We live in a disposable society. Almost everything we buy we can throw away once we're done. It's so often cheaper to buy something new than to have something mended or repaired, and indeed, TV blares at us the virtues of all things "new and improved," and how dreadful it is to have things that are obsolete or passé. Sadly, this attitude has infected out view of relationships. Far too often, people go into marriage thinking that if it doesn't work out, we'll just go our different ways and start over. Second marriages dissolve at an even higher rate. To quote Batman in Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns:
"Can't have a back door, Alfred… Might be tempted to use it."
Our society has made it an acceptable option, but it is one that does not fit into God's plan; to wit, Matthew 19:6-8
"So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. "Why then," they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.
Our world has also become very selfish. Everything is geared towards a person being out for him or her self, to be responsible for his or her own happiness and to pursue it at all costs. Coupled with the above mindset, it leads to break ups when people feel their needs are not being met. If a relationship is bringing you down, get out and start over! "You deserve happiness," the world screams at you. Is this what God wants though?
"Not so," Jesus says in Mark 10:43. "Whoever wants to become great among you must be a servant."
Think about that in the context of marriage. What if the words "Until death do us part" or "as long as we both shall live" mean exactly what they say? I sure when people say them, they want to believe them, but what if there was a subtle shift in attitude, and those vows were made knowing they could not - not "would not" - be broken? Would less people actually take the plunge? Maybe.
It is unrealistic of course to think any human institution can be perfect, but God sets these standards for us to strive for them. If those vows you made were suddenly taken to be unbreakable, how would that change the way you interact with your spouse. If there was no "out" how would the relationship change?
Would you be more forgiving? You'd have to be if you wanted peace. Would you be more tolerant of flaws? I'd think that would be necessary too. More loving? More willing to speak up when things bother you? Add up all the things you'd have to change, all the things you'd have to BE and it equals one thing. IF you wanted a successful marriage, you'd have to be more graceful; in effect, more like God.
Maybe that's the point. Maybe the reason God commands us to marry for life is this: when two people have to peacefully live under one roof for the rest of their lives, and not just coexist but thrive and grow, they have to treat each other with the utmost of respect and grace. They have to accept their spouse's imperfections if they want their own overlooked as well. An attitude of service is far more likely to make the union healthy than waiting to be served.
Marriage is a crucible; it is meant to foster our growth, to make us better people. The process if not always pleasant, but growth rarely is. It is painful sometimes, and uncomfortable, but also vital. To make a marriage work, we have to model ourselves after God's example of love that is unconditional and absolute, unwavering and endless. Go into marriage with that mindset, and see how it changes you.