Alright, this is a leftover bit from my rant from last week. The question you may want to ask yourself before “why date?” may be “why marry?” Let’s take a brief overview of what it means to get married, what you are really in for. Things begin when you exchange one gift (singleness) for another (marriage). Actually, I could spend some time talking about that because as is, singleness is typically viewed as a curse, something we have to endure until we reach the “promised land” known as marriage. Let me tell you, that was a rough transition for me because I really enjoyed being single. I had plenty of friends. I was able to go out (and more importantly, be alone) when I wanted. And I was busy. In other words, I led a full single life. I think having a lot of interests, a sense of belonging/community, and a lot to do (the free time to minister as I felt led, for example–which I don’t have now, not because I don’t have the desire, but because my wife and kids would like to see me on occasion and they are the prime demanders of my time). Belonging and busyness are probably the secrets to being fulfilled while single.

I could be wrong though. Either way, I digress.

Marriage equals a loss of freedom. Suddenly, you are accountable to another person. Not just accountable, but expected. Expected. As in someone would like to be with you, invading your space all the time, and expects you to be there. Presence is a powerful thing to get used to. Don’t let anyone fool you: none of us know what we’re doing. As singles, we spent a lot of time and used up a lot of brainspace figuring out how things would be when we were married (the hardest dream to let die was the idea that marriage meant “sex all the time” – apparently the thing that married people do together most is watch tv together). Good, think about it, but just realize that the reality may not be what you thought it was.

Heh. One of the stories that my wife still recounts (with just a hint of bitterness if you listen closely enough) is how long it took me to get used to the idea that I wasn’t living life on my own anymore. Apparently, and who knows, she remembers these things better than I (with just a hint of bitterness if you listen closely enough), I used to randomly leave the house without telling her. She’d be talking to me one minute, I would remember I needed something at the grocery store and leave. Something I used to not think twice about. Until I got back home.

I’m still thinking about it.

With a hint of bitterness.

If I listen closely enough.

But I digress. And she’s not going to think this nearly as amusing as I do. I’m not saying that this was one of the first, and often painfully learned, lessons of my marriage in the first few months. I’m just saying. Before I got married, no one asked me where I was going, who I was going with, or when I would be back. On the flip side, no one cared either.

With marriage, your privacy is invaded on a scale that you haven’t seen since you were forced to share your room with your sibling. Your sin is fully exposed. Hey, I thought I was a pretty good guy until I got married, because there was no one around to see me all the time or tell me otherwise. I never realized what an ass I could be until I had another person around me all the time. (That’s not entirely true. I did have a pretty good idea, it’s just nothing you put on your dating resume.)

Marriage is a lifetime commitment. That’s forever for at least one of you. Marriage is a sacrifice of yourself for the sake of another. You surrender your personal rights as you strive to please another (I Cor. 7:32-34). Marriage is risk. There is no guarantee of happiness or fulfillment. You are always vulnerable to heartache or heartbrokenness. No one can hurt you the way, nor as deeply, a spouse can.

Marriage is work.
Marriage is work.
Marriage is work.

And you know what? Sadly, I have seen some wrong reasons folks have thought of as reasons to get married:
-tax breaks (though don’t get me wrong, that is why I decided to have kids)
-to make a home
-to have sex or children (as if that is the sole purpose of marriage – remember, there is always television)
-to end or prevent loneliness (marriage is no guarantee of that: there is nothing worse that being lonely in a marriage. At least when you are single, you can theoretically do something about it).

For the record, marriage:
-will not (necessarily) end your aloneness
-will not (necessarily) fulfill your needs
-will not solve your problems (note that I didn’t qualify that one)
-is not God’s plan for everyone (listen up church!)
-will not solve your lust issues (the one thing that NO ONE ever tells you when they throw the I Corithians “better to be married than burn” passage at you)

Basically, any reason outside of being with the person themselves is bad.

Let me come back to our idea of singleness vs. marriage. When did marriage become a reward? Seriously, when did we start acting like God was punishing us with a time of singleness to make us appreciate marriage when we got it. It’s that mindset that leads people to say things like, “one day, you’re time will come.” Are you freaking kidding me? If I’m my wife’s reward for something, she needs to be doing some heavy repenting. There’s no point in pursuing dating as some sort of mission to fall in love if most folks don’t even have a realistic view of marriage. I maintain that the idea of romantic love was one of the worse things to happen to marriage. People (women, there, I said. I ain’t scared of you.) have unrealistic visions of what dating should be. You spot each other from across a room. There is an instant, if unadmitted, chemistry. There is an exchange of witty banter, followed by a chase/hunt that triumphs over misunderstandings and adversity. Most of us expect to enter into marriage via falling in love with someone who makes our toes dance, who makes us tingle. Too often “falling in love” amounts to setting up alters to ourselves: when we lose that tingle, we think that something’s wrong or it is time to move on because we are no longer fulfilled or having our needs met.

Believe me, I wish that we as a culture respected marriage as an institution a lot more than we do. When we start tossing around phrases like “starter marriages” or when some countries have begun treating marriage like business contracts (people enter into marriage committed for X amount of years, with the option to renew), I can’t pretend that the unrealistic view of marriage is somehow limited to singles in the church.

You fall in love with an ideal, you divorce the reality.

A person’s “charming quirks” become irritating traits that become the daily bane of your existence. That most wonderful of women becomes a nagging lump. That man you spent hours just thinking about, you now try to forget the stunt he pulled last night. Her wit becomes biting sarcasm. His suave dress doesn’t match the streaked underwear you have to pick up and wash.

In other words, you better not be a damsel because we certainly ain’t knights.

[Since this is leftover ranting, I will link to a friend of mine for some added material. “Dear friend … I validate you.”]

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Since I don’t know where you are reading this, the best way to guarantee me seeing your comment is to post on my message board. Or simply drop by to say hi.

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ADVERSTISEMENT

If you do decide to take the plunge into marriage, you’ll need to start off with some dating. Finding a date can be a time consuming process, unless you use an online dating service. When you decide to use an online personals website it’s important to use a dating website that has many search options that help you refine your search by things such as age, location and whether they smoke or not to help make sure you bond on the first date.