Why get married? Are there good reasons for marriage? Or is marriage just an outdated institution?
Yesterday we were talking about some of the troubles people can get in when they first marry because we marry thinking that marriage will meet all our needs, and we have some really unrealistic expectations.
But I don’t want to give people the impression that marriage doesn’t matter or that marriage is awful. On the contrary–there are very good reasons to get married, and I think marriage is wonderful (when we do it right!)
It reminded me of a post that I ran a little while ago, which I’m going to edit and update today and run again for top 10 Tuesdays, because I think it’s important.
So let’s answer the question “why marry”?
I received this question from a young reader:
You’ve probably read that millennials really don’t feel the need to marry. I know this is a pro-marriage blog, but what would you say to those who just think marriage is outdated, pointless, and really only about God “approving” a sex life? With all the definitions of marriage changing (like gay marriage, etc), why get married? As you well know through your blog readers, most marriages are unhappy (and saturated with adultery, porn, sexless, abusive) because everyone goes into them believing you can be in love with and sexually attracted to the same person your whole life. I just don’t know that it’s realistic no matter how much everyone wants it to be. So should we as Christians be striving to be more like Jesus and Paul instead of wasting time worried about sex drives and kids and not dying alone?
That sounds like my kind of challenge: showing people that marriage IS worth it!
She’s saying that since marriage is so awful, wouldn’t it be better for Christians to focus just on ministry rather than marriage and motherhood?
If God calls you to that–sure! But I don’t think God calls most people to be single.
So here we go: my Top 10 reasons to get married.
Please share yours in the comments, too!
1. Why marry? Most marriages are happy
Despite what our reader may see around her, despite what our news media says, despite the startling number of celebrity divorces–most marriages are quietly happy. In fact, here’s what Shaunti Feldhahn found when she did her research for her book, The Good News About Marriage:
When Shaunti asks people, “What percentage of couples do you think are happy in their marriage today? Not perfect, but not just so-so roommates either?”, she has never had anyone answer higher than 50%.
And younger people tend to answer lower.
The answer is 80%.
That’s right–80% of couples rate their marriages as happy. Surveys consistently find that between 92 and 95% of currently married people would marry the same person again.
And the divorce rate? It’s nowhere near 50%. It never has been. The divorce rate for first marriages is around 28%, and for Christians it’s between 25 and 50% lower than that. So for Christians, the real divorce rate is around 15-20%.
(I’m quite passionate that people need to understand that–read Shaunti’s book for all the reseach. Let’s get the word out about the real divorce rate!)
The idea that marriages are miserable and failing is a cultural myth. It is simply not true.
And not only are most people happy; most people, when asked “what is your greatest source of happiness?”, answer “my marriage.”
So if most people are happy, and most people would rank their marriage as their greatest source of happiness, why would you risk missing out on that because you believe a lie that our culture tells us that marriage is miserable?
2. Why get married? Commitment makes relationships happier
And why are marriages so happy? There’s something about commitment that changes everything.
You can love someone and not be married. But when the relationship is ONLY based on feelings, then it’s almost as if the relationship is always under scrutiny. “Is he making me happy? Is she meeting my needs?” When feelings change, the relationship is no longer worth it anymore. This makes it much harder to bring up genuine issues, because then the whole relationship is at stake.
But when there’s commitment, it’s easier to work on problems. You know the other person isn’t going anywhere. And that’s why marriages tend to grow and remain much more stable than any other kind of relationship.
3. We grow when we’re married
Just because something takes work and there are ups and downs and there are times when we are angry and times when we are lonely does not mean that marriage is bad. In fact, I think marriage is far more powerful because it takes work.
When I married I couldn’t hide my selfishness anymore. I couldn’t hide my pride. Someone else knew everything about me–and quite frequently it was my selfishness and pride that was the roadblock to real marital bliss.
So why did God make marriage? Maybe it was to make us more like Him!
4. We were born to want to be with someone else
When God created us, He created us for community. He said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18).
I just finished reading Debra Fileta’s True Love Dates, which is a great book. At one point she’s discussing the guilt that we often put on single people, telling them, “You need to let God meet all your needs.” Sort of the “let Jesus be your boyfriend” mentality. Here’s what Deb says:
Your longing for an intimate relationship with another person is something you were created to feel. It doesn’t mean that you are unholy or that you haven’t let Jesus fill your heart the way he should. It means you’re human, created in the image of God, a God who loves, who connects, and who longs for relationship himself.Jesus can never be your boyfriend or girlfriend because we was never intended to be. A significant part of your heart was designed specifically for just him, but there is a part of your heart that was designed specifically for others.
Some people are called to be single; absolutely. 1 Corinthians 7 clearly says that if we are content to be single, we should be–in order to dedicate our lives to serving God wholeheartedly. But most people are not called to be single. And we were created with this intimate longing to be with other people. That longing is not bad. And marriage is the vehicle that God made to fill that longing.
