One of my favorite shows of all time is Law and Order. It is mostly clean and usually the good guys win. However that was not my attraction. It was the courtroom drama. After a few seasons of the second longest drama series in television history, I became a pretty good ‘TV lawyer.’ I knew when to object, when the lawyer was leading a witness and when the attorneys would begin to make a case to the jury, disguising it as a question to the witness. “Objection,” I would sometimes blurt out.
Now imagine if I took this casual experience and wanted to practice law for real—if I went to Israeli Bar and told them of my qualifications. They would laugh me out of the building. You can’t get a law degree because you watched a television show.
ER was another long running drama about the intensity of the Emergency Room, and like Law and Order, no amount of watching ER would prepare you to even draw blood from a patient. No, you must study for nearly a decade before you can practice medicine, and even then, under close supervision.
Yet when it comes to marriage, not only do we not prepare young couples for the ups and downs that come with living with another human being, sleeping in the same bed, eating together, paying bills, etc, but we don’t have any example from pop culture that is even close to helpful. Desperate Housewives cheating with neighbors (I assume, I have never actually watched an episode) and now we have the award winning Modern Family. In this way too Modern for me Family, a middle-aged fellow is married to a Colombian woman half his age that has a preteen. His son, who is gay, lives with his partner, and they have adopted a Vietnamese baby.
It is not wonder that statistics say that 50% of all marriages in the US will end in divorce. Honestly, I think it is a miracle that anyone stays together who doesn’t proactively seek counsel and advice on marriage life.
Last night we started teaching a series in Hebrew at our congregation, Terefet Yeshua in Tel Aviv, on The Five Languages of Love by Dr. Gary Chapman (If you haven’t read it, READ IT!). In the middle of the class I showed a video that has gone ‘viral’ as the kids say on YouTube, showing the father of the bride and his new son-in-law singing L’Chaiyim from Fiddler on the Roof. It is very cute and the couple truly appears to be in love.
But that was not my point. Most weddings are exciting. Everyone is celebrating, toasting, laughing and dancing. “Do you realize that as excited as that young couple appears today, there is a 50% chance that they will get divorced?” I soberly shared with the class. We put so much emphasis on the wedding day and nearly no emphasis on the married life.
Normally you get your reward at the end. Do we give diplomas to first graders? Do we let would be pilots fly jets on their first day of school? Or give a scalpel to a college freshman that is premed? Only in marriage do we over stress the ceremony and under stress what it takes to succeed. Now before you assume that this simply the ranting of a father of three daughters that simply wants to get out of paying for three weddings, let me say that I am not against the wedding celebration. But I am fighting for more intentional, focused preparation for young couples that want to get married.
Again, it takes nearly ten years to get your medical degree, and no one even gives us a book to read before we get married. The only test you need to get a marriage license is a blood test (to make sure you don’t have AIDS). “But Ron, a doctor has the responsibility of life and death!” Hello! Have you ever seen the emotionally damaged children that come from a dysfunctional family? Proverbs says the earth trembles when a married woman is unloved. Go to a prison and find out the percentage of violent criminals that grew up in a affirming, loving home with a mother and a father. This is a life and death issue!
Young couples need to meet with a professional who can help them deal with their emotional baggage (we all have some!) BEFORE they get married. You see, these things are not typically revealed during the dating process when everyone is on there best behavior, but sooner or later, if not dealt with, emotional baggage, wrong understanding of marriage and marriage roles, not knowing how to deal with stress and not knowing how to express your spouses love language (READ THE BOOK…PLEASE) can wreck a marriage.
Yes, two people who look so happy on YouTube can come to the point where they hate each other, as they peer at one another across the conference table at the divorce lawyer’s office. But they don’t have to. A little training, accountability and humility can go a long way to creating a happy marriage.
And if you think it is bad in America, it is worse in Israel. While the Israeli divorce rate is slightly less than that in America, adultery is most likely much higher. With so many holidays here there is much more emphasis on being a family, but almost no training on what that family is supposed to be like. Shouting is the norm when trying to make a point. There is tremendous dysfunction in so many families. And for that reason we started this course, so at least the believers we know can began to improve their marriages.
There is no doubt that Elana and I are a work in progress, far from perfect. We had very little training when we first were married, but we have had wonderful mentors over the years to help us work through difficulties. Most people don’t. And if they do go to get help, society makes them feel ashamed—as if they have failed when in fact, the opposite is true. Couples who receive counseling are far more likely to survive than those who don’t and those who receive concrete premarital counseling are 31% less likely to divorce.
Here is a thought: What if it became tradition that every married couple received another wedding reception at 25 years and then again at 50. Just as it makes more sense to congratulate a high-schooler upon graduation than it does on his first day of kindergarten, maybe we should seek ways of highlighting those couples who have stood the test of time and maintained a happy, vibrant, exciting marriage. Just a thought…