For many around the world, it was a shared joy to hear the recent announcement from Britain of the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, an American actress and humanitarian activist. While for some that might have been due to a fascination with all things royal, for many it was simply a delight to see a couple who looked so much in love.
In my case, the news prompted me to think more closely about the kinds of qualities that make for a happy, successful marriage. Whether we are hoping to get married, in a marriage, or even working to save a marriage, how can we nurture the most needed qualities?
A wedding I attended started with a hymn that went like this:
Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
. . .
I am Thine and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.
(Frances R. Havergal, “Christian Science Hymnal,” No. 324, adapt. © CSBD)
How interesting, I thought, that at this ceremony where two people are pledging their lives to each other, the opening statement would be about consecrating their lives to God. But this is what I’ve found really makes a marriage happy and lasting. While it can seem easy for personal wants and desires to become front and center, a strong, honest, unselfish yearning to grow spiritually, side by side, forms a strong foundation for a long-term relationship.
Along with such unselfishness, I’ve learned that honesty, trust, flexibility, joy, and patience are important to love that lasts. And the good news is that as sons and daughters of God we each include the ability to express these qualities. Identifying ourselves this way is a great starting point in both establishing the foundation for marriage and sustaining it.
The Bible records many examples of Christ Jesus expressing spiritual power through marvelous works of healing. But what the Scriptures call the “beginning of miracles” was Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding (see John 2:1-11). The Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Mary Baker Eddy, which elucidates how the Bible’s “miracles” are actually practical proofs of God’s law, refers to the spiritual significance of wine as inspiration (see p. 598). This suggests to me that divine Love provides the inspiration, motivation, and guidance that make for a strong marriage.
In my own experience, my husband and I were recently looking to purchase a house. We each had ideas about what this future abode would be like. Every time we would look at a potential property, we would compare notes afterward. We usually already knew what the other thought of the place!
Well, we saw one little place that was absolutely off my list. I looked around for a moment, then went and sat in the car. No possibility of it being our future home, as far as I was concerned. My husband, on the other hand, could see all the beauty and possibilities of this property. It was a long conversation that evening!
As I often do when faced with a difficult decision, I prayed for an answer, affirming that God is communicating to all. In humility, I saw that divine inspiration is not provided to one of us but not another. Each of us could know and feel the right way forward, together. This was an opportunity for me to express some of those qualities of unselfishness, patience, love. I trusted that as we went forward, neither of us would need to do something that did not feel right.
We visited the house a few more times, and with this mental shift, the unique and beneficial features of the home became more apparent to me. I could see how this place really could serve us and our family well. And now that we are happily living there (with some mutually agreed upon renovations!), I am grateful that embracing the qualities that marriage helps foster enabled me to put stubbornness and resistance aside.
I love how marriage teaches us to recognize, improve, and build on our God-given spiritual qualities, which in turn supports solid, long-lasting relationships.