Two Lies About Marriage You Don’t Have To Believe

A couple of years ago right after I got engaged I was at a retreat of sorts with a bunch of men.  One night we were on the back porch enjoying a beverage and a cigar when a gentlemen I knew started to talk to me about marriage.

Now as we who have been unmarried for any amount of time know, usually this sets off the “Crap, here comes the platitudes” warning sirens.  In this case I was pretty ready for that conversation but instead it went a different direction.  This guy and I know each other moderately well and he’s probably 15-20 years older than me.  He asked me if I was excited which I said that I was.

Then he did what almost no one does – he told me marriage was worth it.  He said that he and his wife have had their struggles (I knew this, which was why I was ready for the platitudes about marriage being hard, enjoying my singleness etc.).  But then he said basically this, “You know what though, I wouldn’t trade any of it.  Marriage is good.  I mean even after all these years, I go to bed and she’s there, next to me, that’s what its all about!”  Amen brother, Amen.

A lot of people, including – and maybe particularly – in the Christian community have sort of created a bunch of general statements about marriage that frankly are just sort of false. I think it happens for lots of reasons.  Part of it is an attempt to knock down the marriage idol. (One of the funny things is that you and I need to give up the marriage idol but the Church doesn’t have to apparently).  Also, just to be honest, what a lot of Christian married people remember about being single is being 23 and single – not being 33 and single.  I mean yeah, 23 was fun.  Not better, but way easier.

I’ve talked about some of the big falsehoods such as the Marriage is Hard Movement and how singles should take advantage of their singleness, do more ministry and focus on God. You can click the link and check those out.  Today I want to talk about two simple lies that if you are single, you can feel free to let go of.

First is the idea that marriage doesn’t really answer any of life’s questions.  I remember talking with friend who got married in her early 30s.  She told me of a conversation she had with her mom while she was engaged where she, trying to sound holy, said, “I know that it doesn’t change everything and that I still have a lot to work on.” Her mom responded, “Actually it changes a lot and it answers one of the biggest questions you’ve ever asked.”

While it is true that marriage doesn’t answer all of life’s questions or solve all of your problems, it does answer some big ones.  For example, “Will I get married?”  “Who will I marry?” Those are some pretty dang big questions that most people ask a lot.  They can dominate your thoughts.  “What will she/he be like?”  There are some bonus questions too.  Who will I live with next year?  Will I ever have sex?

The point is, marriage actually settles a lot – and that’s a good thing.

A second one that especially as a guy I heard all the time was, “Just because you get married doesn’t mean that you won’t look at other women.”  I bought into that one all the way up until I met my wife.

Here’s the scoop.  Might you notice an attractive lady that walks into the room?  Yes you are not now blind because you are married.  But you know what is awesome?  It doesn’t matter.  Know why? – You’re Married!  Do you know what the means?  No more having to size everyone you meet up to see if they might be someone you could pursue – or if they might like you.  No more, “Hey she’s cute – I wonder if she’s a Christian?”  No more trying to figure out if they are hot enough, fun enough, smart enough, Christian enough or any other enoughs.  It doesn’t matter.  At all.

After over 20 years of asking those questions I can honestly tell you that I’ve never once thought about it.  Now you say, “Justin you’re just in newlywed bliss and so on.”  Whatever.  Let me tell you, not having to deal with that is awesome.  The question of who I’m with has been answered.  Yes I could go out and screw that up – but that’s a different deal.  That’s called open rebellion, not looking for a mate.  Two different things.

The affair question is a separate one.  Sexual sin can still happen.  That has to do with sexual desire, temptation and how marriage plays into that.  That is a different blog post. But as someone who has spent too much time trying to determine if I could date this or that person, it is awesome to have that answered. I was constantly looking and sizing stuff up.  Then I met my wife, and that was that.  The decision has been made.  It’s totally different.  Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t.

Marriage won’t answer all of your core questions.  God answers those.  It won’t solve all of your problems.  You’re still you.  You still have a lot of your problems.  Haha.  But it does answer some of them and you don’t have to pretend that it doesn’t.  In fact you can trust that it will.  You can even go ahead and want it to happen.

