Marriage’s Glue

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Glue is amazing stuff. You can take something that is broken or doesn’t hold tightly together and spread some of this liquid in the cracks. Sometime later the glue dries and what was broken is now held together, often more strongly than it was held before.

So if glue is so strong, why don’t we just skip the other materials and just make things straight from glue? The answer is that in reality glue isn’t all that strong by itself. It has the amazing property of binding two surfaces together so that they are more closely united, but glue alone is brittle. Glue works best when the two surfaces to be bound are close together with no gaps. If there is too much distance, the strength of the join relies on the glue alone and it will fail.

The Illustration

In woodworking, glue is used to make joints stronger. The simplest joint is called a butt joint. You just butt two pieces of wood together. Alone, this is absolutely worthless, but by smearing glue across the connecting surfaces, the pieces will hold together ... well, for the most part, they will. Butt joints are the weakest possible joint because there is no underlying mechanical strength to the joint; it relies solely on the glue. When a butt joint fails, hardened glue sticks to one or both surfaces and often you will find small splinters of wood on the edges where the glue pulls them out of the other piece. It is hard to rejoin the pieces because the old glue and splinters get in the way.

To improve it, woodworkers will add something to tie the two pieces together mechanically, such as dowel rods, biscuits, or nails. The added pieces give the joint more strength in some directions and the glue then gives added stability so the pieces are not so easily pulled apart.


That’s really the trick. The strength of the joint doesn’t depend primarily on the glue, but on how mechanically stable the joint is first without the glue. The glue just improves the hold. For instance, a lap joint joins two notched pieces of wood. The overlaps give more surface for the glue to bind, but it also gives strength in pushes or pulls in some directions. But the joint isn’t strong when the pieces are twisted. So once again added fasteners are used to give extra strength in directions the joints normally won’t hold.

One of the oldest joints is also the strongest. It is called a dovetail joint. The ends of the wood are cut in complex trapezoids, called pins which fit between matching trapezoids on the other piece called tails. If the cuts are carefully made so the two sides fit together tightly, the joint can hold up even without glue. A really good dovetail joint can be made to hold just by putting drops of water in the crack because the water will cause the wood to swell and lock. Add glue to a dovetail joint and it becomes one of the strongest joints known because the two pieces of wood will join together as if they were one piece.


The Application

In relationships, a lot of people try to join two lives together, but often they go about it in the wrong way. Some people realize that sex is a binder of lives, so they try to use it to create a lasting bond and are disappointed with the results.

When two people just run into each other, decide there is some mutual interest and have a one night stand, a bond is created, but it doesn’t hold because there is little there other than the momentary physical attraction. Thus they quickly break apart, never realizing that the break wasn’t clean. They left little bits and pieces of themselves behind. Sure they are small and probably won’t be missed, but they are still there. When they try to form a new attachment, the leftovers get in the way and the new attachment isn’t nearly as strong. The partners wonder if they match up to the prior partners, or worry that the partner is going to expect too much from them like the prior ones. After a while, the person isn’t able to form much of an attachment at all. They’ve become too calloused toward relationships.

That is why Paul warned Christians away from casual sex, such as prostitution. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh." But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body” (I Corinthians 6:15-18). Repeated making and breaking of sexual bonds damage the promiscuous. After a while, he is unable to make any lasting commit, even when sex isn’t involved.

Among young people, there is an attempt to make the join a bit stronger. They might not have sex with just anyone they bump into, but they will pair off into boyfriend/girlfriend relationships and frequently sex becomes a part of that relationship. But the relationship is only slightly more stable than a one night stand.

The typical high school romance only lasts about three months. As the relationship begins to break down, if sex wasn’t offered before, the girl typically will offer it to the boy or even demand it of the boy thinking that it will bind him to her. Then the tears flow when it doesn’t work. He had some fun, but he is off to find someone new. Sometimes a girl will purposely get herself pregnant thinking that if there is a baby, the boy will stay at least out of a feeling of responsibility. But there is no stable foundation for the relationship. Even the added pegs of obligations and responsibility can’t hold it together through the turmoil of life.

