I’m not sure if I really should say anything on marriage. I have a good marriage, but I’ve seen failed marriages (including in my own past, to be honest) and sometimes I wonder: What went wrong there? How did they get off the rails so fast?
Nicholas and I were talking about romance the other day. We are not romantic people. There’s no need for weekend getaways, or champagne and roses, or even greeting cards in our relationship. There was a time we might have thought “That sounds great!” if someone talked about such things, but now we’re both very practical and down-to-earth.
I see two major problems in most marriages, Christian and otherwise. One is that most people have huge expectations about the material side of adulthood and marriage. They want the moon. They want the lifestyle they see on television and in the magazines. They may say they don’t, but secretly they do, because they shop, and shop, and shop. Maybe they can’t afford Rodeo Drive, but they wish they could. They start with the over the top wedding (the kind that drives clergy crazy) and then they expect it’s going to be “Bride” magazine from now on. Honeymoon in Hawaii, first home in a nice part of town, furniture, electronics, and so on. You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, and pretty soon they don’t have enough money. Husband takes a second job. Wife works overtime, then takes a retail job weekends. They never see each other. The money flies out the door to pay bills and to keep up the consuming lifestyle. (I mean the irony in that phrase.) They don’t work to support themselves, they work to support their debt, and it’s a cuckoo in the nest, pushing everything else out and eating its head off. This marriage will fail. Even if they stick together, it soon fails internally, because they were not serving God. They were serving the world and its master, Satan. The love God intended between two people in marriage is lost very quickly, if it ever was there. The next step is almost always an affair by one party or the other, with the excuse that they “feel unloved.” That’s because possessions can’t love anyone, and all the “love” is love for the world, nothing but desire and passions.
Often the materialistic marriage ends in poor health, as well, as the worry and physical stress of trying to keep it all together causes illness.
Immaturity is a leading cause of marital failure. One partner (sometimes both) expect the other to be a substitute parent, and probably not a responsible parent, but the parent who spoils and expects nothing from the child. Husband and wives are equally guilty of this. Some people marry so as to have no responsibilities, not to take on the unique set of responsibilities of marriage and family. The symptoms are expressed as competitiveness (“if you can have one, so can I”), secrecy (just like little kids sneaking cookies from the kitchen), and contempt, as the immature adult who doesn’t get his or her way belittles the other partner. Immature relationships are marked by fights and tantrums, as the partners try to assert control. Many “romantic”‘ relationships are just immature partnerships. The partners appease and bribe, demand and take, and what looks like a constant round of “we’re in love” events are just payoffs.
Nicholas put it this way: Modern people aren’t looking for good partners in life. They look for a pretty face, a nice figure, and a good income. They look for romance and excitement and sex. They aren’t looking for the attributes that carry one through a long life: Maturity, ability, intelligence, temperment. No one seems to care if the wife can cook, the husband can work, or that either of them has one clue about raising kids.
Life is not going to get easier in the next years. Even those who aren’t end-time prophets can see the changes in the weather, figuratively and literally. The world is a mess. And many people are ill-equipped to deal with it. When they lose the job, the house, and the car, when they can’t go on vacations or buy the latest plasma screen tv, they will fall apart. There’s no depth of strength in many people, and they can’t support themselves and their families emotionally when the hard times come. They can’t support their families at all, because they don’t know how to grow food or bake bread or care for chickens. They don’t have a grasp of the basics, spiritually or otherwise.
Christian marriage is about trust. It’s about trusting God first, that is, true belief that God will not fail us, even if death overtakes us. True marriage doesn’t give up. True marriage is a mutual gift. It is irrevocable. Marriages that fail may not have been true marriages in the first place. Christians, when they marry, must expect that it will be until death parts them, even if the road is rough and it’s not much fun all the time. God intends marriages to last a lifetime.
True marriage is honest, totally honest. Nothing hurts a marriage more than secrets. Some learn this the hard way, by weakening the trust between husband and wife by keeping back something. It could be major (past illness or an out-of-wedlock pregnancy when young) or it could seem minor (an unpaid bill, a dented car) but secrets will take on a life of their own and haunt the secret keeper. It’s possible to rise above that kind of harm, but it will take time and understanding, and not everyone has that kind of strength all the time.
A Christian marriage is Christian love, charity at heart, and self-sacrificing. It is the ultimate traditional marriage, for some of our patterns for marriage go back to the early days of humanity captured in Genesis. Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekka: these are our models for marriage. Above that, we have the model of Christ and the Church, His Bride, for whom He gave His life, and it is for Him that the Church lives.