 

 

When “Staying You” Is A Bad Idea

When I was about 27 or so I had been dating a woman for a several months when she decided that I wasn’t for her and that someone else was.  It was a hard thing for me to take for a couple of reasons.  I had waited what felt like a long time already to get married and I really, really thought she could be “the one“.

As I was processing through the “breakup” I was fortunate to have some good friends and mentors who really came along side me.  But one of the weirdest conversations I had was with a woman maybe 20 years older than me said something like, “Wow it’s hard.  All these years you’ve been single.  How do you keep from blaming yourself?  How do you keep from thinking you’re the problem?”

I gave some sort of answer to that.  I don’t really remember what, but I’m sure it was good. But here’s what is interesting.  In many ways I’d like to have that conversation back.

While I think that this woman was honestly just trying to be encouraging and telling me that, “Hey, don’t worry – it’s not you” maybe what I needed to hear was, “So what part of this is you?”

The reality was in that particular case, it really wasn’t me.  But the fact that I made it to 41 and single – a lot of that was indeed me.

Do you remember when you were in school and you would get the school yearbook? There’d be a few pages or an insert or some other place where you would get notes from classmates. Have you ever read back over those?  It’s mostly generic stuff like, “Hey bro – great time rockin’ with you in English this year,” or “J Man – thanks for keeping me sane in Chemistry.”  But often we gave each other the worst advice of all – “Stay you.”  “Don’t ever change.”  Umm yeah – don’t grow or develop – good idea.

If I look back on mine, I could sum up the what every girl I was attracted to wrote – “J – you’re such a good friend.  Couldn’t have made it without you.  Don’t ever change.”  I’ll come back to this in a post soon – but that right there sums up far more guys’ lives than would want to admit it.

But for today, what I want to focus on is this idea that we don’t need to change who we are, what we do, how we act, think, or live.  I’m not saying people who espouse it don’t mean well, they typically do.  But when it comes to most things in life, and for sure dating and marriage – it’s just simply terrible advice.

In Christianese terms it usually means that God “has someone else for you” or if you stay true to yourself, then for sure God will bring someone at the right time. It could also be that every person you’ve ever been interested in had it wrong.  But the bottom line is, there is someone out there for you.  And you need to just stay strong and be “who you are” and then the “right person” will love you for “who you are”.

It all sounds nice, but I’m not sure how helpful it really is.

Without even getting into the dating/single/marriage stuff, we are not called to be who we are currently.  One could make a case that we are called to become who we are created to be.  But that is different.  Who I am right now is a flawed, broken by sin (my own and others’) individual.  I’m in Jesus and He is changing me over time to become who He meant for me to be.  But until I’m there – I should be changing, aka growing.

We all have stuff that we need to grow in and change.  Now to be clear, I’m not saying that you have to first get all your stuff together before you get married.  That’s part of the reason we have the problems we do, this false idea that i have to be “ready” to get married.

When it comes to dating, if the same stuff keeps happening over and over again, we need to look inward and ask what part of that is us.  What can we do different?  I think when it comes to dating, especially as a Christian guy, this seems to get skipped over.

Stuck in the friend zone over and over again?  That could be you.  In a new relationship every six months?  Maybe you.  Can’t seem to ever talk to or approach someone you are really attracted to?  Might be worth thinking about.

Look at this way.  In other practical areas of your life you grow.  When you were a kid, you got better at sports or math, or a band instrument.  You didn’t stay the same.  When you get a job – hopefully over time you get better at it.  Are your current friendships the same type as you had in high school? (If so, that might be a problem as well).

Relating to the opposite sex is no different.  If you’re stuck, maybe it’s time to change.  Maybe that means getting help -be it friends, counseling, books – you name it.

Most of the time in life, we know when change is necessary. We just don’t like it.  It’s easier to say, “it’s not me” than to say, “Maybe it is me”.

Final thought and clarification.  Am I saying be fake?  No.  Am I saying go out and misrepresent yourself? No – that’s called lying.  What I’m saying is it’s ok to grow in how you relate to the opposite sex.  In fact, I would suggest that if you are over 26 and single, it might be necessary.  It was for me.