Things I Have Learnt About Marriage, and Why I’m Scared of It

In the recent past, three of my friend’s parents or my adult friends themselves have gotten divorced or separated.  All of them were doing all the “right” things–and yet it went wrong.  When I was growing up–and I think the same would be true of my friends–I was told that divorce was something that non-Christians did, something people did when they gave up or quit trying.  That it was better to live in a miserable marriage than to separate (with careful exclusions made for abuse and affairs).  I don’t know if that’s true anymore.

While the Church is busy having a conniption fit over the issue of legalizing gay marriage (As to the legal issue, my opinion is somewhere along the lines that even if the Bible does actually mean that marriage is intended to be between only heterosexual couples, which I honestly don’t know, I don’t think it’s necessarily the best decision for the Church to try to impose its own moral standards on the secular world because it distracts from our actual mission.  That is, the religious and secular/legal definitions of marriage don’t necessarily have to be the same.), there seems a much bigger problem of marriage within the pews: the divorce rate amongst evangelicals is (arguably, see here and here for different takes on the statistics) pretty much the same as that the general population.  Whether these divorces are explicitly sin or just results of our state brokenness doesn’t matter for the sake of argument: what does matter is that it hurts people and is emblematic of the corruption of what was intended for good.

Marriage terrifies me.  Two people like each other and then decide to spend what they hope will be the rest of their lives together.  Half the time, neither of them have any experience being married.

So, in all of my expansive two decades of wisdom, here are four things I have learnt about marriage, why it’s hard, what makes it work, and when it doesn’t:

1) One of my friends whose parents recently separated said something to the effect of, “Well, my family is holding together, for now.  No one has tried to run away from home, yet.”  If God preserves and God reconciles, they’re definitely at the preservation stage right now.  Also, did I mention that marriage is terrifying to me?

2) On the opposite end of the spectrum was another one of my friend’s parents.  My understanding is that they married when they were both atheist/agnostic after college, but then the wife became a Christian and the husband turned back to his Muslim roots.  Yet they made it work.  The last time I saw them together was at their son’s graduation party before we left for college.  We were doing toasts and the things the husband said about his wife were some of the sweetest, most beautiful, honorable, loving words I have ever heard.  Despite their massive worldview differences, their love for each other was profoundly evident.  I’m not sure if he had become a Christian yet at that point, but I know that when he died this fall, his family had full knowledge that he went home to rest in Jesus’ presence.

3) A college minister told me, “Even when you’re married, you keep changing.  Think about how much you’ve changed in the past five years: it’s still like that once you grow up and get married and have kids.  What can happen is if you aren’t careful, you have kids and then they go off to college, and then all of a sudden, you realize you aren’t living with the same person you married twenty years ago.”

4) On the van ride home from state senior year, I was eavesdropping on the coaches as usual.  One of them was about to get married and asked the other coach for advice.  She told him: “If a woman tells another woman, ‘Oh, I couldn’t go to the store today because the dog threw up and the kids had soccer practice late and all these other things happened,’ the other woman will say, ‘Oh, do you need me to pick something up for you?’  But if she tell that to a man, there’s a good chance he’ll just hear all the things that happened that day and not read into the fact that she’s actually asking for help.  How men and women communicate differently is a big deal.”


Week 7: Faithfulness

Yeah, so I’m a day late with this post.  I feel like the first three weeks of this series went really well, but since then, not so much.  Fittingly enough, this week’s fruit is Faithfulness–yet another reason to try to hang on for the next couple of weeks.

I actually wrote this post a while ago, but hadn’t gotten up the nerve to post until a couple weeks ago, at which point I decided I might as well wait until the Faithfulness week, since it was sorta-kinda-vaguely-not-really related.

Yes, I know the pronouns they, their, and them should not be used to refer to singular entities.  I’m going to use them anyhow to protect the identities of the innocent.

The first thing I did when I saw my friend was look at their finger.  The ring was gone.

I’d had my suspicions over the past few months, but I couldn’t know for sure.  There were lots of dots, and lots of potential connections, but I was trying to restrain myself from jumping to conclusions–almost as hard as reining in a horse already jumping over a steeplechase.  I dearly hoped I was wrong (how often does that happen?); I hoped I was just being a woman and over-analyzing everything.  In the depths of my heart, I knew I wasn’t.  I don’t really know how I figured it out, but some combination of strange comments, apparently random changes, and slightly odd behavioral patterns led me to my theories.

I awkwardly spent the whole time we were at the coffee shop glancing at their ring finger.  I don’t know if they noticed.  In a way, I hope they did.  It might be less awkward if we both knew that I knew.  On the other hand, I hope they didn’t.  It would be incredibly awkward if we both knew that I knew, but didn’t know how I knew.

The oddest thing is that somehow, I think I started to see this coming maybe two years ago.  I can’t explain it–it was just an odd premonition of sorts that I brushed aside into the corner of my brain labeled “Absurd Drifting Thoughts,” or something like that.  Maybe I’m just crazy.

To be clear, I have no idea what the circumstances of this situation are.  All I have are hypotheses.  For all I know, the ring could be gone because they were using stucco and got chemical burns on their hands and had to have their ring cut off in the emergency room (That’s a real, albeit remote, possibility–I know a guy to whom that happened.)  Still, unlikely.  Even more unlikely than the horse-and-steeplechase scenario.

You’d think that after twenty-five-plus years of marriage, things would work themselves out.  But time and time again, my assumption is proved wrong.  Throughout my life, I’ve gone through periods where I wished I had a dad, but when s*** like this happens, it sort of makes me glad I don’t.  Sort of.

Over Thanksgiving break, I visited a Christian studies class at my old school, and the teacher (actually the head of the school) was talking about Mere Christianity, where C.S. Lewis describes evil not as its own entity, but merely a perversion of good.  This is how I tend to view divorce/separation.  Not as a state in and of itself, but rather as the breaking of the state of marriage.  I am very hesitant to label it “sin,” or even a state resulting from sin.  Instead, I see it as a state resulting from Fallen-ness.  Sure, there are circumstances when divorce can be a sin or be the direct result of a specific sin, but it seems that much more often, it’s the result of our sinful nature.  I suppose that’s why it frustrates me so much.  We can, to an extent, remedy sins.  We can’t remedy the Fall.

In all this, I see so little hope for my future.  How the heck do people make marriage work?  If marriages fail after multiple decades and children, what’s the point?

[Update: I mentioned this situation as in an offhanded comment to a college minister I know, and he had some good insights.  He’s at about the same stage of life as the person this situation concerns, which made his comments all the more interesting.  I think what stood out to me the most, what I had never really considered before, was that, “People change, and after you’ve had kids and they’ve grown up and gone to college, all of a sudden you can realize that you don’t even know the person you’re living with anymore because they’re not the same person you married twenty years ago.  Think about it–how different are you now than you were five years ago?  Because it’s still the same when you’re older.”]

I’m not quite sure what to make of all this, but I thought I’d share anyways.

Right now, I’m madly cramming for a biology exam.  Right now, I’m liking my math major a lot more than my biology major.  As if I needed any more proof, my brand new TI-89 Titanium just arrived in the mail.  Perhaps I should have timed my new toy to arrive after the biology exam.