3 Myths About Marriage That Ought To Be Debunked

marriage

I got married just over a year ago. So I’m far from an expert on this topic. I mean, I’m not even acclimated to using scented hand soaps yet. Therefore I present these propositions as just that: a means for beginning some conversations.

Because marriage is meant to be a personified example of Christ’s love for the Church, God’s faithfulness to us, His people. Inasmuch, it behooves married couples to live in transparency. For when we don’t take intentional steps to lift the veil on our relationships, we contribute to a Christian culture that holds the blessings and trials of matrimony hostage. We present the testimony of marriage as something that can only be witnessed within a marriage. And nothing could be further from the truth. Christian marriage is supposed to be a light; we shouldn’t pull down the shades on its rays.

And so I want to lift the veil. I want to start some conversations. Thus, here are three myths about marriage that need to be debunked:

1) Marriage is easy.

Marriage is anything but easy. This week, my wife and I have had not one, but two knock-down, drag-out arguments. I’m talking the kind that starts with:

Annnnd usually evolves into:

So yeah. Those kinda fights. Both these required hours of talking, forgiving and apologizing. This isn’t too abnormal; we dedicate several hours a week just to ironing out a few rough spots in our marriage, chiseling away at the obnoxious kinks we each have.

When we were engaged, I had many people tell me “just hang in there, marriage is so much easier than engagement.” And that’s true. Engagement is like being forced to sit cross-legged on a bed of hot coals and read the same page of Twilight over and over again…all while someone holds a margarita just out of reach. But if I could tweak the phrasing just a little bit, I’d say that marriage- when compared to a dating or engagement relationship- is not so much easier as it is richer. Engagement is like putting hours of work into a delicious meal that you can’t eat quite yet; marriage is the feast finally spread out before you.

I hope the testimony of my marriage is never: “look at this! Too easy!” Rather I hope and pray that our marriage displays and proclaims that love is work. It can be tiring, it can wear you down, beat you up, and mold you; in a word, marriage crucifies the you you used to know. Marriage teaches us that this creates a wonderfully terrifying thing. Love is patient, kind, transformative, adventurous, risky, selfless and beautiful. Of all the things it is– it isn’t easy. Rather, a marriage lived out should proclaim that the cost of loving another person is one’s own self-entitlement. It’s not easy. But, at the same time, it’s wondrous beyond words.

2) In-laws, finances and past sins are the greatest source of marital tension.

The monster-in-law personae is cliché and yet pop culture still loves to assert its inevitability (because King of Queens wasn’t enough).

Likewise, there’s hoards of statistics that illustrate how many couples have more disputes about money than anything else. And, being Christians, many of us have been informed (with limited tact) that our sexual sins will haunt a marriage.

All of this is true…but only to a point. Because none of these make or break the marriage- though they are often the scapegoat. Instead, the most vital component of marriage is communication. Good communication can buoy a couple through the greatest trials of life; the ability for a couple to hear and be heard (the former being of primary importance) is the tipping point in a marriage. Without good communication, the smallest bill can cause an eruption; guilt from one’s past can impede and strangle; dealing with one’s in-laws can spark tidal waves in all directions. Communication is key.

And it should be noted that communication goes beyond the actual act of talking. Physical touch and intimacy is communication; how much time is spent out with the guys is communication; taking out the trash is communication. All of these things say something to your spouse. Their absence, presence or tone have the power to uplift or impede a marriage.

3) Sex is the best part of marriage.

Sex is a wonderful and good thing. But it is easily idolized in Christian relationships. Much of this is because sex is the forbidden fruit of dating relationships; almost every other aspect of marriage can be experienced, even if just to a lesser degree. But sex is always held- with painful depletions of tact-at arms length.

Because of this, it’s easy to (subconsciously) elevate sex to greater degree of importance than other aspects of a marriage. And this can set a couple up for a world of trouble. What if sex isn’t as great as you imagined it to be? What if sexual intimacy actually comes across as a bit awkward- even difficult- at first? When we expect sex to be -not just the cherry atop the sundae- but also the entire sundae itself and the rest of the relationship simply the bowl in which it sits, we can find marriage to feel a little empty, cheated even.

