It’s in the news a lot these days…at least here anyway. Richard Land, the head of the SBC and the apparent guy for go-to quotes on socioreligious lifestyle changes, seems to think that
the growing number of unmarried and single-parent households [are] the result of a “30-year experiment into whether fathers are optional accessories in the raising of their children.”
I’ve been married for twenty years next month. We’ve been a couple for nearly twenty-two years. More than half my life. (And you have no idea how much it delights me to say that.) And I will tell you why marriage fails.
It fails because it is hard.
Don’t get me wrong; I love being married to this man and I wouldn’t trade that partnership and lifestyle for all the money and greek yogurt in the world. But we have been through a lot of stuff together. For much of our marriage it has seemed like that bit at the end of Shawshank redemption where Tim Robbins crawls through the sewer pipe. We have crawled through the excrement of two recessions (one right as we married and relocated to a strange city), several bad jobs, a few good jobs that placed demands on our time, infertility, financial crises and the mainstay of my life–sickness.
For several generations raised on the fairy tale of “happily ever after”, this is not how it is supposed to go. We’ve got people so drunk on fantasy that the abject and random awfulness of reality drives most of them to pull up stakes. I remember one day when I’d been married about four years, and I was watching a movie. I worked swing shift, my husband worked nights. We seldom saw one another and our lives had become a struggle to find a way to pay all the bills and still have enough money left over to have a fun date once a month to White Castle.* In this movie I saw a couple portrayed as passionate and fun-loving and untouched by trouble. Since I was the only person in my social circle who was straight, let alone married, I felt like a failure for having a marriage that looked like mine–as opposed to a marriage that looked like the made-up movie version.
Nowhere is that fairy-tale version of marriage sold so strongly as within the Christian church. Very rarely have I heard couples talk about their marital struggles openly. When I pick up Christian Fiction–as I’ve been doing a lot lately–there is an overwhelming amount of romance that belies the true nature of a covenanted life together. We, too, are drunk on fairy tales.
My marriage is the happiest place of my life, and it is a living, breathing thing that the two of us work on constantly. But it IS a job. A job that at various times has demanded a sacrifice of other things. Until more people are honest about marriage–about describing it as a process instead of an end result–we’ll never see Marriage succeed again.
*When people ask me how I feel about being over forty, I only have to remember my twenties to embrace this age with gusto.