I was engaged 15 years ago (so I was barely 18) and I got married 3 months later.
We were all of the above and then some. Some would call our marriage a recipe for disaster, yet we’ve already beaten the odds just getting past the 10 year mark.
So how is it that we have a strong healthy marriage after 15 years even while undergoing so much struggle?
First of all it’s because we have a redeeming Savior that we rely on to get us through the hard times. “There but for the grace of God go I” is one of my all time favorite sayings.
I don’t want anything I say to be hurtful or judgmental. Marriage is SO COMPLICATED and each situation is completely different. We’ve seen many dear friends and family members walk through the pain and difficulty of seperation so I am not trying to sum up the key to marital success in under a thousand words.
What I do want to say is that I see a trend in our culture that I think is misleading. I call it the calculated marriage.
On average most people will spend a quarter of their life single. Then they spend a few years dating and being engaged to their spouse. At this point you would have MOST of your life ahead of you.
Here’s a terribly unscientific pie chart to explain what I mean.
What I see happening is that everyone (Christian or not) is putting ALL the emphasis on that tiny fraction of the pie that I have labeled courting (shown in orange).
Some suggest living together during courtship so that you really know what life is like. Others suggest a parent led courtship where the families are heavily involved. There are websites designed to match you up with your most compatible partner. I’ve seen advice that you should stay single longer, date longer, marry someone you’ve known for a long time, be financially stable, have a college degree, get plenty of counseling, own a pet first, marry someone who has never been divorced, or I saw an article shared on Facebook yesterday that talked about the stigma of having divorced parents.
The list goes on. Don’t get me wrong, there are important factors to consider, but I am going to make an unpopular claim and say that we are putting the emphasis in the wrong place.
I believe that the reason J and I (and the many many other couples I know in the same boat) have defied the odds is because we put the work in before we even met each other and then really got our elbows dirty after we sealed the deal. So we may have rushed through the “orange” phase, but you see all that green and yellow? We have invested a lot into those years and hopefully the years to come.
We were taught to believe that marriage takes work and divorce is not an option. We were working on our relationships with the Lord while we were single (and therefore working on what it takes to have a successful marriage). We have had to fight for our marriage especially in those first 5 years! I’m glad we had no way out in those dark moments because now I get to see all the wonderful things we would have missed!
Let me use an analogy. Let’s say there is a young woman that dreams of having a nice car some day. She carpools and rides the bus as she diligently saves up for her dream car. Her focus and motivation is getting the perfect car. She believes that if she does all the research and gets a car that has great gas milage, high safety ratings, a history of longevity, and luxurious amenities then she knows she will be happy.
The day comes that she finds the ONE. It’s perfect. She doesn’t rush in and buy it either. She finishes saving up and pays CASH! It sounds like the epitome of self discipline and responsibility.
The problem is, she goes to get the car without a drivers license! She assumed she would be able to learn to drive once she had a car to practice with.
To make matters worse she doesn’t keep up with the maintence on the car. The car she worked so hard to get is banged up and run down fast because she doesn’t know how to drive it or take care of issues when they arise. She was completely focused on the vehicle and her checklist, but put little thought into what it really means to drive or take ownership.
The point I am trying to make is that while the vehicle and the purchase is important it’s not even the most important part. Of course there are things you can do to make wise choices while you date or are engaged. For starters the Bible talks about being equally yoked and that’s HUGE, but it’s only a part of the equation. You have to learn about commitment and choose covenant everyday in every aspect of life. Then when you are married you implement what you’ve learned. You walk it out. It takes two and that’s the hard part, but it’s so rewarding.
There are some people that operate with caution by nature and if you want to get a license, save up for the perfect car, AND take good care of it too then that’s great. My concern is for those that think the calculated marriage is going to solve the divorce epidemic.
Marriage is a big decision that should not be taken lightly, but deep down I still stubbornly believe that some of the best things in life are uncalculated.