The Parable of the Nets

In his book Love Busters, Willard F. Harley, Jr. shares the following ­parable (p. 26).

Marriage is like a fishing net. Each day fishermen use their nets to catch fish and sell them at the market.

One fisherman takes his fish from the net every day, but let’s debris from the ocean accumulate. Eventually so much debris is caught in the net that he can hardly cast it out of the boat, and when he does, it’s almost impossible to retrieve. Finally, in a fit of anger, he cuts the net loose and goes home without it. He’s unable to catch and sell fish again until he buys another net.

Another fisherman removes debris every time he retrieves the net with the fish he caught. Each time he casts his net, it’s clean and ready to catch more fish. As a result, he catches and sells enough fish to support himself and his family.

The application of this parable is simple. The fish in the parable represent the emotional needs in marriage. The debris caught in the nets are the habits that cause ­unhappiness. Bad marriages are like the first fisherman’s net—they are filled with disrespectful ­statements, anger, selfishness, dishonesty, cries of independence, and other ­hurtful actions. The burden of the ­unhappiness ruins a couples’ ­ability to meet the emotional needs of one another. Eventually, the ­marriage ends, because neither spouse is ­fulfilled in the marriage.

Good marriages are like the second fisherman’s net. Problems are dealt with and handled as soon as they appear. The habit of dealing with issues and removing them makes it easy for the spouses to meet the emotional needs of one another.

So what’s the difference? Why do some fisherman support their families while others cut their nets and go home? Why do some marriages work while others fall apart? The difference is the willingness to work.

The lazy fisherman fails to put forth the effort to clear his nets, until the task is too daunting and challenging to overcome. Through discipline the good fisherman maintains a proper environment to be successful every day.

This work and discipline is what makes it possible for “a man [to] leave his father and his mother, and… cleave unto his wife: and… be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). The word “cleave” implies that there is ­discipline and effort that is required for a husband and wife to sustain a good marriage. In other words… it ain’t gonna be easy!

It should be pointed out that this is a daily task. The fisherman must check his nets every day. Husbands and wives, you must evaluate your marriage daily. When there are difficulties, deal with them . . . daily.

A marriage will not survive by doing the hard work once a month on date night. It will not work if the only time you talk is when the ­problems get too difficult to live with. It ­requires consistent communication and daily work.

If you want your marriage to work, learn from the fisherman. Check your nets daily. And if necessary, fix them daily.