"I Do" Vs. "Do I": Spousal Respect or Spousal Neglect?

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I've performed many weddings in my career as a Pastor. It’s always a special moment when the couple makes their vows before God, other witnesses, and each other. They promise that they will be together permanently as long as they both shall live. Here is an example of a famous vow where they simply reply: “I Do.”

“Do you, ___, take ____, whom you now hold by the hand to be your lawful and wedded wife, and do you promise in the presence of God and these witnesses to be to her a faithful, loving and devoted husband, so long as you both shall live?

After I ask the question, without a doubt, the engaged couple says, “I do.” Then they walk down the aisle as husband and wife, dance the night away, and ride off to their honeymoon.

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Normally what happens is I get a phone call a few months to a year later, and the couple begins to voice some discouragement. The fun and excitement of being newlyweds has faded, and the vows they made can easily become a distant memory.

Life gets in the way, and they’re no longer working together on planning a fun weekend and an incredible vacation. Instead their focus is on keeping the house cleaned, balancing their budget, the stresses of work, and having to cook. They begin to see each other’s weaknesses more as ‘putting their best foot forward’ is no longer necessary. Marriage can turn from fun to work.

When Stephanie & I went through pre-marital counseling we learned from Dr. Jim Coffield that there are 4 inevitables of marriage:

  1. There will be conflict. With two sinners in the mix, there is always room for mistakes and hurt. Conflict is unavoidable.
  2. There will be disappointment. Instead of working on a common goal with a wedding plan, you can easily begin focusing on your own work and hobbies without including your spouse. You get stuck in a routine, and there’s no longer any new or novel experiences. Because of this, you get disappointed.
  3. There will be loneliness. When the one person in this life you love and have committed yourself to has hurt you, you get lonely.
  4. There will be common placeness. As mentioned above, you go from eating the wedding cake to using the garden rake. You end up cleaning dishes and bathrooms, folding laundry, and eventually changing diapers. The ordinary ways of life can appear boring.

As these things happen in marriage, it’s easy to turn our statement of “I do” into a question of, “Do I?”

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You begin focusing more on how this person makes you feel as opposed to how you make the person feel. You begin to lose hope. You begin to doubt and seriously question your feelings and commitment to the other person.

I see this happen all the time. And unfortunately, many times couples end in divorce.

Whenever a couple comes to me, I always remind them of the vows they made to each other in the beginning. I remind them it’s not about the spouse meeting their needs, it’s about them meeting their spouse’s needs. A marriage is not a give-and-take relationship, it’s a give relationship. Marriage is not ‘It’s all about me, and what I can get.” Marriage is “It’s all about the other person, and what I can give.” That’s exactly what Jesus does for us. He’s always giving, loving, and serving us even when we neglect Him (Ephesians 5:23-30).

The Bible tells each spouse to respect the other (Ephesians 5:33; I Peter 3:7). Respect means to notice, regard, prefer, encourage, love, and admire the other person.

Respect means to…

  • Be faithful when it’s tempting to drift away.
  • Be loving when the other person is hard to love.
  • Be devoted when the other person gets sick or is stuck-in-a-rut.

A vow is made to keep. If you both respect each other, you will experience marital bliss.

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