Song of Solomon 6:11-13a
Marriage is serious business. It is also difficult business. God takes two self-centered people and tells them to sacrifice, serve and put the other first. He tells them to treat each other like He treats them, saying their union is a picture of His union with them. At first a marriage goes great: each partner is giving, forgiving, sacrificial and loving. Conflict is avoided and strengths are focused on. But something always changes, and two people who were perfect for each other and totally in love find themselves seeing only the other person’s faults and weakness.’ Impatience, what’s-in-it-for-me, and resentment replace the perfect love. At this point many marriages end. Some divorce, others stay living under the same roof. Either way, the intensity and intimate dynamics that make a marriage a marriage end. No one wants that. No one believes that will happen to their marriage, but it does. Often we miss the warning signs and don’t realize how bad things are until much damage has been done.
WARNING SIGNS There are some warning signs that can help reverse the process soon enough to keep the pain to a minimum. One warning sign is that you find yourself looking for alternatives to being with your spouse. Instead of trying to spend every possible minute together, you find legitimate demands on your time — work, church, community, children, extended family, etc. Other relationships are meeting needs that your marriage used to meet.
Another warning sign is that you feel increasingly irritated at your mate’s behavior. Little things that you overlooked before not get magnified out of proportion. Also, you don’t ask your spouse to do things for you as much as you used to. Mutual dependency is replaced by independence, you don’t want to be dependent on them. Walls go up and intimacy goes down. As a result you stop sharing details of your life like you used to. Your sexual interest wanes. You argue before going to bed, go to bed before (or after) your mate, etc. to avoid intimacy.
The most dangerous sign is when another person of the opposite sex catches your notice. The spark that used to be lit only by your mate now is lit by another. You think of them more than you should, and are too aware of their presence when around you.
What can be done to keep a marriage growing? Remember your commitment to your mate. Remember what God expects of you — be a servant and meet their needs, forgetting about your own. Put your mate first. This is what Shulamith did with Solomon.
MARRIAGE ONENESS Shulamith had problems after marriage adjusting to Solomon’s being gone so much and so long. Although she counted the cost and knew to expect it, she starts taking it personally and feeling personal rejection. She handled this hurt by hurting Solomon back and rejecting him. Then she felt guilty and regretted it. Solomon reassured her of his unconditional love, even before she could apologize. They were restored. After this Shulamith thinks back on what happened a little later. She went to her garden (6:11). It was spring. She remembered her home in spring and the longing to return became greater and greater in her. She heard some chariots going by outside the garden wall (12) and imagines being in one heading back home. She still loves Solomon and doesn’t want to leave him, but she feels pulled to what now seems like a more peaceful, serene time in her life. She feels the need to get away and get home for a bit. What should she do? How should she handle these thoughts and desires? The chorus quickly supplies the answer (13) calling her back to the present and away from any fantasy and mental escape. They call her “Shulammite,” from whence we get her name. While this is the title of a person from a place called Shulamith, it is also the feminine form of Solomon. She is being reminded that she is Solomon’s counterpart, and they are one. She remembers her commitment to count the cost and stay no matter what. She must stop indulging in selfish and self-pitying thoughts. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a time or place to think of our legitimate needs and pray about how best to have them met, but it does mean that our mate’s needs come before our own.
Its time for her to have a good talk with Solomon so together they can come up with some answers. Is she expecting too much of Solomon wanting him around more? Is he expecting too much of her by assuming she gets enough of him? Are their expectations of themselves and each other realistic or not? Is her loneliness legitimate? What should be done about it? These things need to be addressed and worked on together. Real communication must take place. This means no fighting, but it also means not using any of a number of devices we resort to when we want to ‘win’
DANGEROUS FIGHTING STYLES These include things like apologizing prematurely just to end things (this shuts down communication), refusing to take the disagreement seriously or avoiding any kind of confrontation. Using intimate knowledge of the partner to ‘hit below the belt’ (cheap character attacks) can ‘win’ an argument but not solve the root problem. Its easy to hurt someone you know so well and who trusts you so much. No one can hurt your mate easier or deeper than you, and vice versa. Using unrelated issues to help you win also brings no good conclusion (“what bout the time when you…”). When you fight to win everyone looses. The opponent is the problem, and husband and wife together must identify and then attack the problem, not each other! Your mate is your best help in overcoming your common enemy.
Other dangerous fighting styles, things that interfere with real communication that helps a marriage grow, include picking to undermine the person (attacking them indirectly by criticizing a favorite idea, activity, value or object of theirs). Character analysis is also wrong when its done to win (“you’re really angry because ….. and you’re just taking it our on me!”). Withholding affection, approval, recognition, privileges, love or sex is also dirty fighting. Undermining the person by arousing their insecurities is also no way to come to a true solution. This includes things like hinting about the marriage ending, leaving, dying, harm to the children, etc.). Getting outsiders involved to take your side in wrong (parent, child, friend, pastor, coworker, etc.). Watch for these and other things, they just make things worse.
MAKING YOUR MARRIAGE GROW How, then, can we help our marriages grow? By heeding the warning signs and making sure we communicate (and avoid dangerous fighting styles)… Also by following some directions given in Ephesians 5:15-21. Lean on God’s wisdom (v. 15). Follow God’s wisdom, not the world’s, in all areas, especially danger areas of money, sex, children, relatives, use of spare time, and who is responsible for what chores. Then use your time correctly (v. 16). Marriage has to be the number one priority. Do things together, like shop, clean, etc. Read the Bible and pray together. Make sacrifices for each other regularly and consistently. Develop common interests. Blend your recreation programs. Have regular time together: a date-night each week and a few days away alone together each year. This is a must, especially when children are young. Then, too, be understanding and sensitive (v. 17). Men: listen to your wife. Women: watch how you talk (no gossip, criticism, nagging, mothering). finally, submit to God and mate (v. 19-21). Put your mate first.