I told you in Part I of my series on divorce that I don’t believe all marriages should last forever.
I’m not anti-til death do us part or anything. It’s just that the perfect marriage, in the perfect world, with the perfect humans doesn’t appear to exist here.
Even so, the hopeless dreamer in me still believes it’s entirely possible for two people to stay happily married.
And while I realize life is not about being happy ALL the time—no one truly believes that—I personally see a lot of consistently unhappy marriages, even among those who claim to have a happy one (because none of us really wants to admit we’re that miserable, right?)
So if you tell me how happy you are in your marriage, but every. single. time. I’m around you I see a whole lot of bickering and unrest, I’m going to assume you’re not happy.
Sorry. I just will. I’m judgy like that.
Nowadays I hear about a lot of unhappy marriages. A LOT.
Tons of complaining. Mountains of frustration.
And I’ve wondered lately if that’s just the way marriage is.
Funny/scary/nauseating/maddening fact about marriage: neither Paul—nor any other Biblical author who discusses it—can provide a single story, a solitary example, of an actual couple who lived out a long-term, monogamous, joyful, successful, sacrificial, ‘Biblical’ marriage as we define it today.
Don’t believe me? Search for one.
Instead, throughout history marriage has been whatever society decided it would be.
In early Biblical times, marriage was polygamous, and if God was against that He sure didn’t make it known. (Bucks up against the whole one man, one woman thing, doesn’t it?)
Then we had arranged marriages. Honestly this form of marriage lasted well into our great-great grandparents’ days.
And for a long time women were oppressed in society. (And not that I’m about to stick a giant V on my head and go march about it, but we kinda still are. If you don’t believe me, read my post about hitting your husband in the face with a chair.)
So marriage has been primarily the only chance women have had of moving up or having income. Until the last few decades it has been an absolute necessity.
The Church tells us marriage is supposed to be an image of Christ and the Church. Christ laid down his life for us, so we should do the same for our spouse. God made a covenant to always love us and so should we.
That makes sense and all, except we’ve taken that one interpretation of marriage and twisted it into this: You stay married at all costs, no matter how bad, no matter how unhappy, no matter how flawed. You. Stay. Married.
In doing so we’ve unknowingly turned marriage into an institution more committed in word than in deed.
Sorry, but I can’t understand how staying in a marriage for the sake of commitment is any better than claiming Christianity while lacking a true relationship with Jesus.
I don’t want your
sacrifices vows, said God. I want your mercy heart.
And sadly it seems this teaching, that a commitment is only as good as the actions holding it up, won’t be catching on in the Church anytime soon.
Because listen to any sermon on marriage, and this is likely what you’ll hear:
Marriage is hard. Really, really hard. And you won’t like the other person, and you’ll think you married the wrong person, and you’ll probably be unhappy a lot of the time, but marriage isn’t meant to make you happy, it’s meant to make you holy.
And men, you should change because you’re probably really selfish and self-serving, and women, you should change, too, because you’re probably needy and your expectations are too high.
And because that’s the way God made you, heads up, men, you won’t change, women you won’t either, but you’re both just going to have to accept that and die to your needs. So men, find a hobby. Women, find your joy in Jesus. And sorry, but you’re stuck for the rest of your life because, well, marriage.
(Can I insert a personal pet peeve of mine? If you want to make a person HATE his or her spouse and/or Jesus, tell them marriage is meant to make them holy not happy.)
I have to be honest. The whole idea of sitting idly by and finding my joy in Jesus while my husband gets to do whatever he wants (or vice versa, men, I suppose ladies aren’t always perfect 😉 ) doesn’t give me all the feels.
And listen, ladies, I get that some of you are fine with that. Some women are perfectly happy to not be pursued by their husbands. In fact, some of them don’t want to be.
I get that many of you have fulfilling, soul-satisfying relationships with other females, your family of origin, maybe even through your children.
I think that’s wonderful. Certainly an added benefit to the good life.
And I get that some men are perfectly happy to work and come home and be fed and told they’re perfect without feeling the need to get or give anything in return.
If you’re both happy, great.
Just don’t call it a marriage. Call it a piece of paper saying you file joint taxes, call it raising children together, call it living in the same house, call it being friends. Call it whatever, but don’t call it a Biblical picture of marriage. Just saying.
Besides, I rarely see a couple living like this who are equally satisfied.
So make a decision: Are you practicing sacrificial marriage? Real marriage?
Are you making sure you and your spouse are both happy and satisfied the majority of the time?
If not, I say release yourself from the commitment. In reality, you already have. You aren’t holding up your end of the vows and you certainly aren’t doing the word marriage any favors.
But if you want to have a good marriage, one where both partners are committed to wholeheartedly serving the other, then decide carefully where you’ll go from here.
Because there’s an entire generation watching us, and they will decide what to believe about marriage based on what they see us do.
It’s how we got where we are today.
*Tomorrow I’ll wrap up this series by telling you the real reason behind my interest in divorce. Stay tuned.