Marriage is a wonderful thing. God ordained marriage as a means of strengthening his church; as a living, breathing, fighting, loving, helping… imperfect but beautiful example of Christ’s love for his church. Because of this, unmarried Christians have a lot to gain from living in community with married couples. This starts- I believe- with married couples knowing how to love and reach out to unmarried people in their churches, towns, and communities (a topic you can read about here).
But at the same token, it would behoove single people to care for and love married couples- to minister to them as they themselves are ministered too. The problem is many single people don’t know how to act around married couples. Do we invite them to hang out? Should I look her in the eye? Am I allowed to give relationship advice? Can we ask about sex? Erhmergawd-is that a baby??
To that end, here’s a few ways single people should treat married couples:
Respect their family
Marriage means starting a new life- a new family- leaving and cleaving as Genesis puts it (which- can we all agree?- sounds about as romantically enticing as a butcher shop sounds fun to a cow). Because of this reality, married couples are now bound to their families. People who are not and have never been married cannot completely understand the weight of responsibility that comes with family life. But we can respect it.
Thus, we should encourage and challenge husbands to love their wives, rather than seeing her as a kill-joy or ‘the old ball and chain.’ We should praise and admire a friend’s husband, rather than encouraging and attitude of “good thing you’ve got that caveman in line!” Respect for someone’s spouse is easy to overlook. But it is the foremost way we can strengthen and encourage someone in marriage.
While we’re on the topic, these little things you see running around here? Yeah… they’re not oversized termites. They’re kids. K-i-d-z. And they’re part of us and part of our family. So please, talk to them, play with them, love them. Loving us means loving our kids too. In all their loud, crying, stinky, laughing, giggling, awkward, difficult glory. So please. Give it a try. They don’t bite (usually).
2. Invite them to hang out
One of the things I appreciate most about my friends is that when I got married they still included me in their shenanigans. They invited me to movie nights, asked to catch up over a drink and sometime even texted me at midnight to see if I’m up for a taco run. To them I’m married, but I didn’t move to Mars.
Sometimes it seems like marriage means the end of a friendship. You think that the last time you’ll get to see your bestie is as they leave the reception hall on their honeymoon, waving and smiling. And that’s it. No more trivia night. No more shopping days. No more late night lip-syncing contests while drinking cheap Chardonnay and air-jamming to Taylor Swift…I mean, not that such ever happened before. Eh-hem.
But married people still have social needs. A good marriage requires good friends- for both the wife and the husband. Marriage can easily become an isolating experience as friends dwindle off into the “Nah, don’t text him. I’m sure he’s got plans with his wife.” Granted, a married friend may be less available than before. But please, keep inviting us. Keep trying. You mean a lot to us and we want to make this work. But we want to know that you do too.
3. Don’t act like being married is easy
Okay… for the record, marriage is pretty awesome. And yes about 95% of married life is mind-blowing sex (hint: sarcasm) and yes my spouse fulfills and my needs and desires in every way possible (hint: more sarcasm) and yes, when I got married all my problems went away (hin- never mind, you get it)… but even if all of that were true, marriage still takes work. It takes late-night talks, life-altering compromises, great humbling and no small amount of dedication. Married may be richer; but it certainly is not easier.
So please don’t act like it is. Please don’t allow yourself to have an attitude of “Marriage is hard? Really? Have you ever had to try online dating?” We know being single isn’t all sports bars and beauty parlors. And we want to support you in that. So please show us mutual consideration.
4. Be careful with the kids-question
“So when are you guys going to start having kids?”
Most people don’t realize how hurtful this question can be. Some couples are in a life phase where having kids just isn’t possible; they may be having money problems, supporting an aging parent or even battling mental illness. A startling number of families experience multiple miscarriages or false pregnancies. What’s more there are some couples that just can’t have children.
And yet this is a topic to which most Christians are insensitive and painfully ignorant. And this despite the frequency with which it’s featured in the Biblical narrative: think Sarah and Abraham, Hannah’s prayer for Samuel, Rachel’s barrenness compared to Leah’s…etc. The Bible couldn’t spell it out more plainly if Moses stood at the base of Sinai and said: “Okay ya’ll, just as a heads-up: infertility sucks. And God wants you to take care of those whose hearts it has broken.”
Too often it is assumed that a good marriage, a healthy marriage, a godly marriage will eventually result in kids. This is just as ridiculous a notion as saying that God has a special someone out there for everybody (Uh…Jesus, what the heck were you doing?). God has a different plan for different people and a different plan for different marriages.
So please, be careful how you ask about kids. It’s a wonderful and blessed thing to breach the subject privately, in a space that enables transparency for the couple. But asking during the meet-and-greet at church, or across the table over Thanksgiving dinner, is about as sensitive as asking “Gosh, are you ever going to get married?” to someone who’s just been dumped. Just don’t.
5. Pray for them
Just like planting a church, entering the mission field, or chaperoning the middle school harvest festival bonanza, marriage is ministry. It’s ministry to one another, ministry to those around us and (ultimately) its ministry to the world. Such a task requires prayer.
The best thing you can do for a married couple is pray for them. Just like a pastor should be praying but also prayed for, so marriage should consist of prayer and also be surrounded in prayer.
When we reach out to married couples, when we come alongside them in their walk, we are enabled to see them less as a ‘married couple’ and more as two members in the kingdom of God, partnered and ordained for a beautiful task: to be an example of Christ’s love to the church for all who can see. It’s a joy not only to see that but to support and strengthen it as well.