When the desire to marry becomes a god

7 Comments

A few days ago I talked about the “god of marriage” that lurks in the dorm halls of Christian colleges (you can read that post here). I talked about how marriage became an idol for me when I attended a Christian school, and I spoke of how I almost got married to a man that wasn’t right for me just to appease my new god.

If I would have married my last boyfriend, I probably would have been miserable. Please note that I don’t say that because I believe in “soul mates” or in finding “The One.” Marriage is ultimately about being the right person, and I believe that whoever you married becomes The One once you marry him/her. And I definitely don’t say that to knock my last boyfriend. He’s one of the nicest guys I know and he has a good heart.

But I had dreams and plans before the god of marriage came along, and because my last boyfriend and I were so different, I would have had to give up those dreams to be with him. I was ready to sacrifice those dreams to the god of marriage, and if I had done so, I believe I would have been miserable.

Now that we have broken up and moved on, I face a totally different scenario.

I have a different boyfriend now.

Ain't he cute?

It wasn’t too long into our relationship when things clicked in my brain, like when you suddenly understand a difficult math problem. So this is what it’s like to be a healthy relationship, to have a partner, to be going the same direction in life. It all makes sense now.

We both have similar goals in life: we want to do great things, we want to travel the world, and have adventures, and make differences.

But neither of us are too keen on doing it alone.

So there’s tension.

On one hand, we love each other. We want to get married, not because of sex or society or peer pressure. We want to get married because we’re partners.

But…

Sometimes I allow this normal, natural, and healthy desire to marry turn into the god that I used to worship.

I believe that marrying my boyfriend eventually would be a logical move on my part. However, we’re not ready to get married now. There are things that I need to accomplish while I’m single (college, learning to take care of myself like an adult, etc.) so that after marriage, I can continue working toward my goals. Marriage is neither the beginning nor the end of the plans that I have for my life.

Yet, sometimes that sneaky false god tries to convince me that it is. It’s always trying to convince me that marriage is THE goal. The “happy ever after.”

Sometimes I have to knock the idea of marriage off the pedestal and remind myself that there is more to life.

Also, I still have a tendency to believe marriage’s false promise to fix all of my problems. I have problems. You don’t survive sexual abuse and an abusive relationship without some baggage. I’m glad life isn’t an airport and I don’t have to pay fees for every extra bag because I’d be broke.

I’m constantly trying to lessen that load, though. I go to counseling. I work on stress management. I try to control my cognitive processes and I try to find healthy ways to deal with the pain.

But it’s hard. It’s really damn hard.

I want a quick fix. I want something that will make everything better.

And the god of marriage wants me to believe that marriage is that quick fix.

It says,

“When you’re married, sex won’t leave you feeling as confused and afraid.”

“When you’re married, your depression won’t be as crippling.”

“When you’re married, you’ll make good memories that will take the place of all the terrible ones.”

These are lies.

This is marriage trying to elevate itself above the true God. This is marriage saying, “cast your burdens on ME. MY yoke is easy and MY burden is light.”

Marriage worship is dangerous because it makes us feel like we are incomplete. It makes us forget that we are complete in Christ and convinces us that we need more. It makes us promises that it cannot keep.

And yet, marriage itself is still a wonderful thing. A beautiful thing and a picture (though certainly not the only, or even the greatest picture) of the love that Christ has for his church.

So there’s tension.

Have you ever experienced the tension between the natural desire to marry, and the temptation to “cast all your cares” upon the god of marriage? Share your story! 

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7 thoughts on “When the desire to marry becomes a god

  1. I agree with this. I had a very bad mentor who focused so much on marriage that she made me very unhappy with being single. Due to her mentorship I entered into 2 disastrous relationships. I believe God does desire most people to marry, but that is not the end all be all of a woman’s existance. Most Christians make marriage and 19th century gender roles an idol. God even told me that I was making marriage an idol while I was being ‘mentored’ by this woman. I also think the ideal of Prince Charming is harmful to women– I’ve dated many men, and the ones who appeared to be Prince Charming at first were the most abusive!

