What did C. S. Lewis write about the characteristics of a good marriage?

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C. S. Lewis devotes a chapter to "Christian Marriage" in the section called "Christian Behavior" in his classic book Mere Christianity. He begins by emphasizing that Christ said that in marriage, a man and woman would be "one flesh," that is, a single organism. In his opinion, sexual union cannot be separated from all the other types of union that make up a total marriage bond, and so sex outside of marriage is wrong. Since marriage creates a single organism out of marriage partners, one of its overriding characteristics is that it is meant to be permanent, for life. Divorce would be "like cutting up a living body, as a kind of surgical operation." If a couple divorces, they both live in incomplete states, as sort of spiritual amputees.

Lewis states that another characteristic of marriage involves justice, or the keeping of promises. Couples make vows to each other to remain together for life; breaking these vows, even if they fall out of love, makes them liars and cheats. He contemplates that it is better for a man and woman to live together out of wedlock than to make promises that they do not intend to keep.

According to Lewis, the state of "being in love" may motivate a couple to marry, but falling out of love is an insufficient reason to split up. In fact, the excitement of being in love cannot be sustained for the long term; it is too intense. The unity of marriage is much deeper than merely being in love; it is strengthened by habit and reinforced by grace that comes from God.

People who fall out of love think perhaps that they have made a mistake and consider finding a new love, but they do not realize that after a time the same thing will happen with a new love. Instead, Lewis recommends letting the "in love" feeling die away and then replacing it with other interests.

Although Lewis emphasizes that Christian marriage should be for life, he clarifies that he does not believe that his opinion should be reflected in divorce laws. He points out that not everyone is Christian and that beliefs should not be forced upon people.

Lewis closes by stating a characteristic of marriage that will seem anachronistic in modern times. He writes that though husband and wife should work in unity and attempt to agree on all decisions, according to Christian doctrine the man is the head and has the last word in the event of a disagreement.

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