Grammarians suggest that the term, stick-to-it-ive-ness, first appeared in 1859, as a colorful way of describing “dogged perseverance” (Merrium-Webster), or “the ability and determination to continue doing something despite difficulties” (Cambridge University Press), or “even if it is sometimes boring” (Oxford University Press).
Contrived though the term may be, it aptly describes the divine expectation for marriage.
In Matthew 19.5, Jesus, citing Genesis 2.24, reminds us that if a man decides to marry, he must “leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife” (NKJV).
“Be joined” translates a word which literally means to “be glued” (Vincent, 108; Robertson, 154), or “so firmly to adhere together that nothing can separate them” (Barnes, 194). Hence, the KJV gives us “cleave,” and the ESV says: “hold fast to.”
English scholar, Arthur Lukyn Williams (1853-1943), noted that the “gluing” together of a husband and wife “expresses the closest possible union, stronger and higher than that towards parents” (Williams, 243).
Unfortunately, in our time, marriage has lost its adhesiveness. Couples lose the “fire,” fall upon hard financial times, become bored with one another, or bicker incessantly. Instead of forging through these unpleasant “lows” in the relationship, or learning what sacrificial love means, many just quit. While most regard estrangement from one’s parents as an extreme decision, severing the bond between husband and wife, which should be even “stronger” in coalescence, has become rather run-of-the-mill.
Granted, Scripture certainly makes allowances for marital separation. A husband and wife may mutually agree to give each other space “for a time” for the sake of detaching from earthly gratification and to concentrate upon spirituality (1 Cor. 7.5).
There is even room, in a less-than-ideal situation, for a spouse to “depart” indefinitely from the relationship, provided they remain either “unmarried or be reconciled to” their mate (1 Cor. 7.11).
And, of course, in cases involving sexual infidelity, if reconciliation cannot be achieved, divorce may be the only viable option (cf. Mt. 5.32; 19.9).
Still, marriage was designed by its creator as an abiding commitment. God expects a couple to remain “bound” to each other “as long as” their spouse “lives” (Rom. 7.2; 1 Cor. 7.39) — hence, the expression, “till death do us part.” As such, man is not permitted to break up “God’s constitution…by causeless divorces” (Jamieson, et. al.; cf. Mt. 19.6).
Remember, glue takes time to process. And impurities also must be removed (see Giles).
Equally so, stick-to-it-ive-ness in marriage requires maturation and a healthy purging of self-absorbed thinking. Each spouse must develop the ability to “endure” challenges with patience (Heb. 10:36; James 1.12; 5:11).
It has been noted that "a perfect marriage is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other."
It would do well, therefore, for those who are married — or are contemplating marriage — to remember that when love and respect — components vital to any marriage (Eph. 5.23) — are hard to come by, the discipline to stick to your partner will keep the marital embers glowing, as God has enjoined.
Barnes, Albert. Notes on the New Testament, Matthew and Mark. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1949. Cambridge University Press. “Stick-to-it-iveness.” Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus. Access date: March 7, 2021. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/stick-to-it-iveness Giles, Carl and Barbara. Glue It! Blue Ridge Summit, PA: TAB Books Inc., 1984. Jamieson, Robert, A.R. Fausset, David Brown . A Commentary, Critical, Practical, and Explanatory on the Old and New Testaments. Biblehub.com. Access date: March 6, 2021. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/jfb/matthew/19.htm. Merriam-Webster. “Stick-to-itiveness.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary. Accessed: March 6, 2021. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stick-to-itiveness. Oxford University Press. “Stick-to-itiveness.” OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com. Accessed: March 7, 2021. https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/stick-to-itiveness Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1930. Vincent, Marvin. Word Studies in the New Testament, Volume 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1973. Williams, A. Lukyn. “Exposition of Matthew,” The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 15 (H. D. M. Spence, ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1958.