So while sexual intimacy and fulfillment is a wonderful and necessary part of a marriage, it should never be viewed as the end-all, be-all. Instead, marriage must be ordered in such a way that our end goal is love for another human being. Sex is one of many means to this end, but hardly it’s epitome.

Love is simply intricate. And every marriage revolves around something. Sometimes it’s physical attraction; other times it’s money, or shared experiences and goals; other times is an emotional connection between two people. The problem is that all of these things are fickle and unstable, at best. Attraction fades, emotional connections wear out over time, bankruptcy happens, quality time is monopolized by the demands of a family. In a matter of time the central identity of a marriage can easily disappear, leaving the rest of the relationship to collapse as well.

But when we base a marriage around the well-being of another person we allow and acknowledge the inevitable presence of Christ within our marriage. It is Christ who- and this is Dietrich Bonhoeffer speaking- is the mediator not just between ourselves and God, but also ourselves and others. A prioritization of another person, especially within framework of marriage, inevitably results in living life through the mediation of Christ. Christ becomes the filter for our actions. He forgives our anger and transforms it into empathy. He hears our miscommunications and translates them into sincerity. He oversaw the creation of our bodies, and ignites the passion that brings them together. In a word, a marriage centered on the goal of serving the other person, is centered on Christ; Christ who takes our mutated, imperfect and selfishly tainted thing we call ‘love’ and presents it as a microcosm of Christ’s love for the church.

This is a beautiful thing; one of the greatest mysteries of creation. So great, in fact, that it takes a lifetime with another person, a lifetime of relying on the meditation of Christ, to even begin to understand it.

In such a manner, a marriage becomes a story. And not the story of two people. Rather, it transcends itself to the story of Love Incarnate that is being played out within all of creation. And it’s story is greater than a lifetime of spousal love can even begin to imitate. It’s the story of Love that mediates for all, forgives for all, and is in the process of transforming everyone into it’s likeness.

And that, I propose, is a story worth telling.

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Why I Didn’t Marry My Dream Girl

why i didn't marry my dream girl

This year I celebrated my second Valentine’s Day as a married man. I remember imagining days like this when I was single. I dreamt of a time when Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be a cold, dark reminder of my celibacy. Instead of drinking cheap Scotch and hiccuping my way through 50(ish) renditions of Katy Perry’s ‘The One That Got Away’, festivities as a married man would include good food, hearty laughter, star-crossed eyes and (of course) sex.

All this would take place, I pictured, with the girl of my dreams. Ah, yes! She’d be the moon to my sun, the Juliet to my Romeo, the Kim to my Kanye.

But the thing is: I didn’t marry my dream girl.

Now let me be clear: my wife is an incredible woman. She’s smart, not in a

kind of way. But with academic subtly. The kind you can’t appreciate unless you regularly read books with titles like “The Hermeneutic Spiral of Decentralized Rhetoric.” She’s also kind, funny, encouraging and charming. She’s even pretty- gorgeous really. She’s the kind beautiful that, whenever we walk in public, prompts passer-byes to go: “What…does he have a lot of money?”

I cannot say it enough: my wife is an amazing woman. I’m lucky to be married (at all but especially) to her.

But I didn’t marry my dream girl.

Let me explain: when I was younger, I knew exactly what I wanted in my wife. Youth retreats taught me that my wife should be Biblical. They taught me that I ought to desire a ‘Proverbs 31 woman’, one who espoused biblical virtue but was archaically sexy (based on Song of Solomon). To be honest, I didn’t really want a woman with breasts like two fawns. But I figured that deer-ish breasts were better than no breasts at all, which was what I currently had access to. Thus the church gifted me with a vague framework for desirability in a spouse: one derived from equally vague notions of purity and godliness.

