Author Greg Koukl
Published on 06/14/2021
Christian Living

Thoughts on What Secures a Marriage

Greg reflects on his anniversary, discussing the implications of the marriage promise.


We went out to breakfast on Sunday morning, the day of our wedding anniversary, and my daughters were with us. So, the four of us went out—let’s just go out, you know, let’s celebrate. And while we are sitting there, I mentioned to my daughters—now, they knew it was the anniversary, right? But I just wanted to mention this to them.

It’s a daddy parenting discipleship moment. Now, just saying, there’s nothing magical about this daddy doing that with his daughters. It isn’t because you listen to me that my daughters listen to me, okay? My daughters don’t care who I am or who you think I am. I’m just Dad to them.

So, my daughters listen to me probably as much as your daughters or your kids listen to you, kind of half an ear. But nevertheless, I wanted to make a particular point. And I said, “Girls, we—your mom and I—have been married 23 years.” I said, “That’s a long time.” In fact, most people don’t make it that far.

Do you realize that, friends? Twenty-three years. A lot of people have been married longer than that, but most marriages don’t last that long. Half the marriages, or maybe more now, end in divorce. I don’t know what the actual statistics are, but they’re pretty alarming. And so—and most of them that end in divorce don’t end after 23 years. That’s a little rare. So, we’ve lasted longer than most people.

So, I asked my daughters, “Why do you think that is? Why do you think we lasted 23 years?” Now, I’m just throwing this out for you to think about. If I were to ask you that question, what would you say? What would you say the rationale is or the reason is? I have a feeling that your reasons probably are a little bit more substantive than my daughter’s.

My 16-year-old didn’t take the bait. My 13-year-old jumped right in because she’s very talkative. She likes to give her point of view, and so immediately she gave the Hollywood answer. What’s the Hollywood answer? “Because you love each other.”

I’m chuckling along with every other married person who is listening who has been married more than 10 years because you know that love is not what’s going to do that. I’m not saying I don’t love my wife, or you’re not saying you don’t love your wife. But you know that love—the feeling of love, I’m talking about, the sense of love, the sense of love that my daughter meant and Hollywood means—is a fickle thing. It comes, and it goes, and it comes, and it goes, and sometimes it goes for a long time.

This is why we are obliged to be loving as a virtue—because we choose to act loving, oftentimes when we don’t feel loving, which is true of a lot of the virtues, by the way. We choose to do them because they’re right to do, not because we feel good about doing them. Now, after a while, if we are aggressive in pursuing the virtues in our lives, if we are intentional about being virtuous, what’s going to happen is, as we acclimate ourselves to virtue, we come to it. We become habituated to the virtues. They become habits, and they become enjoyable for themselves. Enjoyable for themselves. It feels good to do the virtuous thing.

But that takes practice, and I’ve been working on it a long time, and it doesn’t always feel good for me to do the virtuous thing, but that’s the way it is with marriage. You know, when you don’t feel loving, well, then you have to act loving because there’s a virtue to that, and it’s a good thing to do. It’s like loving your neighbor. Jesus isn’t asking us to have nice feelings about them. He’s asking us to act in a certain kind of way towards our neighbor, who we may not even like, okay?

So, when my daughter offers her first rationale, “Because you’re in love,” that’s the Hollywood answer. That is not real life. And people that have been married for a while understand that that is not what keeps you together. In fact, I heard a priest once at a wedding say something very profound on this line. He said, “You have come together this day for this wedding to get married because you love one another. From this day forward, that order is reversed. That is, you love one another because you’re married.”

And that really gets a little closer to my point, which I’ll share with you in a minute because I have to tell you about the second thing my daughter said when the first one didn’t work out so well: “Oh, you lasted this long because you love each other.” I said, “No honey, that’s not it,” and then she said, “Well, you lasted this long because divorce lawyers are really expensive,” which is a fair observation.

And I do think sometimes when things get really hard for people, if they thought about the consequences in their life of getting unmarried, they may realize that they’re probably much more burdensome than staying married. That’s just a cost-benefit analysis, all right? But a lot of folks don’t think about that, and the attorney’s fees are only one little bitty part of it. There’s a whole bunch of more chaos that goes along with it. But, “No,” I said, “That’s not the reason, honey. Here’s the reason. The reason we lasted 23 years. Very simple, we made a promise.”

We made a promise.

And by the way, the promise we made wasn’t to last our lifetime. That was only part of the promise. And, by the way, I’ve mentioned this before. It’s been a while since I brought it up, but this is something a lot of people do not think about regarding rough times in their marriage, where they might be considering, “Gee, maybe this isn’t a great thing. Maybe I shouldn’t continue. Maybe the grass is greener,” and then they think of their promise, and their promise holds them or holds their marriage together. They don’t realize that the promise is not just “until death do us part.” It’s something else “until death do us part.” It is something along the lines of, depending on your own particular version, to have and to hold, and to love and to cherish, and to serve in sickness and in health, in good times and bad times, until death do us part.

So, when I say we made a promise, I’m not just thinking about, “We promise to never get divorced.” I’m thinking about the whole thing, that my promise is to have and to hold, and to love and to cherish—this is for my part—and continue doing that until I die. That’s my promise.

Now, I am the first to admit that’s not always easy to do, and this has nothing to do with my wife. It has everything to do with marriage and human beings who are fallen.