We are writing this article on the date of our 19th wedding anniversary, a moment that perfectly captures that odd paradox of time. It seems impossible that we have been taking on life with one another for nineteen years and in the same breath it feels like we have been journeying together far longer than a mere 228 months! As we work daily with others to better achieve their "intentional living," we are continually reminded to uphold that challenge to ourselves both personally as well as maritally. While we try to celebrate our marriage each day, it is helpful to take this anniversary day and give focused retrospection of how we have lived out our marital promises during the past year, as well as to set specific goals of how we would like to further grow our marriage for the upcoming year. This specified day draws our attention to our experience as a couple and reminds us that marriage is an ongoing, living, breathing entity that requires continual nurturance in order to truly thrive rather than merely survive.

We live in a culture that is often schizophrenic, speaking to the need for quality connection in our relationships but demanding that our time and energies be spent in other places, pulling us everywhere else but home. We drag our fatigued and spent selves back to our relational partner offering little to nothing toward one another, feeling frustrated and empty while wondering what went wrong. We feel criticized for the condition of our marriage because our culture is perceived as being so "pro-marriage." Perhaps in theory this perception does hold a partial truth. Our society does seem to promote marriage as a social institution, busying itself with pushing individuals toward taking this seemingly important step. Yet once that step has been taken, the language shifts into mock and ridicule for those lured into believing that institutional living would offer anything other than entrapment. Taunted now by social commentary on the glamorous and freedom-promoting single life style that has been sacrificed, the mired married further sink into hopelessness. Communities of faith often sought out for strength and guidance in these difficult times may only compound the sorrow and guilt by admonishing all that should be in the lives of the faithful versus what is the reality of our lives. In this double-speak, no-win context, many couples will eventually settle in to serve out their institutionalized sentence and equate marriage to merely NOT being divorced. Co-existing as roommates collected under the same roof, the prophecy regarding institutional life is now fulfilled.

The "pro-marriage" flavor of our culture seems to be seen more commonly in the view of marriage as a noun, something that can be obtained, a product that can be owned, rather than as a verb, an action or motion, a process that is being done. Webster defines process as "a continuing development involving many changes." How apropos when thinking of the essence of marriage. While it can be referred to as a state of being, its potential is more reflected in the ongoing experience and movement that a verb indicates. We will continue to be impacted by the pressures of society to live in its love-hate relationship with marriage. We will continue to live amidst the pull of job, church, school, and community demands for our time and energies at the expense of our family and relational focus. But we can remind ourselves that we really do have the power to choose how we will live our lives. We do select what our priorities are and have the power to organize our energies toward that which we most value. We believe that we do not have to settle to simply live out an institutional sentence.


Imagine what might happen if we all would ban together and REFUSE to live from a relational cage? Would we all expect more from ourselves and our relationships and work toward developing these changes? Would we be able to live in the process of growth and development rather than from merely a state of being? Which would better promote the essence of marriageā€¦.noun or verb?