Culture also taught me a thing or two about the girl I should marry. From Jane Austen I learned that the perfect woman was bookish and independent though ultimately submissive to my desires. How I Met Your Mother taught me that the ‘perfect’ one is out there- ‘perfect’ meaning she was the missing factor in an equation for an idealized marriage, one I deserved. Magazine covers told me what body type to expect. 500 Days of Summer showed me how the ideal girl would be quirky- but in all the right ways.

The point is, life as a single person was filled with aspirations about the woman I would one day marry. I cherry-picked attributes from cultural and religious influences and compiled the various parts and traits- like a virtual snow(o)man- to craft my perfect girl. I even threw in a couple of traits from people I’d dated; carrying over positive attributes from failed romantics while conveniently forgetting the human imperfections that accompanied them.

And, thus, I waited. I dated. I waited some more. I dumped and was dumped. I laughed and I cried. I became ‘an adult.’ I was ready to get married. Ready to meet my dream girl.

And on the day I first met my wife, sparks flied. She was visiting the graduate school where I was a student. And from the moment I saw her I knew she was about to swoop in and homewreck my long-term relationship with Greek vocabulary cards. The first time she smiled at me I felt as though all the angels in heaven were singing my name. On our first date we finished each others

It was bliss. A fairy tale. I’d found my dream girl.

But then a startling thing happened. As our relationship progressed the dream girl I’d begun dating started to unravel before me. My dream girl would love me; this girl needed love from me too. My dream girl would understand that I was introverted, that I needed alone time; this girl needed quality time-not on my schedule but on hers. My dream girl was Biblically certified; this girl came with baggage and needed grace.

There was a time when I reached the height of disillusionment. I got the stage where I felt like

And I thought about ending our relationship. About moving on. There were other girls out there. This relationship had started out well. But, ultimately, it failed the litmus test. It was not my ideal. Not my dream.

But what I was reminded of then, and realize more so every day, is that I was never going to marry a dream. It wouldn’t be a dream I’d hold hands with, dance with, laugh with. It wouldn’t be a dream walking down the isle, climbing into bed and growing old with me. It would be a woman. And no woman is perfect- kinda like no man is (anywhere close to being) perfect.

Kinda like me.

My idea of a perfect woman reflected an understanding of marriage that evolved around me. While I never would have admitted as much, I saw marriage as a kind of self-fulfillment, the final piece of the puzzle of my ego. What I was looking for in a spouse was someone who catered to exactly what I wanted, what I desired. Someone with whom I could be myself. Someone who didn’t require that I change, who didn’t suggest that I had imperfections. Someone who didn’t demand work.

But marriage is the acknowledgement of a love which is greater than two people, greater than all humanity. It’s the acknowledgment and expressed commitment to live out that love with another person. Not an ideal. Not a build-your-own-spouse. Not a dream.

What I wanted was someone who would cater to me. What I got was a woman who’s imperfections have merged with mine and created a marriage that is equally imperfect. And thus it demands that I be less selfish and more selfless; less prideful and more sacrificial; care less about my desires and more about someone else’s needs. It’s a marriage that is less about the god of me and more about the God of love. I’ve learned that a healthy marriage demands these things. Otherwise it’s like a leasing a car, though there’s more paperwork to fill out when the other person stops living up to expectations.

And so I did not marry a prototype, a build-your-own wife that I could adapt with custom settings on humor and looks alike. I did not marry a figment of my imagination, a character from a 90-minute indie film, or someone who checks every box on a list of requirements. Rather, I married a real girl with real quirks, real problems, real pain, real ambitions, real sins, real selfishness, real beauty and real love. Love to be developed, cherished, fought for, and shared.

I did not marry my dream girl. And I’m so glad.

Because the woman I woke up with today is real. And each day she looks more beautiful than the last. And each day she’s sanding down my rough edges; her presence in my life demands that I be a better person, a better husband, a better follower of Christ. Our relationship may be messy, may require work, may involve fights and tears and heartache and apologies. But it’s better than anything I could have ever imagined.

Because she’s the real deal, the real girl.

She’s better than the girl of my dreams.

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5 Ways Single People Should Treat Married Couples

5 ways single people should treat married header

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:

  1. 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.

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