One of the vulnerable times for marriage seems to be after twenty-five years or so, just when things ought to be getting really good. And it can surprise everyone that anything could go wrong. But lots of things do go wrong right smack in the middle of what has appeared to be a solid marriage for two or three decades.
The kids have been raised, the house is emptying out, and a crisis erupts. What causes such things? After years of gradual erosion, the bank finally slides down the hill. In other words, little things have been slowly eroding the marriage, things that have not been being dealt with, and finally, when the damage has become too much to bear, something gives way.
Sometimes the couple has been through tough times together, but the result, rather than making them draw closer together, has actually brought about alienation. Could be resentment over past situations, could be the blame game, or it could be a slow drifting apart. The proverb is true: it’s the little foxes that spoil the vineyard. Years of not tending the vineyard, years of allowing the little vermin to weasel in, start to add up and take their toll. What was once lush and green becomes overrun with weeds and undergrowth. Things are out of order, unkempt, and undernourished.
So how can we avoid the mid-life marriage crisis? By faithfully tending and overseeing the relationship. Keeping short accounts, which means seeking forgiveness and not keeping a record of wrongs. When we coast, the force of gravity will always pull us downward. Marriage requires long-term maintenance, much like a garden. You just can’t let it slide or it simply goes to pot.
Knowing this can be a help if you are in the midst of a mid-life marriage that is suffering. Nothing is ever so bad that the grace of God cannot intervene in a saving way. But we can always make things worse if left to ourselves. Once a garden is overgrown, it takes some strong backs and some long days to put it to rights. And it requires humility to own up to the sin involved. The worst thing to do is to walk away and leave it.