From “The Obama’s Marriage,” Jodi Kantor, in this morning’s NYT:
If winning the White House represents a resolution of the Obamas’ struggles, it also means a new, higher-stakes confrontation with some of the vexing issues that fed those tensions. Their marriage is more vulnerable than ever to the corrosions of politics: partisan attacks, disappointments of failed initiatives, a temptation to market what was once wholly private. Some of the methods the Obamas devised for keeping their relationship strong — speaking frankly in public, maintaining separate careers, even date nights — are no longer as easily available to them. Like every other modern presidential couple, the Obamas have watched their world contract to one building and a narrow zone beyond, and yet their partnership expand to encompass a staff and two wings of the White House. And while the presidency tends to bring couples closer, historians say, it also tends to thrust them back to more traditionbound behavior.
For all of their ease in public, the Obamas do not seem entirely comfortable with the bargain. As they talked about their marriage, they seemed both game and cautious, the president more introspective about their relationship, the first lady often playing the big sister dispensing advice to younger couples.
On a related note, two absolutely outstanding books on marriage are Christopher Ash’s, Marriage: Sex in the Service of God, and Gary Thomas’, Sacred Marriage. From the publisher’s description of Marriage: Sex in the Service of God:
The “way of a man with a maiden” was too wonderful for the writer of Proverbs to understand. Preoccupying so many thoughts and dreams, the subject of countless songs, films and fairy tales, the love between a man and a woman has always been a profound and perplexing mystery. And yet we do not live happily ever after. Four out of ten marriages will end in divorce. Couples now choose to live together rather than marry, and those relationships are even less likely to last. People are having fewer children, later, and with a succession of partners. Ironically, just when so much is expected of love, Western societies are witnessing lower levels of public commitment in sexual relationships than ever before. The scale of this change amounts to a revolution, a major historical paradigm shift. The statistics mask a depth of pain that every pastor and counsellor knows only too well. We must face the inevitable questions: if faithfulness is no longer esteemed, why get married at all? What is marriage? What did God intend when he gave us marriage?
Christopher Ash argues that our modern idolization of the sexual relationship contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction. To begin to rebuild a biblical confidence in marriage, we need to understand that the primary blessing and purpose of marriage is not sexual intimacy, but rather serving God in partnership. This in turn leads to the blessings of love, friendship, children, and order in society and will help us to rediscover that faithfulness which is the heart of marriage.