The well-known saying, “United we stand, divided we fall” is most commonly used in the context of political parties, nations, armies and football teams but it applies equally well to marriages since every married couple, by definition, is a team. As with any team, real and genuine unity is a vital ingredient for achieving success in marriage. So let’s look at the place of unity in marriage.
Unity of heart. Both husband and wife need to be very deeply committed to each other. This means that a husband must settle, deep down in his heart, that he is and will be wholeheartedly for his wife and not against her. Similarly, a wife must choose in her heart to be for her husband and not against him.
We are helped to start on a good note when we speak our vows to each other, expressing this commitment: “I do take you to be my wedded husband/wife from this day onwards, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health. I will love, cherish and honour you. I will hold you in the highest esteem.” These words are the stuff of unchanging commitment to and unity with each other in the midst of all the changing circumstances that a married couple will encounter.
Unity of mind. A husband and wife may never come to have exactly the same taste for food or colour or music and this is fine, but on the major issues of life they need to have the same mind. For example, do they agree on the reason and purpose for their lives and for their marriage? What should they try to achieve together in their marriage?
Couples may not necessarily start off with complete oneness of mind but, by speaking truthfully to each other and in the power of the Holy Spirit, they will be helped to move closer to a position of greater unity than when they started out. As a team they ought to be aiming to put the ball in the same goal post! It is always a tragedy when a player scores an ‘own goal’ (that is, a goal against his own team) and it is the same in marriage – only worse – when a wife undermines her husband or vice versa.
Being of one heart and one mind opens the way for some very practical arrangements which make for peace in the marriage relationship.
Unity in spending money. Setting priorities and making decisions together about money becomes much easier if we have defined our goals for life and, better still, if we are pushing towards these goals together. For example, making decisions about how much money we should spend and how much we should give to God and to others will become much easier.
Unity in disciplining our children. Husbands and wives with children need to spend time together working out basic rules of conduct for their children. They should do this groundwork and be completely united in their thinking about what is acceptable behaviour and what is unacceptable (and the sanctions they will apply for any unacceptable behaviour) before they communicate these ground rules to their children. Having agreed upon this disciplinary framework, both spouses should diligently adhere to it. Disunity in this area will create confusion in the children’s minds and cause huge tensions in the relationship.
Unity in fighting the enemy. Every marriage will, over its lifetime, have its own share of the fierce fires of challenges and difficulties. These could be ill health, seasons of real financial need, deep disappointments or betrayals from others. If there is a time when unity is needed more than at any other it is during these difficult periods. Often the shape of the challenge may tempt a husband and wife to point the accusing finger at each other and turn against each other but to do so is like an attacker in a football team suddenly turning the ball round and racing towards his own goal. It should never happen. During such difficult times, the best thing to do is to stick together. Hold hands and pray together and, in so doing, fight together against your common enemy. Your spouse is not the enemy, you are part of the same team so work together as a team!
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