When you are driving a car to the store, you "see" two differnt things at the same time. You "see" the road just in front of the car and the myriad other things in your immediate environment. But you also "see" the store you intend to visit. You do this in your mind or imagination. That's why you take the roads you take. You can envison in your mind's eye exactly where you are going even though that destination is not available to your immediate view as you navigate the roads.
Now apply this to marriage. When Robin and I became engaged, I was still in my teens (19 to be exact). I could "see" Robin before me and I knew that she was the woman for me. We were young with our entire adulthood and its many mysteries before us. But we would not remain in that uniquely youthful phase of our lives forever. Knowing this, we made vows on our wedding day. These vows included language about what we could "see" in our future. Our vows were the things that bound us to it come what may: "for better, or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health...until God shall separate us by death..." Those words expressed a vision of life far beyond where we were living it.
When healing a marriage, we must reaffirm the ultimate destination that was first described by the vows we made on our wedding day. That day, before God and our loved ones, we bound ourselves to what someone has described as a "lifelong commitment to an imperfect person". To lose this destination on the map is to throw away the map altogether. Two people who no longer "see" this vision must reclaim and recover that end point if they are to weather life's storms and finish well. If they stop living with the end in mind, the marriage will suffer and perhaps even die.
It's not a matter of whether or not other visions will present themselves to the partners in a marriage. Life will conspire to overturn what we have vowed with tantalizing imaginations of life lived with other partners and other pleasures. There is no doubt that we will miss out on these things if we maintain our foundational commitment to one man, one woman, one lifetime. But as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, that is the very nature of decision making. To make any decision is to slay some of our options so that others may live.
It is no secret that this is what God asks from us in our marriages -- to slay all other options, hold fast to our commitment, and fight to the finish: "forsaking all others, I will keep myself to her, and to her only...". This is why the marital relationship is imbued with so much meaning in Scripture. It is the very vow our God has takin upon Himself. He has bound Himself to our brokeness and imperfection despite our ups and downs: "if we are faithless, He remains faithful". It is also why we need grace (and not just human willpower) to fulfill our vows and arrive at the destination of a life lived faithfully together. It is, you might say, a God-sized commitment.
In healing a suffering marriage, we admit this, ask for help, and recall to heart what we have vowed in the hopes that our partner will do the same.