For an outsider looking in, it appears that after 17 years together, Matt Chandler and his wife, Lauren, must have it all figured out—no issues, perfect contentment and constant agreement on everything. Well, not exactly. Like the couple in Song of Songs, they had the love, the desire and the passion, but still had to learn together how to make marriage work.
When the Chandlers got engaged, one thing they covenanted with each other was divorce would not be an option. “Both of us had a good sense of this covenant,” Matt said. “This was our marriage. I felt bound to Lauren through the Lord. Leaving was not going to be an option. It was more of a fact than a feeling.”
Matt’s best advice for couples comes from one of the Bible’s least-read books: Song of Songs. The counsel was shaped into a book called The Mingling of Souls and it all originated from his ministry as pastor of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. In the book, Matt helps readers navigate the biblical pursuit of romance as well as God’s perfect way for a man and woman to become totally fulfilled in love, courtship, wooing and marriage.
In The Mingling of Souls, Matt Chandler credits author Tommy Nelson with helping him create 10 “nevers” for regarding marital conflict:
Never respond to your mate brashly.
Never touch your mate out of temper or frustration, ever.
Never seek to shame your spouse in public (or in private for that matter).
Never fight in front of your kids (or use them as leverage in a disagreement).
Never mention your spouse’s parents or any other family member.
Never dig up the past; try to stay on topic.
Never try to win.
Never yell, use derogatory comments or verbally defame your spouse.
Never withhold physical intimacy or use sex to manipulate.
Never put off seeking resolution.
Although the Chandlers have developed principles for handling conflict, they know that conflict is still a reality in all marriages. They say it is crucial to handle these disagreements fairly. They call it “fighting fair.”
“When we were engaged, we fought about a lot of things,” Matt said. “At one point I even talked to one of my mentors about the consistent fights that kept coming up and how I didn’t know what to do. I asked him if he thought I should marry a woman that I still kind of get in fights with—shouldn’t we be beyond this?”
The mentor then gave Matt lifelong advice: “You are going to fight with someone for the rest of your life. Do you want it to be Lauren?” In that, the mentor told Matt that when you get married, conflicts aren’t going anywhere. And many issues become non-issues once they’ve been addressed.
As with Solomon and his (now) wife in the last chapter of Song of Songs, the Chandlers have learned that a good marriage gets better with time and it’s not about romance but Jesus.
“Why do we get married? It’s not just about romance,” Lauren said. “Marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church. In a Christian marriage, you have a covenant with God and each other. That doesn’t necessarily require that both of you have to have everything perfect.”