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Tim & Kathy Keller: How to Avoid a Bad Marriage & How to Make a Good Marriage Great

02-12-2020
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With love and romance in the air, many couples wonder if they should be tying the knot. Well, the odds stack up so high against some couples, they should probably avoid holy matrimony. For many others, though, there are ways to divorce-proof your marriage. 
 
Popular New York City Pastor Tim Keller and his wife Kathy co-wrote bestseller The Meaning of Marriage and a new devotional to go along with it – The Meaning of Marriage: a Couple's Devotional.

They help couples make their union a life-long hit. And they guide singles on how to avoid a bad marriage.
 
High Risk for a Doomed Marriage: Under 18, Pregnant, No High School Diploma

For instance, Tim pointed out, "There's a certain kind of marriage that's very high risk. If you marry before the age of 18, if you have not finished high school and you're getting married, if you have a baby with the other person before you get married – those marriages characterized by those things are very, very, very fragile and they break up at a high percentage."
 
You may have heard the odds of most marriages breaking up is about 50/50. But your odds go way up if you're not in a high-risk category.

Or as Tim put it, "If you're over 18; if you have not had a baby with the other person and you've finished high school, your chances of, statistically, getting a divorce go way down. So it's really probably not fair at all to say, for most people, that you're more than likely to get divorced."

Down One or Two Marriages? Third Time's Not Likely to be the Charm

The Kellers point out why divorce is the wrong turn on a bumpy road.

"Second marriages, third marriages, are far more likely to end in divorce," Kathy told CBN News, "If you can't figure out how to fix it in your first marriage, you're going to be even worse the second and the third time around. So It's far better to stay in a marriage that has sharp edges, that has difficulties, and work them out."
 
And the Kellers have stats proving their point that married couples experiencing an unhappy, rough patch can very likely come out the other side and be fine.
 
"Two-thirds of those marriages, if the people stay together, will say five years later that they're happier," Tim revealed. "If you'll stick with it, you'll find things are much better on the other side. If you break up now, you'll never know."
 
Marriage: It's Not a Product, You're Not Its Consumer

Another thing: a bad view of what marriage is for can muck it up. For instance, if you treat it like a consumer product or a business deal.
 
Tim said looking at it like that can lead to this: "As long as you're both profiting, you have a relationship. But if one side feels like they're not profiting, well then, you can get out. That's a 'Me Marriage' or a 'Consumer Marriage,' in which you're relating to each other the way a vendor and a customer would relate."
 
Kathy said such people view marriage like this: "It's not profiting me anymore, I don't really get anything out of this, so I think I'll look for somebody else. You know, shop around." 

So if you're not in a high-risk category and you're not the type to look at marriage as all about you or as a product that must always please you, the consumer, you might be a pretty good candidate for tying the knot.

Good Odds Marrieds Will be Wealthier & Healthier

But you might have doubts that serve as serious roadblocks. For example, you might feel you just don't have enough money for marriage. Statistics show many young people are putting off matrimony until they feel they're in a better position financially.

The Kellers say if that's you, you should stop worrying.
 
"It's wrong to say that we have to be financially secure before we get married," Tim proclaimed. "Actually, marriage is one of the best ways to become financially secure."
 
A couple of those stats: married men make 10 to 40 percent more than their single counterparts. Married people who never divorce end up with 75 percent more wealth at retirement than those who never married or did divorce. 

Kathy added, "Every statistic will tell you that married people have better financial resources and better health."

Tim said the stats of those married show, "People are more disciplined in savings and spending. They save more, they spend more carefully when they're married because they are actually holding each other accountable. They are also more concerned about the future."

Kathy concluded, "Everything supports the idea that being married is better for you. So, putting things off until things 'get better' is actually counter-intuitive."
 
Don't Fear the Fights; Conflict's Inevitable

Another secret to success is acknowledging there will be conflict and teaming up with someone also ready to accept that.
 
Kathy recalled, "That was the best advice we got when we were getting marriage counseling, is: marry someone with whom you want to solve problems, not someone who won't give you any."
 
Tim and Kathy's biggest suggestion: accept with all your heart that marriage is a God-created covenant – much like the forever commitment we have with God.
 
"In Christ, we're united to the Lord and that's that idea of a deep, deep, permanent, exclusive, eternal bond," Tim said of covenant.

In The Meaning of Marriage, the Kellers write, "…the marriage relationship is unique and is the most deeply covenantal relationship possible between two human beings."

Vow Never to Leave, Always Cleave

The Bible uses the word "cleave."
 
"It does really mean to become one new thing," Tim said of this cleaving. "It means literally to be bound to something, tied to something, glued to something. Merged, almost. It's a very, very, very strong word."

READ: Keys to a Valentine's Victory: How to Use 'God's Bonding Process' to Build Your Relationship
 
And the Kellers assure the reward this covenant gives is great. They write in The Meaning of Marriage, "The legal bond of marriage…creates a space of security where we can open up and reveal our true selves. We can be vulnerable, no longer having to keep up facades. We don't have to keep selling ourselves. We can lay the last layer of our defenses down…" 
 
"Covenant really gives you a stability and a security," Kathy stated.

Expanding on the point, she explained, "It is a very solemn promise. If you notice, at a wedding, the bride and groom first make promises to God facing forward. And only after they hear each other promise God, do they turn to each other and take vows to each other. The reward? The security that you have when you know that a person has actually promised God that they're going to be faithful and that they're going to forsake all others."

Tim added, "A covenant does give you the security to sometimes fall apart, sometimes be very vulnerable, also even to admit your flaws. Because you know the other person has made this commitment to stick with you through thick and thin."

The Kellers say if you'll both make your marriage an eternal covenant – if you'll commit to forever – then you'll get there together.

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