a tender gender issue, but this is also true in the animal kingdom. The male species, as a whole, was designed to lead. This does not mean a woman cannot lead, have not led, or that there are not some female-dominated species, but distinct roles exist in the animal kingdom and in humanity, which places the female in a subordinate role.

Interestingly, though the man, in traditional families, has headship, the female keep or make a home under his supervision. This sphere entails great responsibilities and leadership. Thus, the Bible states that a virtuous woman, "provides food for her household" (v.15b), clothes her household "with scarlet" 921b), and "she watches over the ways of her household" (v.27a). Though God did not give women headship, He gave women one of the most powerful tools in all the earth: influence. A woman does not need to be the power person as long as she has influence. For example, in the beginning, Adam had headship, but ultimately this meant nothing at the time of temptation, because Eve had influence. Eve had more influence over Adam than God and the devil. Influence is a powerful piece, and women must be careful how they use it. Unfortunately, Eve used her influence in a negative way, which influenced Adam to make an ungodly decision and the whole of humanity suffered the consequences.

Exercise: Recall the last time that you strategically used influence on or were influenced by your partner in the midst of a critical decision. Discuss with your partner how the outcome of the situation would have been different without the presence of influence.

God created women with the same four personality types as men: sanguine, melancholy, choleric, and phlegmatic. The unique blend of nature and nurture creates her individuality. However, each woman carries a spirit or attitudinal disposition. Her spirit creates her attitude. Her attitude creates her atmosphere. Her atmosphere creates the accessibility she has to a man. This means that each woman brings a type of environment that a man will either want to live in or run away from. If a woman is with a man who does not want to spend time with her, barring any other factors, it is likely because she is carrying an uninviting spirit. This simply means that a wife has to create a context in which her husband desires to be, whether it's down time or physical time. A woman cannot "guilt trip" a man into spending time with her. He would rather hang out in other atmospheres, simply because those atmospheres make him feel better than his woman's atmosphere. (This is a tender gender moment I know, but hang in there!)

The Spirit of a Woman

The spirit of a wife, by nature, should be submission in the marital context. Submission is not a negative word, because we are all submitted to something or someone. Ephesians 5:22 tells us, "Wives, be submitted to your husbands as unto the Lord." In 1 Peter 3:1, 6, Peter writes, "Wives should not go out of their way to win their husbands with braided hair and costly jewelry, but have a meek and a humble spirit…" "Use Sarah as an example, as Sarah called her husband Lord." Submission is predicated upon the order of God. Jesus himself is submitted to God the Father, and the Holy Spirit is submitted to God the Son. Submission is not a negative thing; it is an orderly thing! (Are you having another tender gender moment?)

The Attitude of a Woman

The attitude of a wife should be one of support. In the first epistle to the Corinthians (11:8), Paul explains that, "Man was not made for the woman, but the woman was made for man." God could have pulled both man and woman out of the ground at the same time, but He was trying to establish order and relationship. Adam's wife, Eve, was called to be a helper and designed to be a system of support. This is not negative! We dare not allow our views of these God-inspired concepts to be jaded because of their misuse or perversion by men afflicted by the disease of sin. Remember, the Holy Spirit is also called a helper. The only thing that could cause one to despise being a helper is a spirit of pride and the sin-soaked spirit of this world that violates apostolic order in relationships. It's God's design, i.e., His relationship structure and order. We either believe that He knew what He was doing or we don't.

The Atmosphere of a Woman

The atmosphere of a wife should be that of a homebuilder. Any woman who does not have the ability to build a home has missed God if she intends to get married one day! Having a career does not negate this responsibility. She can be in charge at work but must operate in influence at home. Titus 2 tells older women to, "teach the younger women how to love their children, love their husbands, and be keepers of the home." These are the three things that women tend to think they naturally know how to do. On the contrary, this is learned behavior. If this was not a learned behavior and was a natural behavior, there would be no need for the older women to teach the younger women. This is a marital deficit that is leaving godly marriages crippled and without hope. With these variables missing, it's all most impossible to have a mutually satisfying marriage. I believe that there is a sense of fulfillment that both persons get out of the relationship through this type of structure that is absent today in the majority of marriages that are racing towards divorce.

Exercise: Based on the explanation of atmosphere above, try to come up with at least four ways to improve the atmosphere of your home, so that your partner will be drawn to your atmosphere like a moth to a flame!

Exercise: For each of the above characteristics of a woman, comment on how not having the proper spirit, attitude, and atmosphere could do harm to a marital relationship.

