This is the third article I have written comparing marriage to Hernán Cortés’ conquest of an impregnable Aztec city. His battle plan was unique: “burn the boats,” not giving himself or his army a path for retreat. It was a matter of win or die. They would conquer and return home in their enemies’ boats or they would be carrion for the buzzards.

Marriage in our modern world is becoming a childhood game where the rules can be changed at will. Only a rare few really expect the marriage game to last forever. In my time, the common marriage commitment was “’til death do you part.” Today the commitment is “until we have the first problem.” Divorce is rampant in our society, and the children and the structure of the family suffer the worst blow.

The Lord did not intend for marriage to have so many loopholes and escape routes. I venture to say He wanted marriage to be a tight ship sailing through the waters of adversity to protect His children in the confines of a family unit.

He intended His little ones to be born into homes where mothers and fathers worked together in love and righteousness to nurture society. He expected His laws of success to be taught by tradition and example not by the day care provider or the media. Marriage was to be the most stable unit for families.

He expected the marriage altar to be a ritual of “burning the boats,” so to speak. He expected married couples to leave some things behind permanently in order to have a successful marriage and family life.


In my last article, I mentioned burning the boats of selfishness and negative self-talk. Today, I would like to mention three other boats that need to be burned in order to have a successful marriage.

Many young married couples expect to carry on the same lifestyle they are accustomed to in single life. They want the same relationships with their single friends, they want the same schedule for hobbies and personal interest, and they want to be free to control their time and money. That is a boat that must be torched. Paul’s advice to the Ephesians has merit here:

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

—Ephesians 5:22-25

Paul wasn’t talking about husbands being the bosses and wives being the servants. He was talking about the order of things and respect. He was talking about the wife making the husband the most important person in her life. He was talking about the husband making the wife the most important person in his life.

When we think about how Christ loved the people in the church, it becomes clear how husbands should love their wives. Christ suffered death on the cross for the church. His every thought and action benefitted the church. In like manner, husbands should be willing to sacrifice everything for their wives. In other words, “burn the boats” of personal interest and build a boat that will carry his family.

When we think about how the fledgling Christian church wanted to obey Christ, even to the point that they were willing to die in the Coliseum in the mouths of wild beasts because they loved Him, it becomes clear how wives should feel about their husbands.

They should be willing to give up everything for the sake of the husband. In other words, they should burn the boats that float to anything that would lead her away from the love she has for her husband. He should be her first love and her last love.

After a couple has burned the boats that lead to continued status-quo single life, they must also “burn the boat” of gossip. After the blissful honeymoon, couples settle down to the reality of married life. Problems arise, not really big at first, but they arise.

The natural tendency is to call up a friend or parent and complain about the problem. It might even be to ask advice, but the conversation about the spouse is less than uplifting. Often the spouse is ridiculed and put down. Oh, it isn’t anything major, just a little innocent tattle-tale, but it is a seed of discord that is sent out into the universe.

This seed is just like any other seed; it will flourish and grow the more attention you give to it. In other words, the more you talk about a problem, the bigger it gets. Paul’s advice to the Ephesians has merit in this situation. He suggests that your self-talk be uplifting and edifying:

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.

—Ephesians 5:19

If you are speaking to yourself in psalms and hymns, and making a melody in your heart, little problems seem to float away.

A good way to handle gossip is to pretend your spouse is sitting in the room listening to every telephone, barbershop or beauty shop conversation. Whatever you say will eventually get back to him or her. Why not make it uplifting and edifying?

What if you really have a big problem? Go to the source. Talk to your spouse and work it out. Don’t plant seeds of frustration. They grow into bushes of anger and lead to trees of discord, even divorce.

Flirting is a boat that must go to have a successful marriage. Flirting is for single people looking for a mate and has no place in marriage. I am not talking about the cheerful, joking manner that often accompanies flirting. I am referring to the “come-ons” that tell the opposite sex you are available. I am talking about looking at someone else in a sexual manner. Jesus was very clear on the parameters He intended for Christian followers:

But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

—Matthew 5:28

I am sure the Lord was not just talking to men. Women can be guilty of lust as well as men. Our society is full of lust traps. We can’t go through the checkout stand at the grocery store or watch a television movie without being bombarded with lustful pictures.

I am sure the Lord will forgive those who turn their heads after the first glance, but I am not sure about those who take in all the details and go back for a second and third look or buy the magazine to take home for a longer look. Pornography has no place in a marriage. It destroys relationships.

It should never be a boat that you come to marriage in. In fact, it should never be built in the first place, but if you are plagued with a porn addiction, “Burn the Boat.” Get rid of the very appearance of evil. You cannot truly love your spouse and have a secret relationship with a fantasy.

As the Aztec city of Hernán Cortés’ conquest was filled with great riches and treasures, so is a successful marriage filled with treasures beyond comprehension. God intended the marriage relationship to be sacred and worth the price couples would pay.

Men and women who achieve a successful marriage will be the happiest of people on earth. They will have learned the secret of being a true Christian and will be, as Paul suggests:

Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

—Ephesians 5:25

They will always have a friend whom they can trust and confide in. They will not be abandoned in times of sorrow or adversity. True love begets true love. I am certainly not talking about the flutter of feeling of puppy-love infatuation.

I am talking about the love that is akin to charity but goes much deeper. It is the love that is fostered and maintained after 40 or 50 years of marriage. It is a tree with roots that hook firmly into the fertile soil of eternity. That kind of marriage is worth burning every boat to obtain it. PD