“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24).
“So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:6).
When Christina and I met there were no children in the picture. Eventually, after dating, engagement, a wedding, and a brief time of marriage, children came along.
Children are an incredible gift for married couples. They are a heritage from the Lord, a blessing from God (Psalm 127). Still, children present a challenge for marriages. Because our love for our kids’ is strong, it would be easy to overlook the marriage in favor of the family.
In the garden of Eden God told Adam and Eve that man would leave father and mother and join his wife, “and they shall become one flesh.” Year later, Jesus repeated the same concept. The man and woman, upon marrying and engaging sexually, become one flesh. They have a oneness experienced exclusively within the blessed confines of marriage.
A modern temptation exists, however. Children quite often flow from a marriage. The temptation is to see these children as part of that one flesh experience, rather than a result of it. When a couple begins to see their children as part of their own oneness the divine order is upset. Therefore, the oneness of the married couple must be defended. If it isn’t dangers abound. Here are a few:
The child receives an inflated view of self. When a couple shows their children that their spouse comes first, the child is able to have a more realistic and appropriate view of the self. Rather than believe they are the center of the family (and therefore the universe), they begin to understand their role in the family and society. They are important and loved, absolutely, but the marriage came first and must be honored and protected.
The child grows insecure because of his parents’ lack of love for one another. When a couple demonstrates an ongoing and growing love for one another to their children, it creates a security within the child. To see parents constantly bickering is unsettling. It is good for a child to see that his parents like each other. This happens when a couple cultivates the oneness that is theirs.
The couple sets up for long-term pain. Eventually, the children will leave the home (or at least they should). When this happens, if a couple has invited the children into their oneness, the couple will be devastated. The departure of children can certainly be a painful experience for everyone involved, but it ought not break the marriage. If a couple defends and serves their oneness throughout the child-raising years, then an empty home, though sad in its own way, will also be a delight in another way.
The couple allows a form of idolatry to fester in their hearts. Family is important, but it ought not be worshiped. Children are a gift from God, but only the Giver ought to be worshiped. When children are seen as the center of the relationship a dangerous idolatry blossoms. The couple is better served laying down their lives for one another more consistently.
Ways to cultivate the “one-flesh” nature of marriage:
Time Alone. At various stages of a child’s life, this can be difficult. The early years are often sleep-deprived years. Still, television or even friendships should not be enjoyed at the expense of time together. Sit together. Talk together. Eat together. Laugh together. Play together.
Date Night: Not to sound cliche, but I always suggest the keeping of a regular date night. Perhaps weekly feels impossible to you. Strive for monthly. Putting it on the calendar does wonders for a couple as they will always know a chance for reconnection is coming. I can’t tell you how many trials, stresses, and pressures have been easier to endure for Christina and me simply because we could look forward to a date together.
Sex: This is how a couple became one flesh in the first place. Repeat, over and over again. In the marriage bed, there is a unity that grows as you become more comfortable with one another, able to serve one another sexually. This is a microcosm of the whole marriage because we are called to bless one another in the marriage, and this follows us to the bedroom (see 1 Corinthians 7:3-4).
Finances: Many couples get into trouble when they separate the money from the marriage. I don’t advise separate finances in any way. You are now one. Join finances and learn to talk through financial planning, budgets, and decisions together. Expect this will be tumultuous at times. You are two different people with different financial priorities, histories, and methodologies. Embrace the fact that you are to meant to compliment one another, landing together on a strategy for your finances.
Planning: Organize your calendar together. Plan your life together. Don’t make plans without involving your spouse. I rarely accept or initiate anything outside of my normal working hours without involving Christina. We talk through potential speaking engagements, nights out with friends, vacations, and ministry commitments together.
Conversation: Learning how to open up your heart and talk to your spouse can be a challenge for many. I hate to say it’s a man problem, but often it is. We have a harder time opening up and talking about what’s going on in our minds and hearts. Learn to sit and talk. Don’t let a movie or TV screen serve as a way of escape from dialogue.
Prayer: To hold a regular time for prayer with your spouse can be incredibly unifying. To agree on various topics in prayer lets you into the other’s heart. Perhaps you will engage in brief daily prayers. I prefer a longer chunk of prayer weekly.
Word: What is God showing you from His word? What are you learning? Are you talking about this with your spouse? Articles, books, or teachings that bring the Scripture to bear on our lives are a great way to invite the Word into your marriage. Read or listen together or separately, but then talk about what you are learning.
Shared Interests: Shared interests are good for a couple’s oneness. I heard of one man who wouldn’t even listen to music his wife did not also enjoy. I haven’t taken it that far, but it serves as a good point. Hobbies or interests that can be shared with your spouse will serve as a fun connection point within the marriage.