A lot of couples marry every year. And a lot of them get divorced. We were in both groups - the married group twice, the divorced group once. Which means we're now married. Right?
Anyway, a lot of people who marry really should have stayed single. There are a number of reasons to remain single, and they are applicable both individually and collectively. But there's only one reason to get married.
Why stay single?
- Marriage is no cure for loneliness - When you marry, you've committed yourself to enduring a kind of loneliness worse than anything you experienced when you were single. There will come a time when you realize that you're living with a person who isn't understanding you, and who doesn't really want to understand you...and it's someone whom you don't understand...and whom you'd rather not try to understand. Being in the constant company of a person who's suddenly alien to you is far more stressful than coming home to an empty house. These desert times come with every marriage and do pass, but they take work and patience and love...and acceptance.
- It's never 'about time' you get married - Pressure from family and friends can feel pretty compelling. They can make you feel old, out-of-step, and give the hint that you might be undesirable...so you have to prove yourself by finding a mate. I've talked with many couples who ventured down this road, figuring that they could build a life with anyone reasonably compatible...they pointed to the success of arranged marriages in cultures in which such practices are traditional. Well, maybe, but arranged marriages are strengthened by that weight of tradition. The couple is playing a societal role by making it work, and deriving a visceral satisfaction from that. In the West, there's no such bulwark. "Reasonably compatible" can work with care and diligent, unselfish effort, but the stresses of life together work to reduce compatibility in the best-matched couples.
- Children are not glue - If you look at procreation as the primary reason to marry, you're taking a chance on dooming your children, your spouse, and yourself to a life or perpetual quarrels and alienation. These days, we don't "need" kids to keep the population up. We don't "need" them as old-age security. A hundred years ago or so, things were different, and raising a family provided a kind of mutual security that could override personal differences. But today...we know that things are different, and that knowledge makes all the difference. It opens a choice that's a door, that says if things get too bad we can just leave. And can they ever get bad! Babies are cute, but they grow into scheming opportunists who won't hesitate to play one spouse against the other to get their way. We're hard-wired to be sympathetic to our children, and it's too easy to fall into the trap of taking a child's side against a spouse whom you may feel is being unreasonable. Start down this road, and you'll fins more and more to dislike about the person to whom you owe your first allegiance...your spouse.
Take a chance, you may be thinking. You can always correct a mistake through divorce.
Wrong. You can end a marriage through divorce, but it corrects nothing. Divorce leaves you with the eternal need for self-justification at the beginning of any new relationship, and with a stigma. Divorced men are viewed askance as a risky proposition, and divorced women are often seen as failures - especially, and worst of all, by themselves. It takes a lot of arm-waving to get through that bottleneck, if indeed you can.
Live together first? Nice try. One of the biggest stresses in marriage is the formal commitment. You're there because you have said you would be, you took a vow, and leaving is not a casual exercise,
But if you live with someone, it's kind of an extended date. You can leave, any time, with no real consequences. That puts a couple on their best behavior, and the personal dislocation that comes with marriage comes as a rude shock.
Why should you marry?
Simple. One reason.
You should marry the person without whose company life would be unthinkable.
You should marry the person whom, if you turned away, you would spend the rest of your life looking for in crowds.
You should marry the person you'd still love even while you hated them.
You should marry the person who you wouldn't mind seeing you at your weakest, and at your worst.
We all feel braver in the evening, and more cowardly at dawn. If you can look at married life in the cold light of a new day, and still say, "I want that!", you've found the mate God made for you.