Stop Treating Marriage Like Damaged Goods
During our engagement Tom and I heard it all:
- Why are you getting married so young? What's the rush?
- I got married right out of college and we got divorced shortly after. We were young and dumb.
- Marriage gets boring after the honeymoon stage.
- Wait till you have kids.. good luck making time for each other.
- Oye - have fun living with a man-child.
- After you get married, you'll realize how annoying that person really is.
- Marriage is more work than you realize.
After we got married it continued:
- How long have you been married? Two years? The honeymoon stage is almost over!
- Enjoy dates now, when you have kids that all ends.
- It's cute how you two always hold hands - it doesn't last long, enjoy it!
- You'll understand when the honeymoon stage ends.
- I wish MY husband held the door for ME...
Why do we batter marriage the way that we do? Why don't we lift it up and speak well of it?
I would hear these phrases thrown at us in the height of our elatement to be married and easily brush them off with the warm-fuzzies I felt for my husband. It's funny, though, the things that crop back up in retrospect. Why didn't these people offer words of encouragement and blessings? Of course, many did offer loving gestures and congratulations... but why were they sometimes followed up with words of distaste and annoyance with the institution of marriage?
We all have experiences of our own, and each of us wants to offer advice when a moment arises that it may seem useful. But why not advice that offers the bad with the good?
Marriage is hard work, they were right... but it is so much more than that.
...it is worthy of praise.
Sound familiar? From Phillippians 4:8.
Of course, it doesn't always look like those things... of course, of course, of course. We are two sinners and have definitely hit some awful trials. Those that go into marriage with such high expectations of their happiness being dependent on this one person, and who believe love without honeymoon-like elation is not love, are deeply fooled. Thomas and I married for the right reasons and at the time when we were ready (to answer why we got married 'so young').
I remember going to a resort to surprise my mom for her birthday, about a year after we got married. The majority of my siblings, their spouses, and children were able to go, and we all spent the daytime at the several indoor waterparks in the resort (it was in Wisconsin, obviously). Tom and I had been on all the fun, rowdy rides and had been making sure nieces and nephews didn't capsize in the wave pool. We decided to take a break and float the lazy river in a two person tube. We talked, people-watched, laughed, and gave back rubs to each other. As a young mom floated by, she asked, "Are you two newlyweds?" to which we simply nodded, smiled, and referenced our wedding a year before. This stranger's question was meant sweetly and I appreciated that she noticed our happy demeanor as a couple.
And then... I made up a challenge.
"Tom," I said, "let's always fool people into thinking we're newlyweds. I don't care if we have kids or if we're tired and annoyed with each other. Or even if we're 65. Will you promise to always have fun with me like a giddy newlywed? Hold my hand no matter what. Make it a point to sit next to one another at social gatherings. Even when there's squirmy kids, let's put each other first." and he agreed.
You see, so often marriage is kicked to the curb. By the unmarried and married alike. It's joked about and poked and prodded with this overarching, impending end to happiness. As if once the rings have been exchanged, you'll find out that it's a big hoax and you actually become super miserable.
But friends, don't buy it.
Stand up for marriage and the gift that it is. It's a promise to hold someone in high regards as your companion and friend for life. Don't berate the man you married and call him a drooling slob in front of others. Speak well of him. Don't turn your wife into a control-psycho-maniac when you're talking to the guys. Lift up her strengths and poise.
Currently, I'm reading the first of Mindy Kaling's books called, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me. Mostly it's a funny memoir of her life, experiences, and opinions. She is living in the Hollywood realm, but her views on marriage are traditional, and when she wrote about it in one chapter it made me proud to read her book. The chapter was titled "Married People Need to Step It Up." In it, she references the countless divorcees she is acquainted with, and how so many people around her are ruining the good things about marriage for her. She goes on to talk about the marriages she admires, like that of her parents, who's friendship is what chalks them up as a great couple.
Then, she speaks well of marriage. Here are some snippets:
"I want to hear that one got the other hooked on Breaking Bad and if either watches it without the other, they're dead meat... I want to hear about it, because I know it's possible, and because I want it for myself. ...part of me still thinks, is it really so hard to make it work? ...And I'm not saying marriage should always be easy. But we seem to get so gloomily worked up about it these days.
Married people, it's up to you. It's entirely on your shoulders to keep this sinking institution afloat. It's a stately old ship, and a lot of people, like me, want to get on board. Please be psyched, and convey that psychedness to us. And always remember: so many, many people are envious of what you have."
When I read that very last sentence, I knew I had to write this post. Mindy is a single woman. When married people talk so begrudgingly about marriage, people like Mindy hear it and think to themselves "How could you say that? You wake up to a great person every day!" Maybe it was just me (I don't think it was), but in college I used to always envy the sweet relationships around me. I actually watched people meet and date their future spouses and I loved seeing it happen. But I wanted it too. I would think about and pray for my future husband. By God's grace and blessing, I did meet that man in college. Not everyone gets that so early in life and Tom and I make it a habit to be grateful for each other every day.
The next time you find yourself in a group of women and they're all insinuating that their spouses are slobbering idiots, stand up for yours and build him up. When the other men are talking about 'their old lady' who's got them on a tight leash, tell them how much your lady rocks. Make it a habit to do the little things you stopped doing after 'the newlywed stage.' Don't just flip out the light and roll over to sleep... say goodnight, cuddle, talk about the best parts of your day. Pick up your spouse's favorite candy to have during 'your show' once the kids are in bed - and when your kids beg to have some when they see it in the pantry, say no! Make it a point to sit next to your spouse during social get-togethers. Appreciate, cherish, and prioritize that person.
When you see another young couple about to say their vows, lift them up in prayer. Tell them how wonderful marriage is... even after a whole bunch of years. Give them solid advice for making marriage a little easier when the going gets tough. Challenge them to drag the honeymoon stage out for their lifetime, instead of talking about its impending doom. Be an example of the joy and privilege of being married to the love of your life.
Stand up for marriage, friends. Speak well of it. Put the very best construction on the gift you have, that others are praying for. Be psyched about it, because it is sooooo worth being psyched about.