  2. I’m a little late on this one, but just found your blog.

    I did get married young, but for me it was not because of the pressures from the church. I had always rebelled against my bible college’s idea of sitting down, shutting up, and being a submissive wife. I never wanted it. I knew that God did not create me that way, and had come to terms with that. I was perfectly content in my singleness.

    Then I met my husband. He was sweet and kind, and let me be me. I wanted nothing more to be with him the rest of my life. I thought through my dreams and goals, and what I would be giving up. I am a big dreamer… but I knew that a few things would be out of the question if I married him. I decided that the cost was very much worth it, because of everything I had to gain.

    Fast forward 3 years. My husband asked for a divorce, because he realized the reason he got married was because of the pressures of the church. He realized that I would never fit into the box of pristine on the outside Christian wife and mother that the church tells him I should be. He has told me I was his rebellion stage, and he “discerned” that he can not be married to someone who does not uphold “Godly standards”. His feelings of shame and feeling far away from God have been blamed on me and our relationship.

    I think that it is important to remember that the false standards and idolatry of marriage are projected onto men as well, and cause near-irreparable harm to both sides of a relationship. So while my feelings about marriage have not really changed, the consequences of this idolatry have severely impacted most every aspect of my life. It is heartbreaking and incredibly frustrating, but I am happy that I did not give up my own identity. I could have played the role of the “perfect Baptist wife” but chose not to. As a result, I am still Brie. I know who I am and I know who God created me to be. Amen.

    • I’m sorry that you’ve been hurt by that form of idolatry. I can’t even imagine…

      But I’m glad you are still you and are happy with who you are.

  3. First off, this is a brilliant post. Have I mentioned that I love your blog?? :)

    I’m not sure I have much to add. I got married when I was almost 21 and my husband was a few days away from 20. I don’t think we were making marriage a god, though. We just knew we wanted to spend our lives together, and because of our circumstances, the only way we could take our relationship to that next level and not get in all kinds of trouble from relatives was to get married. If we had been in a different part of the country, perhaps, or had relatives with different religious beliefs, we would just have lived together.

    I also got married while still in college, and it didn’t really make it hard to finish for me. I think you can do those things and be married, too. The two are not mutually exclusive. Of course, in individual circumstances they may be for various reasons..but you can make it work. :)

  4. I’m reminded of how Tim Keller (and many others) have defined idolatry: it’s when good things become ultimate things.

    Marriage-worship and motherhood-worship — they’re both idols that are so common in many churches. I think this idolatry is why singles feel marginalized in the church, and I’m sympathetic. I’ve been in churches where my presence seems disturbing to many. (Though I’m married, I have “only” one child, and that really seems to throw people…)

  5. I absolutely have!

    At 29, I was still painfully single. I’d never had a significant romantic relationship, and the dating world was…confusing…at best.

    And, I had never had sex. AND was extremely hormonal.

    So…yeah. Been there, done that. lol

    Don’t get me wrong! I love my husband to death!! But we were both so crazy about each other. Looking back now, I don’t think that waiting a bit longer would have hurt either one of us in the long run. (Though I was also in a roommate situation that HAD to end. No one was out-n-out horrible, but we were all driving each other up the wall.)

    But when someone like me has been THAT single for THAT long, thinking logically is…difficult, at best.

    As far as getting married for *you* goes…everyone has their own time. :) Honestly, those are all valid concerns, but the actual act of getting married doesn’t really magically make *anything* inherently worse or better. Just….different. (This depends on if you’re already living together or not, though. :) )

    I’m starting to learn…slowly….that it’s okay to leave my husband at the house to do his own thing, while I go out and do *my* own thing. (I’m the clingy one! lol!)

  6. Very true. I have had a similar experience. Being single, dating, in a relationship, married can all be wonderful and positive things, but each one has it’s own set of “problems” and you can’t use one to to cover up for experiences/obstacles YOU need to overcome as a person.

    I like your blog!

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