You can see the damage done as the sexual relationships pile up. Ask anyone about their first romance and they can tell you all the details. The pain of the break up still shows in their eyes. The second one is almost as bad, but not quite as awful as the first. But when you get to the fourth or fifth one, the person has trouble even remembering the partner’s name. And breaking up just becomes a part of hooking up with someone.

The popular thing to do these days is for young men and women to move in together before marriage. They do almost everything a married couple does, including sex, except they don’t have a commitment between them. Statistically these arrangements only last about two years and rarely more than five. There is a stronger foundation of shared lives together, but without the commitment to the relationship, it falls apart. When the stress of problems come, as they must in life, even the glue of sex can’t hold it together. It’s easier to move on to someone else. Often children are produced in a vain attempt to make the relationship last longer, but it is never enough. Eventually, the joint arrangement fails. But they don’t see the damage they did to themselves.

Statistics show that couples who live together average about three to five partners before they attempt to settle down in marriage. But those marriages rarely last more than five years. Why? They made a solid commitment to someone! But they don’t realize that they are still dragging along the baggage of their past relationships. They’ve left little bits and pieces of themselves behind and are carrying problems caused by others along with them. These get in the way of a close-fitting union. Bad habits are established because the solution to all past problems was to leave. And leaving doesn’t hurt so much now because they have done it so many times before.

But when two people court each other without sex, then they begin to form bonds of friendship and mutual respect. A boy and a girl become each other’s best friends. Sure there are rocky points, but they learn how to overcome the problems together and as a result, they become closer in heart to each other. Eventually no other will do and they marry, making a lifelong commitment to each other. It is enough to hold together all by itself, but when you add the binding glue of sex to this marriage, it becomes a bond that nearly can’t be broken. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

How sad it is that in some marriages one partner, typically the wife, becomes bored of sex and counts on the rest of the ties in the relationship to hold the marriage together. Sometimes it remains, but often it doesn’t because the lack of the glue weakens the join. “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (I Corinthians 7:3-5). Sex alone won’t hold together a marriage that is falling apart in other areas, but the lack of sex gives Satan opportunities to pry bonds apart that once held together firmly.


It’s Never Too Late

Like some, you are probably thinking, “I wish I knew this ten years ago!” But don’t think it is a hopeless cause. The woodworker knows that even a failed joint can be repaired, but it can’t be done by ignoring the failure and repeating the same mistakes. The very first thing that needs to be done is to remove all the old glue and splinters from the edges. Once it is cleaned up you can then begin work on making a stronger joint. The same goes for people. Recognizing that your old way of approaching relationships doesn’t work is the first step. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). But it isn’t the only step, we have to clean out the damage caused by the past. It requires us to change. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (II Corinthians 7:10-11).

If you haven’t obeyed Christ fully, it is long past time to give up your stubborn will and conform to the way that leads you to righteousness. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?' Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'“ (Acts 2:37-38). Then once you’ve been purged from the remains of sin, you can forge a new path to a stable relationship.

Find the person whom you think you might like to live the rest of your life with and form a solid relationship with that person. Keep the bottle of glue, sex, on the shelf. If you apply it too soon, you’ll interfere with your learning and loving the other person for who he or she is. You need to see if you can fit your personalities, your goals, and your quirks together in a solid bond. “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or by the does of the field, do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Solomon 2:7). Love has to develop at its own pace. If you try to rush it, you lose it. Just like startling a deer or a gazelle in the wild, it will disappear abruptly.

When you realize that you are best of friends and the two of fit too well together to consider anyone else, then join yourselves in marriage. Only then, when a solid, committed relationship is present do you add the glue of sex, “and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5). “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love. For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, and be embraced in the arms of a seductress?” (Proverbs 5:18-20).

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