He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4–6, ESV).
If there were one key to making any marriage a happening marriage, would you want to know what it is? How about this: Live your life in such a way that no other human relationship compares in importance to what you have with your spouse. The person you crawl into bed with every night—make that person number one.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife” is not teaching that you should move to California to get away from your parents. Rather, Matthew 19:4–6 is teaching that your parents, your kids, the buddies you had before you got married, and the friends you’ve known since college—all of those people put together—don’t add up to the importance of the one person you married. Regardless of any other success in your life, a broken-down marriage is a foundational break in your life. God can forgive and heal, but next to your relationship with Him, your marriage is your first priority.
And the goal is oneness.
Jesus shed some light on oneness by saying a man should “hold fast to his wife.” This joining is a strong bond, like super-glueing two people together. It’s an emotional oneness in which a husband and wife share each other’s feelings, joys, and pains. And His reference to one flesh includes sexual intimacy, the culmination of emotional oneness. A healthy marriage aims for unity in every way.
Then notice what Jesus says in verse 6: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” God puts a man and a woman together—and He doesn’t want anyone to separate them. Sadly, though we start our marriages as one, we often slip into different kinds of separation.
Separate ways. It’s so easy to embrace separate schedules, cars, and events—often for good reasons. But dividing doesn’t always conquer. Watch out! Too much time apart, even doing good things, is an enemy of marital oneness. Be proactive and ask yourself regularly: How many things can we do together in the next week?
Separate interests. Divergent hobbies and pastimes can lead to separation. Find at least one thing you both really enjoy and pursue it with each other. Expressing and acting on the desire to learn, explore, and spend time together will make your spouse feel like number one.
Separate vacations. It’s not wrong for a guy to go on a fishing trip or for a wife to get away with some of her friends. But time apart cannot replace vacationing and spending extended time together. Relaxing and sharing experiences as a couple promotes the marital oneness God designed.
Separate bank accounts. It’s not wrong for a husband and wife to have a personal allowance, but an effective family budget needs a single operating account. Coordinating your finances and being transparent in your spending is a growth point for many couples, and it will help oneness grow too.
Separate beds and separate bedtimes. This is not just about sexual intimacy. Something powerful happens when a couple ends their days, as much as they are able, by going to bed at the same time. Bonding is reinforced when they lay their heads on the pillows together. They can talk about the day, have a time of prayer, and open up to one another.
Every example that can separate marriage is also a place where you can treat each other as number one. Start making a “together” list of activities, practices, and interests you will pursue with each other. Renew your promise to guard your oneness. Over time, if you make it your consistent priority, your marriage can be a happening one.
Lord, You have designed us for this unique relationship called marriage, and I thank You for bringing my spouse to me. Help me to be a marriage partner who spends less time thinking about ways my mate can improve and more time considering how I can improve. Be the unbreakable bond that holds us together, regardless of any trial or circumstance we may encounter. Remind us that oneness involves countless little decisions each day, mixed in with significant choices to pursue it. Help us to grow together as Your children—one flesh created by You. In Jesus’ name, amen.