5. You have someone who KNOWS every story
It is such a blessing to walk through life with someone who knows everything about you. Sure, it makes you more vulnerable. But it also means that you have inside jokes. You have someone who understands your pain. You have someone who simply notices you.
I think this is one of the most powerful statements on marriage in any movie, from Shall We Dance (the really good stuff starts at 34 seconds):
6. Great sex in marriage is God’s design
Certainly some people can turn off their sex drives, sublimate their sexual energy into service for God’s kingdom, and live a fulfilling single life.
But God did give us sex drives.
And His design is for great sex in marriage. In fact, that’s how great sex works! Sex is supposed to be intimate physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And here’s the neat thing: the more spiritually and emotionally close we feel, the more the physical kicks in and the more sex feels great.
That doesn’t mean it starts out great. In the research I did for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, only 20% of women had “good” wedding nights. But by years 16-20 in marriage, things are really rocking for most of us!
So why marry? Well, married, Christian women have better sex than single women–or even married women who aren’t believers.
We may not start out great, but as we get to know each other better and become more vulnerable with each other, sex gets much better.
So don’t believe the lie that we can be sexually incompatible. Great sex just takes work–and that’s part of how marriage makes us more Christlike, too!
7. Marriage opens up doors for ministry
Of course when we’re single we can do things for God that would be much harder when we’re married–and perhaps almost impossible if we’re parents. A close friend of mine was involved with rescuing child soldiers in an African country I won’t name. He couldn’t have done this had he not been single.
But that doesn’t mean that only single people can do ministry! The apostle Peter, after all, was married (and his wife was crucified with him). Priscilla and Aquila are an example of a couple who evangelized together.
Marriage opens up doors for ministry because sometimes you need to be a team.
My husband and I have been on missions trips to Africa together. We’ve led a youth group. We’ve led a ministry at church. We’ve taught Sunday school. We’ve spoken at marriage conferences. We’ve spoken at parenting conferences. We’ve done a ton together.
But we’ve also done a ton separately. And now he’s the one driving our RV while I speak around North America, because there is no way that I would drive that thing!
We’re all called to ministry, whether we’re single or married. Sometimes people read 1 Corinthians 7 and think that it means that only single people dedicate their lives to God. Not true! Married people can serve as well, and often in places where a team really is necessary.
8. You have someone to share the load
Parents get older and need care. The furnace breaks down and somebody has to be there to let the repair guy in. You slip on ice and break your foot and you can’t make meals or do laundry for six weeks.
Life is easier with another person alongside you.
When you’re in your twenties you don’t realize this as much. But as you get older and health problems come, and you own a home, and your parents start to get older–you realize how much being part of a team is easier than trying to do it all yourself.
9. Having children is the greatest blessing of most people’s lives
Do some kids rebel and make your life miserable? Sure. But most kids don’t rebel.
Just like we believe the lie that all marriages are miserable, we often believe the lie, too, that parenthood makes you chronically tired, miserable, and heartbroken. Oh, and broke.
Sure there are busy seasons. Sure it’s expensive. Sure it takes a ton of your time. But if you ask parents what their greatest source of joy is, they’ll tell you it’s their family. Even though it makes them tired, costs them a fortune, and makes them worry.
So there must be something there other than just the work. And there is! It’s the simple joy of being a mother.
Don’t discount parenthood because people around you seem to be frazzled. If they would do it again–if they keep having kids–there must be something profound that is worth all that work. And there is!
10. Finally, why get married? Because Marriage Is a Miracle
Let’s explore this letter writer’s assumptions just a bit more. She believes that the reasons to marry aren’t valid because marriage makes you miserable. That addictions and adultery are inevitable. That life with one person is impossible.
But if that were true, then we would expect married people to show detrimental signs, and single people to be better off.
The opposite is true. Married people do better on every scale.
In the book The Case for Marriage, Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher lay out all the research on marriage, and show that it has tremendous benefits.
For men, getting married has the equivalent health bonus of quitting smoking. It adds years to your life.
Getting married also drastically reduces mental health problems. You’re healthier. You report higher rates of happiness and lower rates of depression. Your kids do better on every scale. You live longer. You make more money. You have a lower chance of heart attacks and strokes.
In short, marriage is a miracle.
So why get married? Because it’s one of the greatest gifts that God ever gave us.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t take work. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to be careful who you marry. It doesn’t mean that every marriage will be wonderful.
But it does mean that marriage, as an institution, is worth it.
Just because our society has muddied the waters when it comes to marriage does not mean that we should throw it out. On the contrary! Why would we miss out on one of God’s greatest blessings just because our culture has made it seem ugly?
I have not always been happy in my marriage. The first few years were tough. The last few years have been a hard slog. But I can tell you that my life is richer because I am married. I am a less selfish person because I am married. I have a bigger ministry because I am married. I have so much joy because I am married–and because I am a mom. And yes, I’m even sexually satisfied because I am married! So don’t believe everything out culture tells us. Believe what you know is true.
God made something beautiful for us. Let’s never dismiss it.
What do you think? What are some of the reasons to get married that you think are key? Let me know in the comments!