When I do marital counseling a question I ask is, “Tell me about the friendships you have with other Christian couples. Couples who really know you, couples you are close to.” I don’t want to know about couples they know, couples they are in Sunday school with, even couple they “do things” with occasionally; I want to know about couples with healthy marriages that they have parity relationships with. The answer invariably is that marriages in trouble seldom have close relationships with couples in healthy marriages. In this question I’m not looking for the husband’s friendships, or the wife’s friendships – I’m looking for the couple’s friendships.
I ask this question because almost thirty years ago there was a season of life in which I had a few acquaintances whose marriages were in trouble, and I asked myself if there were any common denominators. The one characteristic that I identified was that none of the couples had close relationships with other couples in healthy marriages. Just as I, as a man, need relationships with brothers in Christ; so Vickie and I, as husband and wife, need parity relationships with other Christian couples.
Sadly the individualistic way of life that has infiltrated the church has affected marriages and families; marriages live in isolation more often than not with the result that there is little mutual encouragement, strengthening, and modeling from marriage to marriage. Just as individuals live lives surrounded by barriers, so do marriages.
We think that books and videos and retreats can sustain or heal marriages – when only sustained healthy relationships in Christ within His church, and particularly with other marriages within the church, can nurture and grow a marriage over a lifetime. Just as individual Christians need to experience life together, so marriages need to live life together.
There are holistic healing dynamics within the Body of Christ, when we live in koinonia these dynamics function, when we insist on living our own lives without regard to Jesus Christ and His body, without acknowledging that we are members of one another, then we are on dangerous ground, unhealthy ground – whether as individuals, families, or marriages. It takes a church to have a healthy marriage.