Marriage vows are a covenant between two people before God, but some people see it more like a contract. The differences seem minor but in reality are enormous – in fact, a contract and a covenant can be seen as diametrically opposed.
> In a contract, each party seeks to protect his or her rights while at the same time limiting their liability. A contract then, is at its root self-serving. I think of celebrity unions with elaborate pre-nuptial agreements to protect assets; not exactly a picture of love expected to last forever.
> In a covenant however, one voluntarily forfeits his or her rights while taking on liability. In the context of marriage, that means each spouse is vowing that the other person will always – unconditionally - come first in their hearts, minds and actions.
Think of God in his covenant with us. Did he demand our love and worship? Did he worry about whether or not he would get his due? Did he wait for us to love him before loving us? No. Romans 5:8 tells us
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Now think of marriages. How many end in divorce because of selfishness? How many break up because one party or the other is worried about their rights, or the treatment they deserve? How many married couples “fall out of love” or “drift apart” or “become different people” from when they first met, and so they go their separate ways? If both spouses are focused on God and on serving one other, there can never be “irreconcilable differences” that cause the union to be broken. When the focus of both partners is right, then as it says in 1 Corinthians 13:8
Love never fails.
Still, some may feel that they have been given up on, and even though they want to work to make their marriage work their spouse does not. Do not be discouraged! Only God can change their heart, but you can still love them. In 1 Peter 3:1-2 the apostle tells us
…that even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over by their spouse’s conduct, when they see the purity and reverence in their lives.
Relationships are never static. They are always in motion, going forward or backward, getting better or worse. If a marriage is in a downward spiral, one act of unconditional love might be all that it takes to reverse that trend and get things moving in a healthier direction. The challenge then is to intentionally, deliberately let go of whatever you think is “owed” you, and just give. If your spouse is having a bad day (week or month) drop whatever you are doing and give your whole-hearted support. Comfort and love them. Let them know you have their back; always, come what may. If your spouse is not loving you in the ways you need to be loved (everyone - read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman) instead of harping or nagging, instead of fuming and seething and resenting, just love them in the way they need to be loved; see if that changes things for the better.