[This lesson will be introduced by a video presentation entitled, The Ledger People. Running time: 7 minutes 17 seconds.]

What makes marriage successful? The popular answer to that question is a "no brainer." In fact, the popular answer to that question is the same in virtually all generations. If we divided everyone into decades--teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, etc., I would expect the popular answer to be the same in every age group.

What makes marriage successful? LOVE!

  1. I have a question, a rather important question.
    1. The greater majority of people who marry each other in Western culture marry because they love.
      1. They are so convinced that love exists that you would seriously insult them if you suggested that their love did not exist.
        1. I can imagine the reaction of a couple working with me in premarital counseling if I suggested that they did not love each other.
        2. Talking about someone being indignant and offended!
      2. Yet, as certain as the greater majority are of their love, almost one in two of all couples who marry for the first time divorce.
        1. Of those who do not divorce, a significant percentage are miserable in their marriage.
        2. In marriages that do not divorce, more are unsuccessful than are successful.
    2. How do you explain this situation?
      1. If the majority of couples who marry are totally convinced at the time of marriage that they love each other,
      2. If almost fifty per cent of those who marry divorce,
      3. If the majority of those who never divorce have unsuccessful marriages,
      4. How can the key to successful marriage be love?
    3. "They thought they loved each other, but they really did not love each other."
      1. Assumption: all divorces occur because of the absence of love.
      2. Conclusion: all people who divorce never loved each other.
      3. I have known divorced people who continued to love each other.
        1. They love each other.
        2. They have deep feelings for each other.
        3. They just cannot live with each other; it does not work.
      4. Many things other than a lack of love can cause a marriage to fail.

  2. A suggestion: if mutual love is healthy, maturing, and responsible, marriage will be successful.
    1. The real question: what allows mutual love to be healthy, mature, and responsible?
      1. There are many factors involved in love being healthy, mature, and responsible.
      2. Consider two key factors.
        1. A healthy, mature, responsible love has the courage to be vulnerable because it is rooted in and nourished by trust.
          1. "I give you my heart because I trust you not to break it."
          2. "I give you my emotions because I trust you not to trash them."
          3. "I give you my confidence because I trust you to be fair with me."
          4. "Because I trust, I know you won't hurt me."
          5. "Therefore, I am not afraid to be vulnerable with you."
        2. A healthy, mature, responsible love expresses itself in unselfish devotion.
          1. "You matter to me."
          2. "Your happiness matters to me."
          3. "Your will being matters to me."
          4. "Your joy and contentment matter to me."
          5. "You matter so much to me that I will not knowingly make you unhappy, put you at risk, or destroy your joy and contentment."
          6. "You are so important to me that I will not hesitate to make sacrifices for you."

  3. A marriage that chooses to function on the "point system" or the "ledger system" opposes the health, maturity, and responsible nature of love.
    1. What is the "point system" or the "ledger system?"
      1. It is a system that determines what happens in your marriage, when it happens, and to whom it happens.
        1. "I get my way this time; you get your way next time."
        2. "We must be very careful to take turns about everything every time, and we keep very careful records about whose turn it is."
        3. "We always keep track of who owes whom what."
    2. Why does the point system or ledger system work against the health, maturity, and responsibility of love?
      1. First, it works against healthy, mature, responsible love by declaring:
        1. "I do not trust you to take care of me; I must take care of me."
        2. "I am so focused on taking care of me and making certain that you are fair to me that I am rarely focused on you."
        3. "I must protect myself; I must force you to be fair to me."
        4. "My mother (or my father) was really hurt in her (his) marriage, and I will never let you hurt me."
        5. "I do not have confidence in you; I really don't believe that you know how to take care of me or want to take care of me."
        6. This approach to marriage proceeds on an insecure foundation of self-centered thinking.
      2. Second, it works against love because men and women are different.
        1. "Duh! That is a brilliant observation!"
        2. The differences between men and women go far beyond sexuality and physical makeup.
          1. There are significant emotional differences.
          2. There are significant differences in perspectives.
          3. There are significant differences in their approach to life.
          4. Such differences do not make one superior to the other.
      3. I have no desire to build or promote stereotypes, but in speaking in this context it is necessary to deal with generalities. I readily acknowledge that there are exceptions. But, for the sake of illustration, let me cite two things.
        1. Illustration one: shopping.
          1. Telephone rings, husband answers, his wife's friend asks for her, his reply: "She's gone shopping." Interpretation: I don't know when she will be home.
          2. Telephone rings, wife answers, her husband's friend asks for him, her reply, "He has gone to buy something." Interpretation: call back in thirty minutes.
          3. Women shop; men buy; women search before they buy; men just buy.
          4. We husbands should be eternally grateful they do.
          5. If they did not, the economy would collapse, there would be no Christmas and birthday presents, and we men would wear the same thing every day.
        2. Decision making.
          1. Men solve problems; they consider only facts; they reach decisions privately with what they consider to be logic.
          2. Women are intuitive; considerations other than facts are as important as facts; they reach conclusions by talking about it.
      4. So what? So men and women are different. What does that have to do with the point or ledger system?
        1. They will never be perceived as fair by both husband and wife.
        2. Men and women's definition of "fair" is different.
        3. Men and women's definition of "big matters" and "little matters" is different.
        4. Men and women's definition of "important matters" and "unimportant matters" are different.
      5. Any such system will do three things.
        1. At times it will make each of them feel exploited.
        2. At times it will depersonalize each of them.
        3. Many times it will make both of them feel like they are losing.

When marriage becomes a win/lose situation, everybody loses.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 27 June 1999
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