Jan 092020 1 Response

9 Traits of a Healthy Marriage (Part 1)

One of the reasons I love sports is because there is a scoreboard. While it can be debated if I’m playing better than my opponent or at my best, there is no question about who is winning and who is losing. There is a scoreboard. When the game is over, success or failure is apparent.

It’s the lack of scoreboards that frustrate me in other areas of life. Success and failure aren’t as obvious. Am I succeeding or not? This absence of obvious markers often tempts me to take anything which can be measured as the defining element of success. As a pastor, my job is to assist people in navigating the issues of life with a perspective that is larger than just what they see before them. That’s hard to measure. So I can be easily lured into thinking the number of people in our church or the amount of money given is the test of success.

As a writer, it is hard to gauge if a book is truly meaningful or not, so the number of sales often becomes the defining element of worth. (See: Ignore the Internet–Marriage Still Works)

As a blogger, any given article may be good or bad, so without a scoreboard, I can allow the number of likes, shares, and clicks to define success.

False Scoreboards

Where scoreboards don’t exist, we often create them.

So what is the scoreboard for marriage? How do we know if we are winning at marriage? Without an obvious metric, many people create their own way to keep score.

Longevity. For some, the only scoreboard is longevity. As long as they stay married, they think they have been successful. Longevity is important. Yet, just because someone has stayed married doesn’t mean their marriage has been successful. It’s not uncommon when I do marriage conferences to ask who in the audience has been married the longest. As they are recognized the audience oohs and ahhhs with many thinking “that’s who I want to be.” Having done this for a decade, I’ve learned that longevity is no indicator of happiness. While lasting might be an accomplishment, it does not ensure success. Staying married is a prerequisite for success, but is not a guarantee of it.

Offspring. Others make children the determining factor of marital bliss. If a couple has enough children, or successful enough children, then they assume their marriage is good. But the reality is those good parents can have children who make bad decisions. And those who grow up in bad homes can find a way to make good decisions. Beyond that, infertility doesn’t mean that a marriage will suffer. While children are often a product of a happy marriage, the relationship is more correlation than causation.

Materialism. Others view success in marriage the same way they determine success in life–money, power, and material things. Power couples are assumed to have a better marriage than those struggling in anonymity or poverty. While money can make some aspects of life easier, it does not ensure a good marriage. I often talk with couples who are quick to say their marriage wasn’t bad until the money came. It wasn’t until they had the options of travel, the space of a larger house, and the demands of a successful career that they drifted apart. Financial and material measures are no indicators of marital health.

Without a scoreboard, we are tempted to create one and what we often create is not the right metric to measure success. This leaves many couples confused. They measure the wrong thing assuming it will lead to happiness and when it fails to do so, they don’t know where to turn.

A Different Scorecard

If materialism, offspring, and longevity are the wrong metrics, what is the right metric to determine success? How do we know if we are winning? And is winning even a concept within marriage?

When we think about a scoreboard in football or basketball, the goal is obvious. We want to have the most points when the game ends. Every ounce of energy is poured into scoring as much as possible and holding our opponent to as few points as possible. The object is to win. Yet winning is not the main focus on any given play. Instead, winning is a byproduct. If a team properly executes its plan and outplays the other team, they will win. They will score more points. But the focus during each quarter and on any given play is not necessarily winning; it’s doing your specific task to contribute to the team. If each person does their part and the plan is properly executed, scoring more points and winning the game will be the byproduct of those things.

In creating the right scoreboard for marriage, we must determine the controllable byproducts we seek from the marriage relationship. While we influence longevity and offspring, we don’t control them. Anyone can be in an accident or get a terminal disease. No one can ensure the success and obedience of children. Material things seem fun, but we all know they don’t truly impact our daily lives for the good. Those are not the right byproducts.

So what are the byproducts we truly desire?

(Click here for Part 2 to consider a different scorecard)


One Response to 9 Traits of a Healthy Marriage (Part 1)
  1. […] the previous post, 9 Traits of a Healthy Marriage (Part 1), we said that the scorecard most couples ... https://www.kevinathompson.com/9-traits-of-a-healthy-marriage-part-2

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