Besides doing whatever I can to spread the good news of God’s gift of sexuality and chastity all across America, I also teach some business classes at a local college. The funny thing about business is that it has a lot in common with marriage and family. Does that sound odd? Well, let me explain.

First, long-term, successful businesses rarely happen by chance. They involve an honest, realistic look at the circumstances, good communication among all involved, and crafting strategies that fit with both the internal and the external environments with which the organization is dealing. Also, such businesses are successful usually because the founders have a passion for what they do and a vision for where they are going.

Now, think about successful marriages. A couple can greatly increase their chance of not only a lasting marriage, but a happy, satisfying one by doing these same things. Honest, thoughtful conversations about anything and everything before entering into this lifelong commitment are critical. Most people know how to talk to each other, but few know how to truly communicate well – listening being the chief component of quality communication that gets short shrift. Finally, a couple should work out good strategies to decide:

  • how they will help each other reach their goals (and set goals that are helpful to the relationship);
  • how they plan to pay their bills (and invest in their family);
  • how they plan to raise their children, should God bless them with such gifts.

Back to business. One strategy that businesses will occasionally use to move into a new geographic territory or to capitalize on unique abilities and resources that another firm possesses is to engage in a “Joint Venture.” This strategy involves each party bringing specific skills and resources to the table where each can “get something out of it.” It is typically a temporary arrangement (with perhaps a bit of hope that it will be ongoing). The peculiar thing about Joint Ventures is that they rarely last and aren’t nearly as successful as “Mergers.”

In a Joint Venture, both parties only go so far into the commitment. They hold back for fear of not being able to completely trust the other. Over time, this often leads to poor (or dishonest) communication, manipulative behavior and nasty breakups. A “Merger” is where both parties fully commit to each other and literally “become one.” Are Mergers always successful? Of course not. The two organizations getting used to each other’s norms, values and expectations can be challenging. It takes work. But, in the end, that level of commitment seems to be the deciding factor in predicting greater success for Mergers versus that for Joint Ventures.

Cohabitation is widely seen by many (especially young people) as a wise “strategy” and a helpful step on the way to marriage (or long-term relationship). In fact, more than 60% of all married couples today began with some form of cohabitation. However, all moral factors aside, this is probably the single worst decision a couple can make if they’re really interested in being together for the long haul. The data on this is legion. For example, in an article by Glenn Stanton (Baptist Press) entitled “Cohabitation and Divorce – There Is a Correlation,” Mr. Stanton says this: “… if a couple wanted to substantially increase their likelihood of divorcing, there are few things they could do to so efficiently guarantee such an outcome than live together before marriage. In fact, this is such a consistent finding in the social science research that scholars have coined a term for it: ‘the cohabitational effect.'”

So, if a guy lives together with this woman he says he loves, he’s saying, in essence, “I’m not sure if this is going to work or how serious I am about this relationship. Can I use you for a while and see what I think?” That’s got to be a pretty exciting prospect, huh ladies? Dignity, anyone?

Marriage isn’t always easy. It takes two grown-ups who are committed to one another on every level and who are willing to work through struggles and trials together. They realize that to harm or use the other is to harm or use oneself because they have “become one.” So, they’re much more likely to choose “us” rather than “me.” If that’s not a commitment both parties understand or are willing to make, then “joining” together in any way, shape or form is clearly ill-advised.

Years ago, Dr. Janet Smith spoke about the meaning and stability of marriage at length in her audio presentation, “Contraception: Why Not?” In it, she explained that for many years, she used to make this offer to her college students. She’d tell them that if they do these four things, they will essentially “divorce-proof” their marriage. And, she offered $1000 to anyone who did these things and still ended up divorcing. They are:

  1. Don’t live together and don’t have sex before marriage. If you already are, stop, and wait at least six months before marrying.
  2. Go to church – together – every week.
  3. Tithe.
  4. Practice NFP.

The idea is that if you have a proper perspective on God, sex and money, everything else will fall into place. Apparently, she’s never had to pay up on this offer.

Marriage. One could even say that it’s a strategy “made in heaven.” Cohabitation? Let’s just say it may have come from somewhere with a higher average temperature.