“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he grazes among the lilies.” – Song of Solomon 6:3
In my last post, I began a discussion regarding the benefits of monogamy. You can read Part I here. This time, I’d like to lay out some of the blessings and benefits of lifelong faithfulness.
Knowing and being known — intimacy
The marriage bed is an indispensable part of marriage. For a man, marriage is sex; sex is marriage. That is, the substance of marriage is inextricably linked to the becoming one flesh that defined marriage when the world was new. Monogamy pays off decades into your marriage. You’ll see this as your desire for your wife becomes keener when you realize that in addition to her body, you are attracted to the emotional and spiritual connection. When you arrive there, you realize what a cheap con is on offer in commercials, in pornography and in the hookup culture. None of these can provide the knowing, the true oneness that you can have in the marriage bed with your own wife.
We in the West have made a grave error regarding marriage. We have corrupted a divine picture of the love of God and have made it into an institution for adult fulfillment. To be sure there is great happiness and fulfillment — pleasure — in marriage, but these are byproducts of faithful living, rather than ends in themselves.
The one-flesh union of husband and wife is an image of the union of Christ and the church. Consider the parallels between the marital union and the sacrament of the Eucharist (Communion). In this mystery, the bride and the groom unite. The bride receives and takes in the groom’s body and blood receiving His life and strength in return for her surrender. He spends Himself for her. This is a reality so far beyond stimulating a few nerve endings — no matter how intense.
It takes a lifetime
I have a theory that marriages progress over time. The courtship phase is mostly physical, as the man’s physiology reacts to the sight of his beloved, her scent, the softness of her skin. Her response to him is equal in its intensity, even if it expresses differently. The largely physical component at this stage is a bit like playing with magnets: you can get any two of them to stick as long as the polarity is lined up and they’re close enough.
These days it’s all too common for relationships to begin with physical intimacy. The problem with this is twofold: 1) Between two similarly attractive people, the physical bond nearly always works, and it creates a lingering attachment, and 2) That bond isn’t strong enough to sustain a marriage.
As the novelty of courtship and the passion of the honeymoon give way to living day-to-day as husband and wife, the spiritual substance of marriage grows in importance. Couples that seek and desire this spiritual substance grow deeper in their affection and admiration for each other, and romantic love and attraction grow with them. The couple and their marriage become more resilient. After nearly 30 years of marriage, I can tell you you’re going to need that resilience.
Couples that ignore the spiritual aspect of marriage find that the ride is more like that of a roller coaster — lots of excitement early on, followed by a steady loss of momentum.
The blessings of exclusivity
As I mentioned previously, your bond with your wife is to be unlike any other relationship on earth. You are hers and she is yours — forsaking all others, as the vows say. Do this, and God has something wonderful for the two of you. Proverbs 5 says it this way:
15 Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.”
Marriage has a divine purpose, but it also brings with it unparalleled joys for the ones who honor it. As I’ve said previously, marriage is the track on which love runs — not the other way around. Taking the time to get to know a woman before becoming physically intimate, pledging love or proposing marriage is the best method for seeing the woman as she really is, instead of how you wish her to be.
It is this, my friends, that will enable you to be the spiritual leader your wife needs and respects. I’ve said it before: Strive to be the man she needs and you’ll be the man she wants.
There are no magic numbers beyond which you can begin to coast. You have a lifelong, covenant obligation to lead and serve your wife, and she has a lifelong covenant obligation to submit to your headship. This complementarity maintains attraction that can last as long as you live.
Since I trust you will not get married unless you’re willing to make such a commitment to one woman for life, I hope these words will find their way into your memory and serve you when you’re ten or twenty years or more into your married life.