We Are Scared Crapless Of Marriage

Just over 10 years ago I was meeting with a group of about 30 juniors and seniors.  A female volunteer and I were leading a session on sex and dating (because if you are a good youth person you must do this right?).  But anyway, I asked a simple question that brought me a somewhat shocking answer.  I said, “How many of you think that you will get married one time and stay married to that person forever?”  Only about half the kids in that room raised their hands.  This was in the middle of Missouri . . . in 1999.

We so often refuse to deal with the reality of culture. The divorce rate is 50%.  49% of adults are not married.  80% of adults aged 18-29 are not married.  That is the real world. Why?

There are many reasons.  Last week I said one of the reasons is that we have become more self centered.  Today I’d like to talk about another huge reason.  People are scared crapless of marriage.

There’s this idea in the “Christian” world that marriage is less respected today.  I get that thought and I don’t totally disagree.  But I think it is a huge oversimplification of the problem.  I actually think that most young people actually do respect the idea of marriage, which is one reason they are so scared to commit to it.  They’ll do anything but get married.  They will date the same person forever, keep trying to find the perfect person, try out sex, live together and heck even have kids together.  Anything but get married.  Some of that is selfishness but some of it is just pure unadulterated fear.

What is everyone afraid of?  Several things actually.

First, in a general sense people are afraid of screwing up marriage.  They are scared they won’t be able to do it or that they aren’t ready to do it (which of course no one is).  You see they’ve seen it done mostly wrong.  It’s now more normal in our country to grow up in a “broken home” than a complete one.  Kids have grown up seeing their parents in one of two situations.  Many have seen divorce and all the cost that comes with that.  And if that is the choice then let’s not get married at all.  They don’t think divorce is ok.  They have sworn not to let it happen to them and the best way to ensure that is to avoid marriage. Believe me, I’ve talked to these people.  They’d rather have a kid out of wedlock than be divorced.  Less drama.

Secondly a lot of people have watched parents in marriages that are completely dysfunctional and they don’t want that either.  They believe in marriage but they haven’t really ever seen it work.

People are also afraid of community and commitment to others in general.  I mean think about your small group – who really is committed?  Have you ever really been completely committed to anyone or vice versa?  Marriage is the ultimate commitment. It’s the first human community – Adam and Eve with God in the middle.  That’s how it all started and it’s still the idea.  But if I’ve never had real community with anyone – how the heck do I do that with another person. . . every day. . . no matter what. . . with no exit.  Get what I’m saying? We are scared of what comes with community – fighting, getting hurt, accountability, someone knowing the worst things about me.  And there in lies perhaps the our biggest fears.

Men are afraid of failure.  We are afraid we won’t be able to do it.  Can I be a husband? Can I be a father?  I don’t know what I’m doing – can I take on that fight?  What if I fail? What if I choose wrong?  What if I’m constantly all day reminded of my failure over and over?

Women are typically more afraid of abandonment.  Not necessarily that the man will leave physically although that too.  But that he will leave emotionally or spiritually.  That somehow at some point something will happen and she will be alone.

Marriage is the ultimate test of these fears.  Making matters worse is the fact that every guy will fail and every woman will feel alone, even in the best marriage.  So why put yourself in that position.  That’s crazy scary.

I don’t have space here to go at how to face all these fears (I promise to come back to it). But here’s the point for today.  Many of us need to face the fact that we are scared.  We need to ask where that comes from because it’s not from God.  And the Church, if it is going to love singles well has to recognize and help us face those fears.  Morality is not enough in the face of fear.  More to come. 🙂

So are you scared?  What part of marriage scares you the most?  Where does that fear come from?

Are You Afraid Of Choosing Wrong

When I was a little kid I loved when my parents would take me to the toy store.  The huge toy store that I remember was called Children’s Palace.  It was AWESOME!  I mean it had every toy.  I could spend all day in the Star Wars and G.I. Joe aisles.  There were endless action figures and vehicles.  Now the vehicles were usually for the birthday or Christmas lists but most times we went, I got to pick out one, and only one, action figure.

When I got just a little older the stakes were as I was there to pick one to spend my own allowance money on.  While on the one hand this was cool, it was also kind of stressful. There were a lot of figures and I had to choose one, just one.  Usually I would narrow it down to two or three and I would spend a lot of time (or at least what seemed to be a lot of time) trying to decide.  I’d look at them both, considering all sorts of things about them. And finally I’d pick one.  Sometimes it was the best.  Other times I had little kid buyer’s remorse and thought, “I should have gotten the other guy”.  There is a lot great about this – it’s great parenting actually – you can’t have it all, you have to pick, but you get to.

As intense as it was, that was a toy.  Now choose someone to marry.  Yikes.  

And here in lies two of the things in our culture that has created more singles than ever before. The first is that we have more choices than ever before.  We get to choose if we marry, who we marry, and when we marry.  What’s crazy of course, is that until about 150 years ago, almost no one ever had one, let alone all three, of those choices.

I was talking to my dad about the breakdown of the family in America.  I asked him why he thought that happened?  He said, “I have a theory on that” (not surprising knowing my dad).  He went on,  “100 years ago you lived in rural America and you were 18 and you met a decent girl – You married that girl because you might not meet another one.”  As funny as it is, he’s exactly right.  But then there were big cities, cars, planes, and now the internet.  The choices are endless.

And then you add to that an extreme fear of buyers remorse.  My generation and younger are scared crapless of getting it wrong.  Half of our parents are divorced, some more than once.  In the Church we’ve been told how hard marriage is and how it has all these standards.  We don’t want to choose wrong.  We have friends who marriages are brutal or who are divorced already. People are scared.

We know intellectually that there is no perfect scenario but the fear can drive us to not marry.  It leads to all sorts of things I want to touch on more later.  Things like: serial dating, fear of commitment, looking for the perfect person, consumer dating (what can they do for me), cohabitation (I’ll live with you but I’m scared to marry you), looking for faults with everyone and much more.  All of these things get in the way of marriage and can lead us to stay single even when God has not called us there.

But guess what, we probably aren’t going back to arranged marriages, although I know some people who will do it for you, so that means you are going to have to choose.  And there’s a lot good about that.  It gives us some ownership in the process and it makes us responsible.  And at the end of the day when we are married we are responsible for that.

We are going to have to choose.  How will you do that?  

Look for a blog about that soon, but here are some things to consider.  Maybe we could use some help.  Number one we need to walk with God and ask Him a lot of questions. And, we need community.  I don’t think I could write enough blogs about that.  We need people in our life who know us and who can be in this stuff with us, people who would say, “I’m worried about this one and here’s why,” or, “quit being an idiot and marry this person already.”

Finally we need to face this fear and ask if it is one of the things keeping us single when we don’t feel called to be.  We need to ask what we are really afraid of and ask God to help us fight through.  Choosing wisely makes total sense – that is from God.  Being paralyzed by fear – that is not from God.