Why Marriage?

I can still remember the moment.

I was lying on the floor of my childhood bedroom. Home from college for something-or-other. The floor was covered with discarded clothes, shoes, and other sundry items. I was lying on my back, holding a gray landline phone with a curly cord in my hand up to my ear. And I was smiling so big. We were tentatively talking about what we called 'The M Word' for the very first time: Marriage.

What if we get MARRIED?!

We were so giddy. Big smiles. Nervous energy. Such excitement.

That was just the first time we talked about 'The M Word'; we talked about it more and more after that. By the time Caleb was planning on proposing, he was completely sure that I'd say yes. Because we had talked about it enough times.

But for me, that giddiness, that excitement, slowly morphed into a different experience of anticipating our one-day-to-come life together. As I waited for him to propose, I mostly felt vulnerable. 

He knew that I would say yes when he asked. He got to plan and think and dream about proposing. Where and when and how.

But all I could do was wait.

A lot of times that vulnerability of waiting felt terrible. It felt like I was hanging out there eon a limb, having put my heart and my emotions and essentially already my 'yes' but there was no commitment in between us to protect and shelter it.

For me, that story is a great picture-answer to the question 'Why Marriage?' Why get married? What's the big deal with having a wedding and saying vows? Isn't living together the same thing?

No. It's not the same thing. At all.

Marriage is a commitment. It's a promise, a covenant, to stay together no matter what. When you're living together, there's no covenant binding you to that house, that relationship, that person. There's no safety or protection for giving everything you are to someone else if there's no covenant, no commitment. It's always a game of insecurity: Am I good enough? Can I make my significant other stay? That's such a rocky place.

In a relationship, whether it's dating or engaged or married, there are three aspects of the relationship that should always be on the same level: commitment, emotional sharing, and physical intimacy. 

When people are living together, the emotional sharing and physical intimacy aspects of the relationship are very high. But that commitment level is way down low. So that creates an unsafe, unhealthy basis for the relationship.

Or imagine two people who barely know each other, who haven't emotionally shared past a superficial level, but they are physically intimate and/or they have verbalized intense commitment levels (i.e. 'I love you,' 'We'll be together forever,' 'When we get married...' etc). That's also unhealthy, and a recipe for dissatisfaction and lack of true love.

The three aspects should always stay at the same level. As the emotional sharing starts to increase, the commitment needs to increase, and the physical intimacy can increase. But it should all be gradual and slow. And when it comes time to get married, when physical intimacy will be at a high level, commitment will be the safety and security that will protect the intensity of that aspect...and emotional sharing has to increase to a very high level where the one you've given yourself to, and covenanted to stay with forever, also knows you at a very deep, 'un-clothed, un-hiding' level. 

The commitment of marriage, the covenant, is what makes a safe place for the other two aspects to thrive in a healthy way. Without that commitment, there can never be true health, or true safety in that relationship.

That's 'Why Marriage?'