Thou Art Sad! Get Thee a Wife!
Blame Shakespeare for the line, but I believe it’s true in nearly every case. It’s no coincidence that our troubled culture has also increasingly turned away from marriage, either by divorce or indefinitely delaying the decision.
You’ve likely heard the stats: married people are healthier, more stable in their jobs, make more money, and more successfully raise kids who don’t go to jail.
I’m not convinced that a generation has arisen that says “Never!” to marriage so much as “Maybe some day,” or “Sure, but what about the downside?” Let me comment on a few objections I’ve heard to the call to seek a lifelong mate.
Marriage will limit me
In terms of some unattainable absolute freedom, it will. So also will employment limit you, as will age, and success and failure. Consider the possibility that some limitation is good for you. Paul, a single guy, says, “Better to marry than to burn,” as he speaks of sexual immorality and lust. We may be a society that is turning against marriage, but we are not a people who have rejected lust. Understand, I’m speaking to believers here; we are obligated to care about personal holiness and also about the well-being of the people among whom we live. Those obligations limit us, too.
I’ve never seen a happy marriage
I understand the point, but it is an exaggeration, an excuse. I’ve seen some troubled marriages and miserable divorces, just as you have. But, if you don’t know any happy long-term marriages, expand your circle of acquaintance—maybe attend a multigenerational church or volunteer at a senior center. I’ve never seen a marriage turn happy, unselfish people into miserable wretches. Something else might do that, but don’t blame the fact that they committed to each other. Child of divorce: understand also that history is not fate. The mistakes of your parents are not necessarily your mistakes.
I’m not ready
No, you’re not. None of us is prepared for such a life-changing relationship. But you can be more ready than you are. Some will think of saving some money or paying off student loans—fine goals—but I’m talking about maturity, spiritual disciplines, and character development that prepare you to love someone else unselfishly. No one has arrived at that point perfectly, so I’m safe in saying you’ll be a better spouse if you move toward Christlikeness. Again, a good church will be essential in this work.
The right one has not come along
I must apologize: my generation taught its kids some really stupid things about love. We’ve written 10,000 sappy songs and bad poems and vacuous screenplays that portray a life that no one can happily live. One song lyric of my era says, “It’s sad to belong to someone else when the right one comes along.” Again, I apologize. The fact is, people in small towns and tiny churches have found happiness with people they meet in those very small ponds. Being connected with family helps, as does being involved in a church. The one you marry becomes the “right one” when you commit to love her for the rest of your life. It really is that simple.
A couple of observations about these as a whole. First, plug in “find a job” or “pick a major” and you’ll have some of the same objections. But serious people do find jobs and serious students eventually get a degree in something. The pressure to make a living results in employment—it’s good that way. Consider that loneliness, imagined in middle age or realized at this stage of life, may be the natural impetus to move a person toward marriage, and maybe toward becoming marriageable material. Maybe loneliness is not as crucial to you in this moment as hunger, but there may be a day in which it is more important to you. Ask someone in a marriage that has lasted 30, 40, even 50 years. These veterans can tell you of the difficulties and benefits of marriage. They have also been at it long enough to tell you the downside to maturing alone.
I’m prompted to write this column on the occasion of my 46th wedding anniversary. We married the first Saturday of August and have met many couples who married on that day, if not that date. Someone with my experience can tell you some hair-raising and heartwarming tales of keeping a long-term commitment. We probably shouldn’t do that, except to say that it is possible and it is life-giving, even as it requires all that you have to give.
I am convinced, more than I was in 1976, that this is the path of happiness and joy for nearly everyone. I’m convinced that it is the path for fulfilment for far more of you than have yet embarked on it. Get thee a wife (or husband); this is a goal worth pursuing more diligently than finding a job or a place to live. Jobs come and go, and so do domiciles—those things will never love you for the rest of your life.