At its heart, marriage is very similar across times and cultures. Men and women were designed for one another. How I relate to my wife Jenny likely doesn't differ much compared to how couples have related throughout the centuries.
In other ways, marriage is continually changing. My grandparents never had to adjust to both spouses working, running kids to a different extra-curricular activity every day after school, navigating social media or dealing with an onslaught of messages and expectations from society.
As we enter the opening days of 2017, there are five dangerous trends I see in marriage:
1. Placing children before marriage to the detriment of both
The schedules of the average family with kids at home is overwhelming. Day after day, many couples sacrifice time together because of all the demands of their children's schedules. While it could be argued that busy kids are better than idle kids (especially if they are teenagers), it can't be argued that the schedules many families CHOOSE is bad for marriage. It's a choice and it's often a bad one. Children are important, but one of the best ways we can love them is by loving each other. Remember: when you put your children before your spouse, both lose. When you put your spouse before your children, both win. What are some ways you can choose your spouse over your children this year?
2. Denying that struggling in one of the three major roles of a spouse isn't that significant.
A spouse is called to be three main things - friend, partner and lover. Too many husbands/wives ignore one of those areas and deceive themselves into thinking they make up for it in another area. This is a dangerous mistake. No matter how great of a friend a husband is, if they act more like a child rather than a partner, his wife will suffer. No matter how good of a partner a wife may be, if she fails to take seriously her role as lover, her husband will suffer. While it's useful to build on strengths, each of these three roles must be mastered for a successful marriage. Of the three, which area could use the most work in your marriage?
3. Failing to create proper boundaries to protect themselves and their marriage
I'm not sure how many affairs I'll get called about this year, but my guess is that it will be over 20. Good people will make bad decisions, in part, because they will have failed to create basic boundaries to protect themselves from temptation. If you don't have several guardrails in your life - rules to live by in regards to the opposite sex, friends who care enough to ask the tough questions, and a true awareness of your ability to make horrible decisions - you are a sitting duck. What are some safe guards you need to add to your life in order to help you honor your marriage vows?
My car needs regular maintenance - the oil has to be changed, the tires have to be rotated, etc. Marriage has similar needs. Couples must continually find ways to reconnect, check-in, and make sure the key components are working properly. Too many couples go months without a real conversation, a nice date, a break from the routine, or making a true connection. We are fooling ourselves if we believe our marriages can thrive without taking time to work on the marriage. Read a book, go to a conference, or go have coffee without the kids. What is something you can do this week to improve your connection with your spouse?
By the time the average couple reaches my office, they are in serious trouble. It's not always the case. On occasion, someone calls and makes an appointment before they are in trouble. But in most instances, when a couple calls me, the tension is thick, a mistake has been made, and they don't know where to turn. Be smarter. Every couple will likely need help both individually and together at various times throughout their marriage. Be quick to call a counselor if you go through a tough patch, have an issue you can't make progress on, or just want to get a marital check-up. Is there something you need help with in your marriage?
Kevin A. Thompson is Lead Pastor of Community Bible Church, a multi-site church in Fort Smith, AR. He currently writes a daily blog focusing on leadership, marriage, and parenting (specifically parenting a child with special needs). Along with his wife, Kevin is co-owner of JThompsonMMC, a full-service media and marketing company based in Fort Smith. He is a graduate of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and Oklahoma Baptist University. Kevin is also the author of "Friends, Partners, and Lovers—What It Takes to Make Your Marriage Work.