“Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.” – Martin Luther, Christian Protestant Reformer & Theologian, 1483-1586
As of the writing of this article my wife and I are mere days away from celebrating our 19 year anniversary! Hold on a second whilst I deliver a defibrillator shock to my torso… When I think about those 19 years, it’s more than overwhelming. For a guy who is only 37, and living in today’s divorce-ridden, self-centered society, it is a pretty amazing feat. However, it was almost only 1 year, 2 years, or 10 years and on many occasions we thought, “ This is just too hard. I can’t do this any more. It really shouldn’t be this difficult, should it?”
A quick run-down of our story looks like this:
- Met at 16
- Married at 18
- We are broke
- I go into the military (almost divorce)
- I get out, we have kids (almost divorce)
- Kids have autism-spectrum issues (life is hard)
- Wife has health issues (WTF?)
- Years go by (life remains hard, we remain broke, and we almost divorce)
- I slowly begin to realize I am something of a selfish idiot
- My wife realizes she too has issues with fear making her something of a nag
- I man-up with the help of other men and God
- My wife becomes awesome through various ways (mostly God)
- Kids issues are slowly sorted out
- We are pretty used to being broke at this point
- Manly accountability, counseling, commitment, bacon, forgiveness
- Not broke
- Finally we are on the right track
The majority of my married life has not been easy, and there was a time, had I the option to do it over again, I would not. And, while I don’t think we are out of the water, I can say there is a peace in my house and between us that is just wonderful. Perhaps, all the more so because it was fought for. Which, as I think about it, is how most good things come about. Looking back, I can see that many of the reasons I wanted out of my marriage are the very reasons I needed to stay. I have noticed these seem to be the same reasons many men are staying out of marriage altogether or procrastinating indefinitely. The world needs men who are greater than the challenges which come in marriage.
Why Marriage Isn’t the Same as Living Together
There is a popular notion amongst the past few generations which believes that marriage is nothing more than a piece of paper and that living together in a committed relationship is essentially the same thing. Here’s the thing though…it’s not. Not at all. And I have a feeling people really know cohabitation and marriage are not equal, otherwise there would not be such objection over a piece of paper.
Marriage is a Sworn Oath and a Supernatural Bond
In marriage, a man and a woman unite in a bond that is going to be so difficult yet so important, they swear before God and their family to honor their oath of loyalty to one another unto death. In cohabitation, two people share an apartment. You see, it’s not the same thing.
It is because we know that marriage is difficult, yet very good, that we esteem it so highly. We prize it similarly to a virtue. And for Christians, there is the additional symbolism of a man and woman being united as one, and that of Christ and His bride the Church. For any kids in the relationship, a committed marriage is the ultimate security. If a child knows their parents are locked together — do or die trying — that no matter what the family will always be a family, they have the freedom to be a kid, learn, grow and mature. The evidence for this is overwhelming ( here is just one example).
Marriage has Weight
I don’t mean the weight you gain when you get married, I am talking about the pressure of the commitment. For men, there is typically pressure to be a provider (even if the wife works) and to be an awesome dad. There is a pressure that comes with the realization of just how long-term the commitment is and how many problems will need to be worked through in order to make the relationship something that you will want to be part of 10 or 60 years down the road. There is pressure in knowing that you can’t just walk away, write a country song about it, and find someone else. Legal stuff aside, your honor is at stake.
The Reasons You Aren’t Getting Married (And the Reasons You Should)
“By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” – Socrates, Greek Philosopher, 399 BC
In truth, a lot of these reasons are valid. What I mean is, they aren’t simply excuses, these things happen. In most cases, however, these things will happen regardless. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had someone who has committed to loving you to go through it with?
You Know Things Will Change
While this is rather broad, it is true. As I mentioned above, every man with any sense has a correct understanding that marriage is a commitment on a deeper level and that is bound to change things. It will change your direction in life if nothing else. Once married you will shift into the protector\provider mode. She will shift into the homemaker\do-it-all\mother mode. You can feel this happening while you are married and you can feel the draw towards it while you are dating. The scary part is that you also recognize you aren’t ready for it and can’t say for certain that you will like things (yourself, your wife) after the changes occur. Then what?
Really, this is just growing up. Maturing as a man into fatherhood and husbandom (I don’t know if that is a term) is tough, but it is not something to be avoided, it is something to be prized.
She is Already Getting on Your Nerves
One of the many downsides to living together before marriage is that you begin to feel the rub of sharing life with another person. At the same time, the weight of commitment isn’t strong enough to justify working on it or talking it out. While the relationship continues, the once trivial things really begin to annoy you and stand out like a wart. They don’t warrant a breakup (that would be petty, especially with all the time you have invested into the relationship) yet they are like a fork scraping on a plate (maybe she actually scrapes her fork on her plate). It makes you want to walk away rather than draw nearer and that certainly doesn’t make you want to get married.
After some time in marriage, and especially after kids, your ability to focus on the bigger picture and let the small things go, improves. Also, because you are both in it to win it, there is some growth and give and take on both sides. You agree to sleep on 1/5 of the bed and she eventually stops scraping her fork on the plate like a deaf, insensitive wench.
You Don’t Want to Lose Control Over Your Life
This is a big one! In dating and cohabitation, there are agreements made between two parties as to how they will manage the sharing of property and lifestyles. If these cannot be agreed to, the parties cease their intimate relationship, which is what we call baggage. In marriage, there is one party, the family, and in order for the family to work as a cohesive unit, concessions have to be made. Generally these concessions are in the area of free-time, which, now that you are part of a family, your free-time is bundled with the family-time.
Who do you admire more: The man who gives of himself and his time to the building up of others, or the man who is beholden to no one and does what he wants when he wants? I don’t mean, which man do you envy, but which do you admire?
You Will Be Screwed if You Divorce
With the rate of divorce as high as it is, there is good reason for concern here. In most cases the man will lose unfettered access to his children yet pay out-the-nose to support them and his ex-wife. Add in the cost of lawyers, years long court cases, and the emotional drain of it all and you have something akin to hell on earth. Worst of all, you can’t control whether or not you divorce. You may want to work through the issues but if she is not willing, too bad.
For Summer and I, the thought of the pain of divorce kept us together a number of times. Yet, I wouldn’t say it is a reason to get married but a reason not to take marriage lightly. If two people are really joined together, wouldn’t you expect there to be damage when you tear them apart? While you don’t have to have it all figured out before getting married, you should have the maturity to know what you are really agreeing to and what it is you are looking for in a woman. If you haven’t figured that out yet, for goodness sake don’t string some girl along while you get your act together! Grow as a man first, then find a woman who you can offer your strength to, rather than draining it from her.
You are Afraid of Failure
What do all of the above reasons have in common? Fear. Specifically the fear of failing: Failing as a husband, as a father, as a provider, and as a man. However, being afraid doesn’t make you a coward. Especially when we talk about fearing failure as a man, it really points to our desire to measure up to that High Calling of manliness. Brothers, that is an honorable desire! While marriage isn’t necessary to help you grow as a man, it does provide the pressure and rub to work out the grit and smooth the edges as we mature. The fear of failing in our marriage can inspire us to be the kind of men that stay married, if that fear is transformed into an affirmation of our desire to be good, God-fearing men.
Marriage is tough, no doubt. But, it is also worth it. It isn’t something to be taken lightly, yet you don’t have to sound the depths of the water before jumping in either. With a commitment to growing through your challenges, God as your source of happiness rather than your spouse, and a healthy fear of lawyers, you can make it work. And, after 19 years or so, you can look back with a sense of pride and amazement at the man you have become.