If a woman does not have the proper spirit, the consequences could be:

If a woman does not have the proper attitude, the consequences could be:

If a woman does not have the proper atmosphere, the consequences could be:

Influence through submission, with support and home-builder is such a powerful combination that the Bible states, in 1 Peter 3:1, a woman can win her unsaved husband over by her conduct. Thus, in the marital context, the first step toward healthy marital toleration, in my opinion, lies in the court of the woman.

The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands. - Proverbs 14:1 [8] 

If a woman wants to build her home and not tear it down with her own hands, there are certain differences that she must understand about men. Her influence must be aware and educated on these differences in order to work toward a marriage that stays together and glorifies God. If a woman does not understand and accept these differences, she will become offended without cause. God designed these differences.

Men are givers. A man gives a woman a seed, and she gives him a child. A man gives a woman a house, and she gives him a home. Men are not naturally receivers. Men who are very comfortable receiving will be takers in a relationship. A man who is leeching or living off of a woman is not fit for a relationship. Adam was a provider, not a taker. Don't fall into the trap of connecting with a man that you feel needs you in order to make it. This is dysfunctional and will eventually hurt you. A functional man must be responsible! If your husband is not being responsible, you must stop rewarding irresponsibility. The pressure of responsibility is one that every man must experience on a daily basis.

Men operate from raw data. Men tend to be more analytical. Men tend to respond to what you say, not how you feel. Thus, if women do not articulate how they feel, the man will not be able to respond to it.

Men are unilateral in their brain usage. This means that they can only focused on one significant thing at a time. A man has a God-gifted ability to stay focused, and this is what a woman should want vs. having a man whose focus is all over the place.

Eighty percent (80%) of men are left-brained. Men tend to be competitive, fix-it-all's, ego-driven and goal-oriented. A man has a caretaker mentality, but he is not going to compete with a woman over that position. Every man has something inside of him that should make him want to protect and provide for his woman and his family.

Men tend to talk less than women. The average man speaks about 7,000 words a day, and the average woman speaks about 20,000 words a day. The problem is that by the time a man gets home, he has used up most of his words, right at the time when the woman is ready to shift into high gear! The average man is not going to talk to a woman as much as she wants to be talked to. When a woman tries to make a man talk, she will pull from his conflict vocabulary rather than his comfort vocabulary, as he will try to get her off of him. Some women do not realize that they enjoy having conflict with their man, simply because it pulls more words out of him than he would normally speak to her. In addition to women speaking more words per day, studies also reveal they talk twice as fast. So, in relation to men, women are the "real" fast talkers.

Men are visual. They are motivated by sight as opposed to women, who are motivated by touch. Advertisers understand this well, so they will often market products to men by placing some type of sexual visual with the product they are trying to sell. Women should accept this fact and make efforts to be physically appealing to their partners.

Men are more sexual than women. On the average, a sexual thought passes through a man's mind every 30 seconds. If you take away a man's sex drive, you would take away the aggression that makes him the caretaker and provider that he is.

Men are ego-centered. Men are driven by the strong conviction that they can do and accomplish anything. This is what makes it hard for them to admit that they need help and what makes it hard for them to cry. As a result, anything that will take a man to an emotional level and make him lose control he will avoid.

A man is a warrior by nature. Men love to compete, and they are always looking for a good fight or something to conquer. This is one reason men are usually involved in competitive sports. If a woman ever tries to compete with her husband, she may not lose the verbal battle, but she will lose the ultimate battle because a man will not be defeated. He is a warrior who is groomed to win the battle or to die trying to win.

Men never truly grow up. They are just big boys with bigger toys. They tend to need maternal nurture when they are sick or discouraged.

Men have a short attention span. Men cannot talk for a long time about one topic. They will tend to jump around to address various issues, because they tend to have a limited number of words in their vocabulary that they can use.

Men tend to be insecure. A man needs a woman to feel secure. If the woman every decreases his security, she becomes a potential enemy. Eve came to make Adam whole, not the opposite.

A man gets his esteem through what he does. This is different from women who get esteem through whom they are connected to. Men define themselves differently, oftentimes by their occupations, achievements, or other areas that they have conquered.

Exercise: Choose three of the characteristics above that you never fully understood before, and comment on them. Does this help you to understand why you are the way you are (if you are male) or why your partner does the things he does (if you are female)?

Women who try to change their men are doomed for failure, and if a woman does try to change the traits of a man, she is officially declaring war! Rather than try to change men, women must use their godly influence and soft skills to try and move their men to modify their behaviors to a level that is tolerable.

For example, the worst thing a woman can do is to try to give her husband advice, because this is simply veiled criticism. Offering a man unsolicited advice is the equivalent of telling a man that he does not know what he is doing! Further, this is also considered being a contentious woman. Women must learn to