I like weddings.
Most people do – they are, after all, well-planned parties boasting free food, sometimes drinks, fancy formal wear, and plenty of laughter and well wishes. Weddings are a celebration. They’re fun!
I also like marriage and the joy of journeying through life with someone. It is truly a blessing from God. But marriage is not a reflective image of the sparkling white wedding day. It is not a festive party that supplies years of fun and fancy. Yes – marriage is wonderful. It is worthwhile. But is also takes a lot of hard work, extreme patience, an unyielding amount of understanding, and determination.
Our culture has buried so deeply the reality of a marriage underneath the perfect wedding décor and happily ever after stories that soon anyone out to commit themselves to each other will actually have little to no idea of what marriage is really about. And I say, let’s wipe away the layers of lovey-dovey dust that have been building up and reveal once again what marriage really is and what it truly means to spend the rest of your life with someone. Because if we don’t start teaching our children this truth, the rate of divorce, failed marriages, and marital depression are only going to grow.
From what I can gather, there seem to be two popular misconceptions surrounding the idea of marriage. First, there is the idea that two people should get to know each other so well that they are absolutely certain they are “the ones” for each other. This misconception, I think, has risen from the fear of becoming another statistic within the 50% or so of people who have gone through a divorce. We fear the broken commitment; we fear that we will fail. So, we have to get it right: we must make sure we know our significant other inside and out.
I think this misconception also stems from story after story (I’m thinking of you, Disney) that is pumped into our minds about the perfect romance and falling in love with “the one-and-only” and living happily ever after. We just have to get it right. And these skewed notions of “getting it absolutely right” beckon tremendous rational for cohabitation and premarital sex, and these two things are a problem. Why? Because having sex with someone is designed for marriage, and marriage alone. God made it that way. (I could expound on this topic, but that’s for another time).
Back to the point… making sure you truly know one another. This idea that misleads people to think that they have to be 100% sure about who they are going to marry actually causes people to not get married at all. Think about that. If we teach our kids that they need to wait and wait and wait and wait until they are positively sure they have found the perfect spouse, they may never end up marrying. Because no one is perfect. And that means, no marriage and no relationship will be perfect, either. We will never know our significant other perfectly.
What we as parents need to do is teach and encourage our kids to build a healthy, Christ-centered relationship with their girlfriend or boyfriend by administering love, respect, and care to each other. We need to teach our offspring that there isn’t just one single person out “there” that will be their husband or wife someday. That’s the stuff of fairy tales, period.
We should show our kids that marriage is work. Teaching them how to work through problems, how to actively listen to someone’s concerns, and how to show love through words, acts of service, and quality time are all great lessons to share. Because that’s what marriage is: a God-designed relationship that is built on respect and love, not on making sure you know every miniscule detail about each other so that you have for sure chosen the right person.
We don’t need to make sure we are marrying Mr. or Mrs. Right. We need to make sure that we are both in this thing called marriage together and that we will both work at it every single day. And throughout the marriage, a husband and wife do get to know each other. Very well. And that is part of the excitement of being married!
Ok. Next misconception. Second, there is the idea that once a couple is engaged, they should wait until the perfect time to get married. That is to say, they should wait until she finishes school or he buys a house or they at least turn 21 or the wedding invitations at Target go on sale. (Ok, maybe not that last one). But you get my point. And the problem with this misconception is that the wedding day becomes the marriage itself. And this is a huge problem.
By impressing on our children that they should wait until the proper time to get married, we are teaching them that if they choose just the right date and have all their ducks in a row, they will have a much, much better marriage.
This is not a good impression.
Now, I’m not saying that two people should just rush into marriage without a single plan for income and a home. But what I am saying is, if two people – especially those who are young and are not very “established” in life yet – have promised themselves to each other and intend to get married, that is wonderful. Let’s help them, not hinder them.
Your daughter hasn’t even graduated college yet? That’s ok! Work with your girl and her fiancé to locate affordable housing and talk about what kind of income they will need to get by, at least until she graduates. By helping our children get married, we are showing them that they have made a Godly decision and that we are supporting that decision. We are impressing upon them the beauty and importance of marriage. If we encourage our kids to wait for this or that or just the right time, we risk belittling the union on which our kids have set out to embark.
Marriage is not a wedding; it’s not a fluttery, white, happily ever after story where there is never any sadness. Marriage takes perseverance and work, not to mention a never ending learning and also appreciation for the other spouse. But marriage is also wonderful, exciting, adventurous, and best of all, God-designed. As our kids reach the age of dating and marriage, let’s set out to instill in their hearts and minds the best ideals possible of what marriage is really all about.