Getting Married for All the Wrong Reasons

My husband and I have been married for 13 years, and we’ve spent 10 of those years in “ministry.” During this time, we’ve seen the most unlikely relationships blossom into beautiful, fruitful marriages; we’ve also witnessed the disintegration of more marriages than I care to think about. And that’s nothing to talk of the pain and confusion we’ve experienced in our own. It’s no secret that our society struggles with sustaining faithful, happy marriages. And yet, no one wants to go through a divorce; no one enters marriage with the goal of simply exiting it. As a result, there’s a lot of competing advice about what you should do prior to marriage in order to make yours successful. Some folks tell you to wait until you’re “sure” and others advise getting married young. Truthfully, though, I don’t think the problem is when we get married so much as why we get married. A lot of us are getting married for all the wrong reasons.

So, if you're not married already, here are a few things to consider:

1. Do not get married simply to get married. For some folks, the idea of marriage is more important than the individual they are marrying. Do not marry a woman because you want to be a "husband;" and please, do not marry a man simply because you want to be a "wife." If you want to “play house,” buy one of these instead.

2. Do not get married because you don’t know what else to do with yourself. Back in the day, we called it “senioritis”—that mysterious illness that descends late in college and leads to the unexpected pairings of those not already invested in a serious relationship.  Now, I realize that trends change; fewer and fewer folks are getting married right after college. But the phenomenon still exists. Folks reach a point in life where they’re not entirely sure of the next step so, in lieu of patience, they commit themselves to the most demanding and significant decision Of. Their. Entire. Lives.

3. Do not get married because it’s expected. Maybe it’s pressure from family or a church culture that idolizes marriage. Maybe it’s the notion that says once you begin a serious relationship, you can’t leave it. In a day when weddings are a $161 billion industry; when planning one takes upwards to a year; when deposits are signed, reservations made, and announcements sent months in advance, it takes a lot of maturity to walk away from a troubled relationship before walking down the aisle. It’s also exactly the kind of maturity you’ll need once you do.

4. Do not get married simply because you’re “in love.”  By “love” I mean that complicated feeling of attraction and desire that may or may not be based in reality. While I’d never encourage someone to marry without it, attraction alone is not enough because attraction can be rooted in a whole host of factors, including the fact that someone doesn’t challenge us or push us outside our comfort zone. The truth is that we tend to “love” people who “love” us regardless of whether we’re good for each other or not.

5. Do NOT get married to fix something in your own character.  Over the years, I’ve discovered that this is by far the worst possible (and I mean, the very worst possible) reason to get married. Maybe you’re a man struggling with sexual temptation and you believe that marrying a “good” girl will somehow solve it, that somehow her purity will make you pure. Or maybe you’re a woman desperate for affirmation so you marry the first man who gives you a second glance. Here’s the problem: you take your issues with you into marriage. Simply changing your relationship status will not solve them; another person cannot solve them. Only Jesus can. And while He may choose to do it in marriage, He doesn’t need marriage to make you holy.

If you’re like me, you might have gotten married for some, if not all, of the wrong reasons. Thankfully, God is bigger than our mistakes and His grace is kinder than our failures. He’ll use your marriage for good. Because here’s the thing: ultimately, marriage isn’t only about us. It’s about something much bigger. Marriage is one way that God is reconciling the world to himself. It is one way he is making “every sad thing come untrue.”

So why should you get married?

You should get married if God leads you to someone with whom you can make this world a better place--a better place than you could alone.

It’ll be someone who shares your goals and values. It will be someone who complements your weaknesses and who already exhibits maturity and faithfulness. It will be someone who’ll work side-by-side with you to cultivate your place in this world and nurture the generations to come. And it will be someone you can trust to grow old with you. Because, when it comes to marriage, there's a rumor that the best is yet to be.