I am writing this post because I desperately desire to restore my enthusiasm for the daily pleasures of life. Every time I go on special dates with my boyfriend, every time I squeal in excitement in public (whether from stubbing my toe, or getting a new book), my ring finger is checked. Why is it assumed that women should be happy only if they are engaged or married?
Attending a Christian college is another issue. “Wow. Five years dating? I couldn’t do it. I would have broken up with him, not that you should, but that’s what I would have done” says the girl who is either engaged to her boyfriend of three months or notorious for dating all the men in __ (fill in the blank) __club. Good for her.
Yes, I have been in a relationship for nearly five years. No, I’m not engaged. Yes, this means our relationship is an “if.”
Does this make me upset? I think it would take a very sturdy woman– specifically a robot– to not to be upset about the lack of engagement. If not a robot, then perhaps a woman both comfortable and not enthusiastic about her boyfriend would be O.K. without having a ring. So, I could reason that it is “healthy” to sabotage my boyfriend after a few really good dates this far into our relationship: “See? We really know each other! We love our lives together! Let’s seal the deal so we can go on a honeymoon, move out, and have babies together! But, no pressure: your choice.”
While administering blunt hints is one of my specialties, I am regretting my reliance on them. I never thought I would be the woman pressuring a man to marry. I was actually very scared of marriage/commitment for a long time. It has taken me a long, long time to recognize that the man’s mind is much different than mine, and therefore I must think outside the box to gain an understanding of men. To be excited about marriage is new territory that I am still learning to navigate. It is both intriguing and terrifying at the same time.
In the last four, quick years, I have learned so much from my boyfriend. I have learned everything from how to hug to why I should get a four year degree. I have not regretted any of the challenges, the sacrifices, the lessons I have learned in the last four years. I am amazed how much I can grow by maintaining a relationship with one person. I am convinced that even meeting five people in the same time would not have taught me as much as I have learned in my long-term relationship: I have appreciated both grace and sacrifice more than I would have had I jumped to easier relationships and circumstances. I have also renewed my faith that it is possible to have a best friend as a boy, and to become homesick. I was never one to be homesick, until I studied abroad in Nicaragua in 2008 and couldn’t talk with my boyfriend more than four times a week.
However, I’m learning that there are much more effective ways than blatant pushing to work toward marriage. And, more importantly, to maintaining an excitement for the future whether or not there is a spouse in the picture. After all, you can only control yourself. Don’t ever date assuming you can change the other person: he or she is not a project.
First of all, let’s get some things straight on what marriage is not. Marriage is not an item on a to-do list. Marriage does not solve loneliness or financial burdens. Marriage does not create happiness. Marriage does not necessarily improve your ability to love. Still want marriage?
In my opinion, and extensive research (because I have to analyze EVERYTHING that I believe) marriage is an extension of a dating relationship: a commitment to accountability, faithfulness, and responsibility for one person; and a covenant with God.
Extension of a dating relationship:
If you are in a relationship right now, how much do you like how things are going? Do you respect one another? Do you share values? Can you have fun and be serious together? How do you handle conflict and responsibilities? Could you live with the same topics of discussions and the same annoying habits of that person day in and day out? How about that person’s budget? However your relationship is now, it will be the same in marriage, only amplified.
Where you go, who you see, how you spend (time and money) is held accountable to this person. This should not be a “ball and chain” accountability. Are you excited to share these things with your spouse, or does the thought of their reactions terrify you? Maintaining this communication and honesty is what will make or break your relationship.
Marriage is not only joining your lives together, but joining your families together. Not to say your families need to be a perfect match, but you should make sure you have healthy relationships with your family before you try to create a family of your own.
Covenant with God:
Marriage is God’s idea, meant for one man and one woman: the ultimate intimate relational experience. God created woman for male and male for a woman (Genesis 1: 26-27; 2: 18). Marriage is the second highest honorable relationship, the most challenging course, it is meant to be reflective of a person’s relationship with God (the number one most esteemed relationship), or the relationship with God and the church. This relationship is about patience, sacrifice, choice. Marriage is simply an option, not a command: the pressure to marry is off. Take your time.
When you choose to marry, you choose to serve this person with God accountable. Just like a relationship with God, marriage is a daily commitment: you need to work to keep a healthy relationship. It is not something to take for granted, but instead a relationship to be celebrated and cherished daily—for better or for worse. This is a big deal.
So you want to marry your boyfriend? Learn more about how God loved the church, pray about it and live by your values even if it means breaking off your relationship with your boyfriend.
Faith in the future:
Know how I said that marriage does not solve loneliness, ability to love, or contentment? I believe that those are God’s tasks, not any humans. God can use people to fill that void in your life, but it is not necessary. He designed you, and he alone knows your purpose and what makes you tick. God’s grace is sufficient for you to experience that unconditional love. For this reason, you can have a satisfying life despite your relationship status.
But you need faith. This is something that I, and most likely every single woman who watches romantic comedies, struggles with. It’s amazing that I can claim to believe in God, but ignore his promises, when his promises respond to our deepest desires. Just think if God met our desires, there would be no shoving other people: no reliance on circumstances for joy. You would have it after you asked for it.
Here are places to dwell when worrying about your relational status or your future:
“Be anxious in nothing…and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (not JUST a graduation verse)
“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
““Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7
“He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity, and honor.” Proverbs 21:21
There might be “ifs” when it comes to people, but not with God. And that’s where faith comes in.
And so, I’m not worried about the future, at least not when I consider all that God has blessed me with in the past. This is great news, especially since it will slow the hints toward marriage, clog the importance of social deadlines, and guarantee a hopeful future for myself.
If I marry my boyfriend? Wonderful! If I live with integrity and eventually have to break up with my boyfriend? It would be heart-breaking, as I am not a robot, but I know that living by my values is ultimately what would bring me life.