Marriage is a Marathon

Sprints and marathons are two distinctly different races.  In a sprint, one of the most critical elements is the start.  Runners practice for hours on end getting into those little blocks and bursting out the very nanosecond the gun goes off.  Why?  Because if you falter in the start, you don’t stand a chance of winning the race.

On the other hand, the starts of marathons are not that important at all.  Most runners are just standing around waiting for the gun to go off.  Truth is, you could fall down, have three guys run over you, get up, and still win the race.  It’s not the start that is so important; it is the endurance.

Today, many believe marriage is like a sprint, that the start is what is critical.  I never cease to be amazed at how many struggling couples point to the start as the reason for their struggles.  “We were too young.”  “We didn’t know each other for very long.”  “We didn’t have enough money.”  They are convinced that the poor start is the reason for their troubles, but they are wrong.  Marriage is not a sprint; it is a marathon.  It is not the start that leads to a failed marriage, but the unwillingness to endure the race.

You don’t do marathons quickly.  You have to spread out your energy over time.  Endurance is what empowers a couple over the long haul.  It will enable you to push through old familiar conflict zones for the ten-thousandth time without quitting; you just keep going and going. . . Scripture urges, “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how He did it.  Because He never lost sight of where He was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—He could put up with anything along the way:  Cross, shame, whatever.”   That’s endurance.  It makes marriages last.

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23 Responses to “Marriage is a Marathon”

  1. Marci says:

    This is so very true. The endurance required in marriage in the forms of patience, understanding and forgiveness are strengths also developed over time. To do great in marriage long term you have to get lots of practice so you can’t give up if you get tired. Each trial is a new opportunity to strengthen those skills for the next time and an opportunity to show your partner they’re worth the effort!

    Thanks for your encouragement and knowledge. It really helps me with my marathon!

  2. Jean says:

    The main reason for divorce is that one or both partners is unable or unwilling to endure the trouble spots in the marriage.

    • Dan says:

      In a previous column (, Mark said, “Despite the fact that studies show the single greatest contributor to divorce is sexual activity before marriage…,” which seems to me to be more of a beginning issue than an endurance issue. What am I missing?

      • Nicole says:

        If someone doesn’t respect marriage, or their future spouse, enough to hold out for it, they are likely not going to value them enough to hold onto it through difficulty. Waiting to be sexually active is an exercise of self-discipline, and endurance – it prepares people for the “marathon” they’re about to embark on. Truly, though, any analogy only goes so far. It’s not little difficulties at the start of a relationship that sink it – it’s the attitude of the people who experience them: either they’ll stick it out, or they’ll call it quits when things get rough. Being sexually active before marriage indicates selfish unwillingness to do what’s hard, and to value your marriage and spouse beyond your own gratification. Waiting indicates a willingness to put something and someone above your own pleasures… If you have the discipline to see beyond immediate wants and relief, you can make it to a much better finish.

  3. Selena says:

    Just attended your marriage conference at Cornerstone church in Tn. It was wonderful! I’ve never heard marriage described so accurately. And don’t believe I’ve ever laughed so hard! Even though we have been married 26 years, marriage finally makes sense! .Understanding the man and woman relationship is truly a gift from God. Keep up the good work and we hope to see you when you return to Cornerstone.

  4. Jim says:

    I agree, that marriage is not about the sprint, but about the marathon. I believe that building a strong relationship and managing expectations are critical. As a man, I realize that communication is important and men and women are wired differently. I am in love and wish and pray for wisdom in my communication. I ask God to help me in this endeavor.

  5. Kathy Hancock says:

    Where in the Scripture are you talking about reading where Jesus never loses sight of where he was headed can you tell me where it is.

    • Nicole says:

      Kathy, I think he was referencing Hebrews 12
      For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

  6. Lynn says:

    I was speaking to my husband about our relationship. You know I said to him, with the space that we are in for a temporary moment, I wouldn’t have want to do this situation with anyone else. As I heard a Pastor say one day ” it’s more than just lips, hips, and finger tips” when your not in a very comfortable place. Endurance is definitely one if the keys!!

  7. Chris Wegner says:

    True words of wisdom! I also believe having expectations of working out ANY problem with no “back door” is critical to a long lasting marriage. Yes, as you say Mark it’s the willingness to endure the race that makes a great marriage. That and laughing at the silliness of some of our conflicts!! Thanks for the wisdom, will be sharing with a few friends!

    We just loaned our DVD set of your seminar to a single friend who is lost in how different the thought process of men and women! We encouraged her to understand the differences BEFORE setting unrealistic expectations!

    Blessings on your marriage and ministry!!

  8. Снежана Рендакова says:

    Сайта е много полезен за мен,но за съжаление разберам само това, каето преводачаможе да ми преведе. Бих искала по- големи възможности за съвети от Вас, но английският ми е на слабо ниво, а момента завървам право второ висше, имам син на 15год.,разведена съм, с помощта на роднини се справям и нямам време да си задълбоча изучаването на езика.
    Мога ли да получавам съвети на български език по някакъв начин?

  9. Bonnie says:

    My husband and I taught your “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage” seminar at our church recently. It was well received and we all
    laughed our way to a better understanding. We have been married over 31 years and had taken your course before, but learned and relearned some things. We are definitely in it for the marathon and our marriage has gotten even stronger! Thank you!

  10. Rocky Rogers says:

    Mark, you well reminded me of the journey called marraige. It is as you said, the endurance that matters to make it to the goal/finish line. thank you for the reminder. I need to temper my emotions, romance, and life to take the time to enjoy the moments and support my wife all along the way as I know full well she supports me. Thank you for reminding me of how long love should last.

    Rocky Rogers

  11. Wesley says:

    Kathy, you might want to reread the Gospels & see if you can find anywhere that Jesus lost sight of where He was headed.
    Anyhow…I believe the most challenging yet most valuable asset in any relationship is dying to self daily.

  12. Steve says:

    Just read your “Marriage is a Marathon” note, posted originally on Valentine’s Day 2013. Couldn’t agree more. My wife and I celebrate our 50th anniversary this coming Saturday, 29 June, and give thanks to God – Father, Son & Spirit – for bringing us to this day.

  13. Amanda says:

    I would like to know if I could translate this into Portuguese and post it on my facebook pages. I love the messages that you bring and would love for my Brazilian friends to be as blessed.

  14. Eliza Miller says:

    You’re so very correct! Marriage is a marathon—-we’re at 45 & a half years! ;)

    Keep up with the tremendous work that you (& your staff!) do for so many folks…..

  15. Bridget says:

    I am going to gently share these thoughts with my enamored yet high-functioning multiply disabled daughter. She and a young man were “paired” up at work and she now thinks that she cannot do or say anything to hurt his feelings. Let me add that he does not have a large vocab., and so she has to find ways to express herself in simplistic ways. (She works at a “Sheltered Workshop” because in 2008-9, there were no jobs for the disabled, high-school and college kids in our community.

    Her dad and I don’t agree with the match-up. The Workshop is working with us to minimize contacts and as always we are trying to get her to look around elsewhere, ex. at church.

    Bottom line is that dad and I have a pretty smooth marriage, not always as there are those misunderstandings and “Hearing aids or not” challenges that rise to the surface more and more often. Molly looks at us and thinks life will continue to run smoothly when I marry “so and so”. Our bottom line, our silver lining, our confidence and Champion is the Lord Jesus Christ!

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