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What Did We Know about Marriage as a Six-Year-Old but Forgot as an Adult?—Part 1

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Have we forgotten what we knew about marriage at age six? We knew that a mommy and daddy ought to be friendly with each other because all mommies and daddies ought to be friends.

We knew that it frightened us when mommy and daddy were unfriendly with each other.

We knew that mommy and daddy obviously liked each other; otherwise they would not have married.

We knew intuitively that when they married, and because they married, they were to love and honor each other, especially in front of us.

No-Fault Divorce Means the Kids Won’t Be Hurt, Right?

Why do I bring this up?

We have this erroneous idea that children will get over their parents’ bad marriage.

After all, some subscribe to the legal proclamation about “no-fault divorce.”

In our subconscious we have concluded that since lawmakers and society announced an end to the criminalization of breaking a wedding vow (though one can sue the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick-maker who break their contracts), neither a husband nor wife are at fault for the end of the marriage. Marriage is the most important covenant on the planet, but “stuff happens,” so let’s remove fault from terminating this sacred promise.

Six-Year-Old Jenna

The problem of course is that children don’t see it that way. Children see what six-year-old Jenna saw.

Jenna dramatically appealed to her mother, along with her dad, to act on certain behaviors that would insure the success of the marriage and the family. Her mother recorded part of her plea to her mom and dad about being friends, and it went viral.

Watch it here and be deeply and profoundly moved by her earnest request:

Here is some of what Jenna expressed:

"Try not to be that high up to be friend (as she raises up her arms to suggest mom was looking down at the husband/daddy).  I want everything to be low. Okay? Just try your best. I don’t want you and my dad to be replaced and mean again. I want you and my dad to be settled and to be friends. I am not trying to be mean. I just want everyone to be friends. If I can be nice, I think all of us can be nice too. I am not trying to be mean but I am trying to do my best in my heart. Nothing else than that. I want you mom and my dad and everyone to be friends."

Jenna put to voice what we all knew about marriage at age six. We may not have articulated it all like she did, but we perceived quite well that marriage consists of friendship.

Marriage is about being friends and being friendly.

The Bible on Marital Friendship

God’s Word captures this.

In the Song of Solomon God refers to the couple as “friends… O lovers” (5:1). I refer to this as lover-friendship. However, today we refer to two people as lovers, not as lover-friends. We are madly in love but also mad. We have lost sight of how to be friendly with each other.

Titus 2:4 instructs the older women to encourage the younger women to love their husbands. The Greek word used here for “love” is phileo, not agape. Phileo is the root word behind our word for Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love or friendship love. The apostle Paul recognized that wives grow discouraged and unfriendly in the marriage and need the encouragement of the older women to be friendlier and less negative in the home.

We read in Proverbs 2:17 about the wife "who leaves her husband, the closest friend of her youth, and forgets her marriage vows to her God” (God’s Word translation).

The All-Too-Common Pattern

Sometime during the first several years of marriage after we disagree for the eighty-seventh time about whatever, we let ourselves become disagreeable. We became less congenial, welcoming, and pleasant. We became surly and sour. Some became hostile and contemptuous (the opposite of loving and respectful, as God calls the married in Ephesians 5:33).

We became unfriendly.

Three Suggestions on Being Friends

How did we get from disagreement to disagreeable—to the point that we are hardly recognizable as friends? Though all situations are different, the common theme can typically be boiled down to forgetting that your spouse and former best friend is a person of basic goodwill who wants the marriage to succeed. In part 2 I will remind you of three ways to be friendly toward your goodwilled spouse that you probably once knew very well when you were six years old like Jenna.

-Dr. E

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider