The Popular View of Marriage. Agree? Disagree?

This is the popular view of marriage.

Do you agree with it?


Or do you disagree?

Today is my 30th anniversary of my marriage to my only husband.

Today is my 30th anniversary of my marriage to my only husband.

I read a lot of advice on how to stay married, how to be happily married, how to make marriage work.

Most of this advice comes from some “expert” solemnly intoning that if you want your marriage to survive, you have to “work” at it. They usually go on with advice about “date nights” and prenuptial agreements and how to make his and hers careers work and whether or not it’s a good thing to have children. By the time they get through, they make marriage sound like a death march of “work” and rules. Marriage in the marriage experts’ words, sounds like less of life, not more.

Nobody ever asks these how-to-make-marriage-work questions of those of us who’ve managed to muddle through the decades with our one and only life-long loves, raising families, building lives and providing the stability that keeps this nation from falling over from its self-inflicted wounds. I think the reason that no one asks us (aside from the fact that, since we don’t have a degree from an institution of higher learning certifying that we are competent to have opinions about marriage) is that what we have to say is too short, too simple and too flat-out effective to make good copy.

My experience is that when you’ve been up all night with a croupy baby and the family’s tiny bit of spare cash just went to the plumber, date nights become nonessentials. Prenuptial agreements seem a tad silly to people who live from one paycheck to the next. And once you have children, they come first, not your trendy his and hers careers.

What you need to give staying-power to your marriage is … trumpet fanfare and drumroll … love.

You’ve got to love one another. If making your husband or wife happy makes you happy, and if you both feel that way about each other, then you’ve got the makings of a long, happy marriage. If, on the other hand, all you really care about is what makes you happy and you view your relationship with your spouse as some sort of extended sibling rivalry where you compete for who gets what, then you have nothing to offer, because there’s nothing you are willing to give.

My advice, if you want a happy life, is don’t be this kind of person and don’t marry them, either.

Far from making less of life, marriage puts you squarely in the center of it. You can spend decades as a single person, consuming and pleasing only yourself all day, every day, and never really come in contact with life as the organic reality it is. Life lived that way is a form of stasis. It is fun. But it’s meant to be grown out of. There comes a point in every life worth living when it has to be about more than you and what you can get. Life, to be lived, must ultimately be about what you can give.

Marriage changes you in ways that I never considered before I was married myself, ways that I didn’t understand while they were happening to me. The simplest and most important way that marriage re-aligns you and your life is that you are not one anymore. You are two. That means you are not alone, in both the good and bad of not being alone.

Marriage is a blessing. God blessed us with marriage because He saw that it was “not good” for us “to be alone.” Alone has its place in life. Solitude can be a creative, meditative and fruitful experience. But solitude turned sour is loneliness and loneliness that goes on too long becomes despair or bitterness. Shallow, come-and-go relationships cannot break this cycle. We were made for deeper commitments than that. By our very natures, by the incredible male-female complementarity of humanity, men and women were made to complete one another.

But for marriage to be the blessing God intended, both people have to love the other. The husband has to love his wife. The wife has to love her husband. You basically have to be willing to stick your hands in fire for the man or woman who is your life’s partner, your best and sometimes only friend, the one human being you can always count on to be there, to care, and take your side. God gave you parents to get you grown. He gave you a mate for life to get you the rest of the way home.

I went through the usual mid-life thing during which I counted up my regrets and took a wishful look at what I wished I’d done differently. At the end of the day, I realized that everything I’d done, even the things I regretted, had been on the path that brought me to my husband and children. The one thing in my life that I would never change is them. That, on balance, made the rest of it, if not ok, at least something that I could accept.

If you want your marriage to work, love your spouse. Love them so much that when they are happy, that alone makes you happy. Cherish them. Take care of them. Stand by them. And enjoy them.

Your husband or your wife is God’s gift to you, bone of your bone, flesh of your flesh, heart of your heart. Together you make family and home. These things are the best and the fullness of life in this world.

Marriage is a Mess and Homosexuals Didn’t Do It

I support traditional marriage. I have a public track record and the scars to prove it.

I voted to put an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution on the ballot that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. I also authored and passed a resolution memorializing Congress to begin hearings on an amendment to the United States Constitution doing the same thing. That is as much as I can do to support traditional marriage from my elected position.

It’s not a complicated issue to me, and it has almost nothing to do with what marriage is not. It’s about what marriage is. What marriage is begins with the law. Marriage under the law is and should continue to be a union freely entered into by one man and one woman. But legal definitions are just the scaffolding we use to support the social structures of how we order our lives. The actual edifice, the reality of marriage as it is lived, is something much more complex and important than that legal definition can impart.

We focus our national attention on the definition of marriage under the law. We wear out our keyboards writing about it and revile one another over our positions on it. But despite the accusations and counter-accusations that season our debate, we ignore the home truths of marriage in this country today. The truth is, marriage has been a mess for quite some time. And homosexuals weren’t the ones who messed it up.

Homosexuals didn’t set off the epidemic of divorce in this country. Homosexuals didn’t create the millions of feral children who spend most of their time alone, raising themselves on video games, drugs and interactions with their peers. Homosexuals don’t cheat on our spouses. Homosexuals don’t break into our homes and yell and curse at our families. They aren’t the cause of the rising number of unwed births and the global pandemic of abortion. We did these things. Marriage is a mess and it was heterosexuals who messed it up.

We insist that the legal definition of marriage should be a union between one man and one woman. But we behave as if it says that marriage is a union between one man and one woman at a time.

I know that is tender for many people. I know that divorce cuts people in half and leaves them with broken hearts and shattered lives. I know that some marriages are so bitter, destructive and even violent that they have to end. I know that even if you want to hold the marriage together, sometimes your spouse won’t. I know all this, and it gives me pause writing about these things. I don’t want to pick at half-healed wounds and start them bleeding again.

But the truth is that serial monogamy is NOT monogamy. Serial marriage is not marriage between one man and one woman. And heterosexuals, especially Christian heterosexuals, have a responsibility before God to care for and raise their children, cherish their spouses and build enduring stable homes which can nurture a true family. Heterosexuals who have failed to do this are the root cause of most of the social problems we face today. They, not homosexuals, are the ones who have brought marriage to the sorry state it is in now.

I have a public track record of supporting traditional marriage. I’ve got the scars to prove it. But I think that supporting traditional marriage, especially traditional marriage in the Christian sense, means more than being against same-sex marriage. I think that as Christians we are required to look past what we’re against and find what we are for. It isn’t enough for Christians to be against same-sex marriage. It certainly isn’t enough to do as some have done and whip people up into a rage and then cash in on that rage to advance your political career. That is just cheap demagoguery.

Leadership, especially true Christian leadership, mandates that we don’t just get people worked up against something. We have to lead them forward to something. In the case of marriage, we should be for true Christian marriage and we should live that kind of marriage in our own lives. Christians must be FOR marriage as a loving, giving, living institution that cocoons young children in a world of stability, positive discipline and love so that they can grow up and create loving homes of their own.

The bond between husband and wife, as the Bible says, makes them “one flesh.” This doesn’t refer just, or even primarily, to the physical union of marriage. Sex, apart from this bond of love, is a physical act. But true marriage is a spiritual bond. The deep, life bond of trust and mutual dependence that is marriage nurtures everyone within its reach. Marriage creates not just family, but home. I  do not mean a building where you sleep. Christian marriage creates home that is a refuge from the coldness of modern life.

This isn’t a hypothetical for me. My home and my husband are the living sanctuaries of my life. I could not endure the pressures of being a Public Catholic and all the controversy and criticism that engenders if I wasn’t able to go to my house, shut the door, and be Home.

Marriage is the progenitor of life, family, emotional safety and abiding peace in this life. It is a sacrament, given by Our Lord, to enable us to walk through life together and not alone.

If we are going to “save marriage” in this country, we certainly do need to resist efforts to alter its legal definition. But we also need to begin living the sacramental love and fidelity of marriage with our spouses and within our homes. We need to do this because it is what God intended for us. Marriage is His blessing on our lives and through it we can become blessings to our whole society.


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