"Just Wait Till You've Been Married Longer..."
BY TANNER TRIBOULET
I have spent my whole life in the church. Couple that with the fact that I have always attended a Christian private school, and you can understand that most of what I have learned in life has come from people that claim the name of Christ.
Marriage is one of the things I learned about in the church. My Christian parents have been married for 30 years, and have always been faithful to each other. It goes without saying, with a great example like that to grow up with, I learned most of what I know about marriage from them. If it were not for them, I wonder if I would be able to have a healthy marriage with my wife, Kara. I wonder this because I discovered something very troubling about marriage when we got engaged.
Kara and I were 21-years-old when I popped the question. This was one of the happiest times of my life; it was like a dream. We began to talk about what life would be like together, what we would do, and who we could be as a couple. We began to think about what God could accomplish through us as a couple, and how we could impact the Kingdom of God through our marriage. As the news spread about our engagement, the dreams were met with negativity and dismay.
As we returned to our everyday lives we found that not every person thought our situation was exciting. People felt it was their duty to tell us that our future marriage will not always be great. I would excitedly tell my coworkers and managers about our recent engagement, and after the expected congratulations were given, startling comments emerged. Even more startling, I began to hear almost the same exact comments from those in the church I considered to be godly couples.
I started to hear comments like, “Well, enjoy this moment while it lasts, I wish my husband and I got along as well as we did when we were engaged,” or “Just wait until you have been married 20 years like I have, and you will not be as excited as you are now,” or, my favorite, “Wow, but you are so young, you should live your life more before entering prison.”
Taking all of these comments together, it seemed as if there is a magical period at the beginning of a marriage where we would be expected to get along well and love each other. Eventually, that period would certainly end.
As a male, this was magnified for me in some ways. I wish I would have tallied the amount of times I have heard the phrase, “Happy wife, happy life.” I have heard this mostly from other married men. Many who said this seemed to be genuinely warning me to never “get in trouble” with my wife, as if she were my mother or guardian.
I began to wonder if my opinion as a husband was negligible, and my very existence as a husband would be making sure I didn’t make my wife angry. As I began to dig deeper and ask questions about this, men would tell stories of coming to realize that as a husband, “the woman is always right.” I was told this as if it was a fact; that as a husband I was always wrong. It seemed that it should not matter how I was to be treated or what I thought about something, as long as my wife was happy.
Kara would constantly be told to expect her husband to be stupid and unloving. Christian women would tell her the ways their men were too helpless in things like cleaning, cooking, and raising children. She would be told to expect a day when it would simply be better to do all of those things herself. If she could even “convince” me to help out, I would not be able to do them as well as she could.
She would be told there would come a day after the "warm fuzzies" were gone that she could expect her husband to care more about sports than her marriage or raising children together. She would come back from women’s ministry events and tell me about the women sitting around the tables complaining about their husbands and even laugh about how little they were capable of around the house.
I understand what the “honeymoon phase” is. I understand the heightened emotions and "warm fuzzies" that are involved with an engagement and a new marriage. I understand that these warm, amazing feelings will not be present for my wife and me in every moment of our marriage and life together. I understand that we will fail one another at times. I understand that to expect a perfect marriage is unrealistic. I understand that many comments were made with the intention of helping us not to expect marriage to give us all of our fulfillment in life, and I am thankful for that.
But what I do not understand is the attitude most, even Christian couples, have toward marriage. I do not understand why the holy unity that is to represent the very relationship Jesus Christ has with His bride, the church, is home to some of the most negative and ugly comments I have ever heard in the church. I do not understand why godly people in my life would be negative about marriage instead of telling me how my marriage could be used for the Kingdom of God.
I do not understand.
"I do not understand why godly people in my life would be negative about marriage instead of telling me how my marriage could be used for the Kingdom of God. "
What I know for certain is that God cares about marriage. We see Scripture affirming this fact. We see God design the foundation of it in the story of creation. We see laws in the Old Testament that were meant to protect marriage. We see the New Testament use marriage as an illustration of the relationship that Christ and the church have. We see that when Scripture teaches and gives commands about marriage, it does not call it a prison. We see that instead of a union built on negativity, our marriages can be a tool to share the gospel with people who do not yet understand how much Christ loves them.
As followers of Christ, we have one of the greatest tools for evangelism and encouragement: our marriages. In a culture that often sees marriage as something terrible, we are called to shine the light of Christ. We are called to love our spouses, to mutually put their needs before our own, to mutually drive each other deeper with Christ, to mutually love, respect, and serve each other as Christ and the church do. We are called to both happy wife and happy husband.
Fiancés and spouses: we have a choice. We can continue to let marriage in the church be no different from the world, or we can begin to set the example. When we meet the newly engaged and the newly married, we have a responsibility to help them use their marriage for Christ. Let us encourage these to have not perfect, but fulfilling, enriching, and light-shining marriages.