Last week, a number of my Facebook friends shared a post by Russell Moore titled What I’ve Learned in Twenty Years of Marriage. Since this article was getting so many great reviews, I had to read it for myself!
Though he has some good points, I found myself becoming more and more concerned as I read. Though I cannot be sure how he intended this article to come across to others, many people seem to be receiving it as though couples should marry as soon as they know (or think they know) who they want to marry – and also as though marrying young is preferable to marrying older (i.e., after college and becoming established in a career).
My biggest concern is that some couples who are very infatuated with each other, but who do not understand the intense self-sacrifice marriage requires, may read this article and use it as a green light to jump into a lifetime covenant without knowing themselves, each other, and the magnitude of the commitment they are making.
The author states (and I could not agree more), “One can prepare oneself to be a husband or to be a wife. But one can never be really ‘ready.’” Yet, it seems what some people have taken from this article is that you dive into marriage regardless of any negative circumstances and just make it work.
Though marriage is filled with obstacles, we must work through with our spouses. Diving into it without considering such questions as: “How will we take care of ourselves?”, “Do we know each other well enough to commit to marriage?”, and “Do our God-given gifts and talents complement each other?” is ill-advised.
We all know one or two successful couples who met and married quickly without much thought or preparation; but, we also know many more couples who approached marriage hastily, struggled through painful divorces, and wished they had not rushed into matrimony without giving the decision proper consideration. Proper consideration does not mean putting marriage off for years.
Consider these thoughts:
- Though we can never be fully ready for what’s coming our way, we should be willing to hear advice from others who have gone before us. We should garner necessary skills (basic money management, basic home management, communication and conflict resolution skills, etc.). We should know (through His Word) what God expects of us as husbands and wives. And, we should prepare to be a spouse (i.e., determine to be selfless and fully devoted to each other come what may) before we get married. Wise people prepare for the future, even though every nook and cranny of life is not revealed to them up front.
- Note: Moore does not say that he and his wife did nothing to prepare. He only says that he did not wait until he could afford it, or until he was ready. No one is ever fully ready for what life is going to bring; however, that does not negate the need to sufficiently prepare. God’s word is filled with admonitions to prepare (I Peter 3:15; Proverbs 24:27; Matthew 24:44, etc.). If our marriage is to be the most important relationship we have outside of our relationship with God, why would we ever jump into it without counting the cost and preparing while thinking “we’ll resolve our issues later… you know, after marriage”? We prepare for careers, presentations, and sporting events. So why would we ever neglect preparing for our sacred roles as husband or wife? We are never fully ready for our first day at a new job, a presentation in front of hundreds of people, or a marathon either, but we still prepare for them.
- Though he and his wife struggled financially when they got married, he did not say that they had different views on money, that they fought over how to spend money, or that they had no income source. Eric and I don’t recommend putting off marriage until everything in life is perfect (it never will be); yet, we strongly believe couples should have similar views on money management, should be self-sufficient (i.e., not depending on parents or others for income), and should be mature enough to delay gratification. This is because the #1 cited reasons for divorce in America today are money fights and money problems. The author notes that they had nothing, but he does not state that they depended on other people to pay their bills. If I had to venture a guess, I would say that he and his wife worked hard and God was faithful to meet their needs. But, they were probably fairly united in thought about how to handle money together from the beginning; otherwise, it would be likely their marriage would have been much more fraught with problems than is indicated in Moore’s piece.
- A young marriage is not, by definition, “better” than a marriage united later in life. Couples who get married young without a dollar to their names are not necessarily holier, less selfish, or more worthy of emulation than couples who meet in their thirties and forties. Many of my friends have been faithfully serving God and have not yet met their husbands. Should they have run off and married just anyone? Obviously not. When they do marry, I believe God will bless their unions if they seek to honor Him with their marriages. And, no matter how old they are when they marry, they will never be fully ready. ~smile~ One of the exciting parts of relationship coaching for me is hearing different couples tell their personal stories. God has so many awesome ways of bringing couples together! From the couples who meet in high school to the couples who meet through friends in their late thirties, each relationship can be a “foundation marriage” if the couple treats it as such. Young people can get married and merge their separate lives. Such an attitude towards marriage is not saved only for those who are older and established in careers. At the same time, older couples can surrender their independence and become “one flesh” – regarding their marriage as a covenant and not solely as a partnership – in order to fulfill the specific call God has on their union.
- He knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that “the girl from Ocean Springs” was who he wanted to have and to hold for the rest of his life. In other words, though he was not ready for everything married life would bring him, he did not enter into marriage lightly. He was devoted to her for a lifetime. Marriage, whether you are young or older when you enter into it, requires a lifetime of selfless devotion, forgiveness, and perseverance. Till death do we part. This shows a strong commitment and deeper maturity which younger couples often do not have. So, it is not comparing apples to apples when comparing his advice given his relationship and maturity level to his advice given to the average American couple.
You can check out Russell Moore’s article here. Though he was not “ready,” it is obvious that his reasons for getting married were sound.
Eric and I have worked with a number of couples over the years – some who were mature and decently prepared for the road ahead, and others who needed to grow more before getting engaged and tying the knot. None of these stages are bad, it is just that one comes before the other – and, age is not an indicator of maturity.
When you become parents, begin preparing your children for the God-given spousal roles they will have when they marry. Teach your sons to lead, to work hard, and to provide. Teach your daughters to be resourceful, to run a home, and encourage them to value education whether formal or informal. There is far more to being a helpmate than cooking and cleaning! ~smile~ Your future sons-in-law, if they are wise, will look to your daughters for advice and help in multiple areas of life.
For those of you who are getting married soon, consider completing this exercise: co-author a letter to yourselves to be read on your twentieth wedding anniversary. Talk about the dreams you have, where you plan to be in twenty years, and anything else you want to tell your older selves. Chances are your life will turn out differently than you plan. However, you will gain insight as to the lives each of you want to proceed toward. As you read your letter together in twenty years (if you did happen to get married), you can enjoy a good laugh and some heart-warming memories as you reminisce about the early days.