What Makes a Marriage Thrive for a Lifetime? (Part 1)

A happy newly married couple.

Marriages have become so fragile and shallow that many crumble with the slightest sign of hardship. (Image: Oleg Parylyak via Dreamstime)

This is part one of a three-part series.

The divorce rate in China has soared from 2 percent in the 1970s to 40 percent today. In this commodity and consumer-driven world, so many modern marriages are fleeting and disposable, with many now heading for the rocks.

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Marriages have become so fragile and shallow that many crumble with the slightest sign of hardship. Short-lived marriages are now common, even compared to relatively recent times and certainly compared to ancient times.

This dramatic decline in stable, lifelong marriages has happened in our lifetime. Atheism and the disconnect from tradition and ancient culture have played significant roles in this decay. So what was the secret of the ancients that made their marriages last a lifetime, through thick and thin?

It may seem strange and out of place now, but for the ancients, the engaged couples usually never met before marriage, and yet their marriages lasted a lifetime. While modern people can select their marriage partners, somehow, their marriages soon fall apart.

Conjugal love is about kindness, which comes first, with love coming second.
Conjugal love is about kindness, which comes first, with romantic love coming second. (Image: via Pixabay)

The ancients knew that feelings of romantic love could be unreliable, fleeting, and fickle

In the ancient Chinese Han Dynasty, a poem said: “Once becoming husband and wife, there is no doubt about love and affection.”

Many people think that the most important thing for two people to stay together is to be in love with each other. That the marriage will last a lifetime if the husband and wife just love each other.

However, conjugal love is about kindness, which comes first, with romantic love coming second.

This is because romantic love itself may not be reliable; love at first sight today can lead to falling out of love tomorrow. That is to say, falling in love and a sudden change of heart may be fleeting. There is no way to ensure that people will not have a change of heart.

Could it be that a lasting marriage is a combination of many things: love, loyalty, faithfulness, trust, admiration, common goals, and endurance through thick and thin?

Yanzi Chunqiu, also known as “Yanzi of the Spring and Autumn Period,” perfectly answered this question.

In the Yanzi Annals, it was recorded that Qi Jing Gong, ruler of the State of Qi, had a precious daughter who wanted to marry Yanzi. So Jing Gong went to Yanzi’s house as a guest, and when he was drinking to his heart’s content, he asked Yanzi: “Was that your wife just now?” Yanzi replied: “Yes, that is my wife.”

Which woman does not want to grow old together with her husband in marriage?
Which woman doesn’t want to grow old together with her husband in marriage? (Image: Monkey Business Images via Dreamstime)

Jing Gong said emphatically: “Oh, she is ancient and ugly! I have a daughter who is young and beautiful. Why don’t you marry her?”

After listening to what Jing Gong said, Yanzi stood up and replied to Jing Gong: “Although my wife is old and ugly now, I have lived with her for a long time. She also went through a time when she was young and beautiful.

“As a wife, she has entrusted her life to me since she was young and beautiful, and I have also accepted and married her. Therefore, although you have given me such a reasonable offer, how can I violate her entrustment?” Yanzi bowed again and thanked Jing Gong.

A good man! No wonder Qi Jing Gong’s daughter wanted to marry him.

Marriage is a lifelong responsibility

Yanzi said it is essential to maintain marriages, and it is also a point that many people ignore in modern times: the responsibility of being a man.

Which woman doesn’t want to grow old together with her husband in marriage? When she completely entrusts her youth and beautiful times to a man, this man should take responsibility for her, cherish her, and become her lifelong support.

Translated by Chua BC

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