Is the Purpose of Marriage to Change the Other Person?
Can Marriage Work? - No. 12
by Ernest O'Neill
Can marriage work? That's the question we've been talking about these days together. We reached the point you remember where we said that marriage itself was invented and created by God for a purpose that goes beyond the two people involved. In a way, that is great as it rescues us from that very selfish, inturned, petty relationship that so many of our marriages deteriorate into. Because the purpose God had in mind when He joined you together with your dear friend who is now your husband or your wife is He might show forth His own image; He might express His own image in the world.
That occurs in the beginning of the Bible in Genesis 1:27, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." In other words, God made us man and woman and he put you together with your husband or your wife to show forth the rounded character of His own nature and image.
Of course that is something that connects up your marriage with the whole universe -- the grand transcendent universe. It takes it out of the realm of you two getting together to have children and to clean up a house; to make a life for yourselves together. It brings you into the transcendent deity and the whole purpose of the universe. That's really why God made you man and woman. That's the way our natures work.
You may be sitting there thinking, “I don't care about that stuff. I'm not religious anyway.” Yeah, but the fact is that is the way marriage is to work. That's why your constitution, nature and character are the way they are.
That's why the institution of marriage is the way it is. It's a bit like you saying I want to fly. Well, you're not made to fly; you are made to walk. It's like you saying I intend to live below the ocean for the rest of my life. You aren't made to. You have to breathe oxygen from the air above the water.
You're doing the same thing when you say, “I don't know about the stuff you are talking about. I know why I married. I saw a good-looking cheerleader and I decided that's the girl I'd like to sleep with and that's why I married.” Well, good enough, that's why you married but that's not why marriage was created. Every time you run it, in order to fulfill the purpose you had in mind for it, you are barking your shins against the sheer reality of your own nature.
In other words, there is a God. People like Einstein and Darwin have no doubt of it. The order and design of the universe implies that there is an intelligent mind behind it. Whether that intelligent mind created it through a single-cell amoeba evolving or created the whole thing immediately, there obviously is an intelligent mind behind the universe. The best thing we have of this intelligent mind is through the only man who ever lived in such a way that we could believe he is divine or more` than human. From Him we learn God made marriage to set forth His own character and image through two people who would complement one another’s characters. That's why He made marriage. That's the way marriage works. That's what marriage is about.
If you try to run marriage for some other reason or purpose, you are going to be constantly frustrated by the failure it brings about for your purposes. Simply because it was devised for some other purpose. It's like using a nail when you need a screw. It's like using a screwdriver when you need a hammer. It’s like using a sledgehammer when you need a shovel. It's impossible. The things are made for a certain purpose and they achieve that purpose but make a mess of any other purpose. So it is with marriage. When we operate marriage for some purpose other than what God intended it to fulfill, we find ourselves constantly embroiled in a series of divorces.
So whether you are religious or not, you need to be concerned with what the purpose of marriage was in the mind of the manufacturer of marriage; in the mind of the One who originated marriage. It's good common sense to find out what He was after. He was after reproducing His own character in you and your wife. You can reproduce part of God's character that she cannot just because you are male. You as a woman can reproduce parts that we men cannot because you are a woman. That's why God put us together to complement one another.
That changes, of course, our whole attitude because so many of us are preoccupied with the first baby when they come. Does he look like me? Has he his father's eyes; has he his father's nose? Does he have his mother's chin? No, he has his grandmother's chin. Ah, he has his grandfather's teeth? You know how we play around with this thing. It's kind of funny because most babies look like Churchill or like an old man. They are always most beautiful in the eyes of a dad or mom. We keep trying to see what we think is our image in the child. So often we are preoccupied with establishing our image in not only our children but our own home.
That's where we get into trouble. We are not preoccupied with establishing God's image. We are establishing our image; imprinting our mark on the marriage. Indeed we'll often complain about it. She always gets her way or he always dominates this home. They are your children; they are not my children. It's your home, it's not my home. So often the arguments in marriage center around the desire of each person to impress their image on the marriage and indeed to impress their image on the other person.
You know the joke about the woman who went to the altar. She went to the altar because she thought going to the altar was saying I will alter him. She thought that was the purpose of marriage. I'll soon change him. Too often we’ve heard a daughter saying to her mother, or a son saying to his father, "Oh, I’ll alter her. I'll change her." The marriage becomes a constant tug of war and a strain of misery to each person because they are always trying to change the other person into their image -- make the other character into them. We have this incorrigible, egotistical conviction that our character is absolutely perfect. We all do tend to think like Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady” who says, "I'm a most understanding man." We cannot believe why the woman cannot be like us. "Why can't a woman be more like a man?" We tend to be saying that as a man and the women are saying that about their husbands. Why can't he just be like me?
We are intent on training the other person to be like ourselves. The fact is marriage doesn't work that way. Marriage wasn't created for that purpose. That's why it doesn't work that way. Marriage was created to produce the character and image of God that is different from both of you. In fact both of you are going to have to change. That's what marriage is about. Marriage is about taking two human characters and producing from them a character that is like God Himself -- a transcendent character that is better than both. That's the exciting thing about marriage. It's the excitement of the purpose of marriage -- that out of you two will come the character of God.
TO BE CONTINUED