Faithlink Discussion: The State of Marriage
by Jacob Juncker
As is my custom when beginning to write, I googled the topic: “the state of marriage.” Most of the top search results dealt with the debate over whether or not, by law, the LGBTQ community can legally wed. It is not my intent for us to discuss that here. But, I do want us to consider what marriage is.
Jesse and Grover’s conversation is great and Grover’s analysis at the end is a great place for us to start: “…its a lot in the marriage, isn’t it? kissing, hugging, friends, helping, all that stuff. Ya. Well, I guess that’s what marriage is about.” While those things are all true, if marriage is really that simple, then why are there so many broken marriages? If marriage is about supporting one another and being friends, why are there so many lonely and unhappy spouses? Maybe there’s something more to marriage…
In a recent article in the New York Times, entitled The Happy Marriage is the ‘Me’ Marriage, Tara Parker-Pope suggests, based upon recent research, that the happiest marriages are ones that encourage self-expansion: growth in personal knowledge and experiences.
While the notion of self-expansion may sound inherently self-serving, it can lead to stronger, more sustainable relationships, Dr. Lewandowski says.
“If you’re seeking self-growth and obtain it from your partner, then that puts your partner in a pretty important position,” he explains. “And being able to help your partner’s self-expansion would be pretty pleasing to yourself.”
The concept explains why people are delighted when dates [or spouses]treat them to new experiences, like a weekend away. But self-expansion isn’t just about exotic experiences. Individuals experience personal growth through their partners in big and small ways. It happens when they introduce new friends, or casually talk about a new restaurant or a fascinating story in the news.
adapted from The Happy Marriage Is the ‘Me’ Marriage (published in the January 2, 2011
issue of the New York Times (New York edition), on page WK4.
Chandra and I have been married for 2 years, 6 months and 29 days (Yes, I looked at a calendar). In that time, we’ve lived in five different houses/apartments in two states. We have mourned the loss of no less than five close family members; went through the high of being commissioned in the Indiana Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and the low of finding out that we will never naturally conceive a child. We have been through one IVF cycle with it working and then not working and welcomed with great joy a newborn foster child into our home (she’s now over 6 months old). We have experienced a lot of life together–more, I would argue, than some of our older and longer married peers. From my experience of being married, Grover and the NY Times are spot on. Marriage is about hugging, kissing, being friends and helping each other. It is about self-expansion and being a better person for your spouse. Yet, there is one thing that both Grover and the NY Times failed to mention: marriage is a commitment to love your spouse “as long as you both shall live.”
Marriage is a covenant made between two individuals to love, comfort, honor and keep one another, in sickness and in health, as long as they both shall live. This is the covenant we make when we enter into married life.
When I think about the state of marriage today, I find that the biggest “threat” to marriage isn’t who enters into it, but rather the self-centered and instant gratification craze of our time. A marriage cannot survive if a spouse, let alone both of them, is worried about self before spouse. The NY Time’s article has a misleading title. The happy marriage is not the “Me” marriage.” No. The happiest marriage is the “we” marriage: when both spouses recognize that they are bound together in sacred covenant to live life together. When something threatens that togetherness (self-interest and self-gratification over the needs of the other), the bond of marriage becomes threatened.
Below is the song Chandra and I danced to at our wedding. It’s a great reminder of the commitment we make in marriage. Marriage is a covenant that is meant to last “forever,” but it takes work. The wedding is just a day, is what Chandra and I were told in our Engaged Encounter weekend, a marriage is a lifetime. It involves self-giving to your spouse: putting their needs before your own. It involves self-expansion, hugging, kissing, being friends and supporting one another “forever.”
Below are some great web-resources on marriage:
“Honey, I’m Sorry” from Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage
Laugh Your Way Ministries with Mark Gungor
Marriage Encounter, the United Methodist related-one (Encounter is a worldwide, cross-denominational program)
Retrouvaille is a weekend retreat for marriages in serious trouble
MakeItLast.org is an organization in Southern Indiana which provides resources for people in all stages of their relationship: dating, engaged and married.
An important note
If you are experiencing abuse from your spouse, your spouse has broken their marriage covenant: to love, comfort, honor and keep you. You need to contact a professional immediately. If you are in the greater Lafayette area, contact the YWCA: Domestic Violence Intervention and Prevention Program. Their “Domestic Violence Hotline” is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 765-423-1118.