A few months ago while speaking at a church, someone asked the question, “Should you marry someone you can live with, or wait to marry someone you can’t live without?”
Here is the short answer to that question. If you are single, you are living without that person now. Therefore you have already proven that there is no one that you can’t live without.
This question is so key though because it gets at the heart of one of the reasons in our culture that our our marriage rate is falling. It’s the idea that we must wait for our soulmate, this perfect person who God created just for us. We are to wait for the “right” one. The one who will not be perfect (of course we say, no one is perfect) but the perfect one for us.
I’ve written extensively about the idea of the ONE and the Christian soulmate. These are false ideas to begin with. But today I want to take a bit of a different angle.
I firmly believe that you should not go into marriage with the idea that you can’t live without that person. Here are some reasons why.
First and foremost your identity has to be in Christ and not in another person.
One night when my wife and I were engaged we had a funny conversation kind of about this. I was 40 and she was 34 and as we were discussing this very idea she said, “I could marry you today and you could be run over tomorrow. What happens then?” In other words she was saying if her whole identity was in me then she’d be done. She was exactly right.
Now granted we had a little different perspective as we’d already lived a long time without each other (which presents its own challenges). But I think this is extremely healthy. When we put our identity in another person we are setting ourselves up. In a sense, we end up making an idol out of the other person.
This is one of the big problems with the idea of The One. The only ONE is God. God is the one that we “need”.
When we set a person up as someone that we need, we can’t love them because we give them too much power over us. It screws up our perspective. We start looking to this person to fulfill needs they can’t. We look to them to answer our core questions such as “am I lovable?” “Do I matter?” “Am I worth it?” “Am I valuable?” “Do I have what it takes?” These type of questions can’t be answered by a person, only by God. And only when I have those questions answered by God am I actually free to love anyone the way God commands us to – in other words the way God loves us.
God doesn’t need us. This is what makes His love trustworthy. He doesn’t love us because of anything we do for Him. Think about that. To really love someone is to love them just because, not because of what they do for us. Otherwise love is conditional. The marriage vows are not conditional. In fact, quite the opposite, they are vows that are supposed to stand regardless of the conditions.
Really if we marry someone with the attitude of not being able to live without them, we are sort of marrying under compulsion instead of making a choice. I believe that marriage is a choice.
Ideally we would move into the marriage covenant out of love for the other person. We know that we can indeed live without them, but we choose not to. We choose instead to freely enter into a covenant with them.
If we enter into marriage with the idea that we can’t live without the other person, what happens if ten years in, we realize, “wait a minute, I can live without this person.” What happens if all of a sudden I don’t feel like I “need” that person?
Really what it comes down to is that we should marry someone that we don’t need but that we want to marry. This reflects God’s love for us.
To me, to be loved is to be chosen. God doesn’t need us. He isn’t sitting around thinking that He can’t live without us. He lived without us forever in the past. He could live without us forever in the future. But He chose to create us. Jesus chose to come after us. He chose to die for us. He doesn’t need us – He WANTS us. He is 100% committed to us even though we aren’t always 100% committed to Him. How amazing is that?
At it’s best, and at it’s core, marriage is meant to be a reflection of that. I don’t need that person, but out of love I choose them regardless of what happens to them or what they do. And they don’t need me, but out of love they choose me, regardless of what happens to me or what I do. That friends is marriage.