Store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven
where moth and rust cannot destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal

Friday, January 3, 2014

Friday's Thoughts on Marriage

The 3rd in a series:

"Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken, If you want make sure of keeping your heart intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an pet. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all relationships; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to the risk of tragedy is damnation.”
C.S. Lewis

One thing that years of marriage counselling has done to me is make me ashamed of men. Of course, a Counsellor doesn't get to see those men who are at the top of their game. I only see those who, well, let me just say that I've become a tad jaded and cynical about humans in general and men specifically. I, and most of the men I've met are the working definition of selfishness. To live with us is truly a commitment to more frustration than anyone deserves.

For centuries, at least in cultures that were shaped by Christianity, the most valued characteristic of manhood was self-control, even self-mastery. A man who lacked control, a man who drank and ate and caroused to excess, a man who was not fit to rule himself was certainly considered unfit to oversee any type of business or government, let alone a family. As Christianity has taken a back seat to those who deny God's existence or who are at best functional atheists, that's all changed.

Every year News Reports of reckless and self-indulgent conduct of our politicians and business leaders reminds us that sexual restraint is no longer the sign of a man of valued character. Believe it or not many say that times have changed for the better; “transmitting selfies” of one's penis to a woman (not your wife) or even a series of women gets a wink and a nod and the man can actually be reelected.

While most of the marriages I see are damaged mostly by the men, women are by no means innocent. The mantra today for both men and women is something like, “Love me as I am.” On the other hand people understand, but only dimly and in a very limited way, that if both of you want a relationship with someone who doesn't want nor demands personal change, if both of you want someone who is genuinely “low maintenance” then you are both looking for someone who essentially doesn't exist.

I have never seen a time when so many people, again both men and women who are not so much in love with the person they long to marry, or who they are about to marry, as they are in love with a figment of their imagination. They're not marrying the person as s/he is, but as they want h/her to be. Since they're are dimly aware that who they want (the perfect match) doesn't exist (as adverstised by online dating companies), people today as never before face marriage with fear. Rather than determining to treat another human-being with loving behaviours - for life - men and women today are looking for a good fit. They're looking for someone who will be compatible; a soul mate, whatever that's supposed to mean. This unrealistic set of expectations frustrates and scares everyone involved because at some level everyone sees that based upon these parameters, relationship breakdown is almost inevitable.

Rather than being a venue for character change and for building a safe place for children to grow (Biblical Marriage), marriage today is supposed to provide fulfilled emotional, spiritual and sexual desires. As a result, idealism and pessimism go hand in hand and the fear of marriage causes most couples to “play house” instead. They can neither accept the person who is before them, nor can they accept loneliness. In fact many mistake the fear of being alone with the ability to love. So they live together in a common-law relationship until someone better comes along. Strangely, Biblical marriage is shunned because it is viewed as oppressive, and then, again strangely it's traded for the oppressive, fearful and hopeless life of “we'll be together as long as we both make each other happy.” In reality, people are afraid to marry anyone too much like themselves: selfish and grumpy, someone who judges others by their behaviours while judging themselves by their intentions.

Because of the new ideas of how two people should “love” each other, this failure by design ensures that marriage is no longer a shelter from the storm. Rather it's two people waiting for the expected and inevitable deterioration of the relationship.

This simply does not need to be the case. Our quest for individual freedom, independence and “self- fulfilment” flies in the face of the reality that any relationship where real love is enacted means the voluntary giving away of all three.

On the one hand you want someone who accepts you as you are. On the other hand you know that you have flaws that need to be changed. You know that anyone who has to live with you will desperately want to change those flaws.

Biblical marriage understands these dynamics and Biblical marriage understands that without accepting this reality, we will not know what it means to be loved nor what it means to love another human being.
More on this next Friday.

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