A recent Pew Research Center Study asked respondents how important each of seven factors were to marital success. Topping the list was having shared interests, a satisfying sexual relationship and sharing household chores. Shared religious beliefs ranked fifth on the list of marriage success factors (see below).
Couples “think” they know what leads to marital success, but the data does not support this belief. More than 50% of marriages still end in divorce!
The best way to divorce-proof your marriage is to focus on your shared faith. “Research has shown that couples who pray or read the Bible together daily and attend Church together weekly have a divorce rate of less than 1 in every 1105 marriages” (Retrouvaille International Handbook). Furthermore, “praying together is the most powerful predictor of marital happiness that researchers have yet discovered” (Andrew Greeley, Faithful Attraction).
God is the author and creator of marriage. He knows what will make couples happy in marriage. Marriage is so important to God that He uses it as an image of Christ’s indissoluble love for His bride, the Church.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church… (Ephesians 5:25-32)
“The deepest desire of the human heart is to find love and relationships that last forever” says Dr. Ralph Martin in his classic work The Fulfillment of All Desire. Martin adds that “love and relationships that are in Jesus are the only love and relationships that can fulfill the dream of the human heart” (272). St. Francis de Sales speaks of the bond of friendship in Christ exhibited by husbands and wives in marriage as having an eternally enduring quality:
How good it is to love here on earth as they love in heaven and to learn to cherish one another in this world as we shall do eternally in the next! Here I…refer to…that spiritual friendship by which two…souls share with one another their devotion and spiritual affections and establish a single spirit among themselves. (Introduction to the Devout Life, pt. III, chap. 19, pp.174-75)
St. Francis further describes the holiness and mission of a couple’s vocation to marriage: “It is the nursery of Christianity, which supplies the earth with faithful souls to fill up the number of the elect in heaven” (ibid., chap. 38, pp. 219-20). Have you ever thought of your marriage in this way? The love that that husbands and wives share in marriage is producing holy little souls for heaven! Oh how we pray that couples would understand that their faithfulness to living out marriage according to God’s plan bears eternal fruit and blessings.
St. Francis beautifully describes what a difference it would make if couples invited Jesus to be the center of their marriages:
Would to God that his well-beloved Son was invited to every marriage, as he was to the marriage at Cana, for the wine of his consolation and blessing would never be lacking to it. The supreme reason why there is little of that wine at the beginning of married life is because Adonis is invited instead of our Lord and Venus instead of our Lady…The man who wishes to have a happy married life must reflect on his wedding day on the sanctity and dignity of this sacrament. Instead of this there are countless unseemly things done in play, feasting, and speech. It is not surprising that its effects are so disordered. (ibid., p. 220).
The Pew study shows that couples put a high priority on having shared interests. When those interests are centered around a mutual personal relationship with Jesus Christ, true marital joy and happiness is achieved. “What a blessing it is when believing husband and believing wife sanctify each other in true fear of the Lord!” (ibid., 225-226).
We encourage you to make Christ the center of your marriage and to encourage other couples to do the same.