PLEASE DON’T GET MARRIED UNLESS…
© 2021 by Philip A Matthews
Don’t know if it’s just me and my circle, but it seems like marriages are failing at an unprecedented rate nowadays. The other day, I heard that at least three of my young kinfolks’ marriages have fallen apart, each after just a few months or a couple of years. More people are skipping marriage altogether, not wanting to risk what seems to be almost inevitable failure. Some marriages you can tell at the wedding are doomed to failure. We could go into all kinds of statistics and stuff, but why? That won’t really help the problem. So, after 48 years of marriage and being a wedding officiant, marriage counselor, and virtual life coach for most of that time, let’s try something that might actually help—a warning and a couple of suggestions…
I. A WARNING: “PLEASE DON’T GET MARRIED, UNLESS…”
Unless you are willing to first prepare yourself, get healed, and make it possible for someone else to live with you and find happiness. We all know—your family, your friends, your co-workers, and yourself—that you are an impossible mess, and it will take a special person (actually, non-existent!) to put up with you and all your baggage! You are a child of dysfunction. Your mother spoiled you, and you have a serious problem when things do NOT go your way. Or, your father (or uncle) sexually abused you, so you now find it impossible to trust men. Or, one of your control-freak ex-boyfriends stalked and dominated you, and that’s why you can’t trust men. Or, you never had a father, so you’ve never seen it modeled how a healthy man-woman relationship even looks. And as a young man, you’ve never seen anybody ever treat a woman with love and respect. Furthermore, you’ve never seen any kids ever treated with love and respect by their parents, so all you know is beat downs, verbal abuse, selfish parenting, and horribly broken people trying to get rid of you as soon as you turn 18.
Still, you found this beautiful person who makes you finally feel like a person of real worth, who swears they love you, and who claims to want to spend the rest of their lives right next to you. Also, like most human beings, you have a deep-seated desire to love and be loved, to have someone to call your own, to finally find that elusive perfect relationship that brings that happiness everyone is longing for but hardly ever finds. Your own brokenness seems to find solace in their brokenness, and together, against the whole world, y’all can figure out how to make this thing work. Besides, it’s already working like a charm sexually, so that easily deceives you both into thinking that you two are soul mates, destined by God to be together for life, to raise beautiful, successful kids, and all the rest of the fairy tale. “A marriage made in heaven,” definitely worth the $20,000+ you’ll spend to have the “wedding of your dreams.”
And you believe this because you are under the idea (actually, a cruel delusion) that a successful marriage depends mostly on IF you marry the right person, then everything will work out smoothly and you two will be together for life. So, if things do not work out, then obviously you married the wrong person, and you need to cut your losses and start looking again for that “right” person.
But has it ever occurred to you that you yourself are too broken and wounded, too undeveloped and immature, too selfish (i.e., too narcissistically in love with yourself), too insecure, too ignorant of how a good marriage is supposed to work (because you’ve never seen a good marriage, definitely not a happy one!), and too afraid to permanently commit to something that hems you in when things get difficult and unpleasant? How can you possibly expect to live in harmony and happiness with another narcissistic, wounded, broken, ignorant, immature, commitment-fearful human being? Wonderful times of romance can happen with any couple, but beautiful marriages simply don’t happen between broken people. WARNING: PLEASE QUIT FOOLING YOURSELF!
SO, PLEASE DON’T GET MARRIED UNLESS you yourself are ready to be healed from your brokenness and transformed into a WHOLE person! The truth is that if you are broken, then it doesn’t matter WHO you marry: Your marriage is going to be broken also! If you are nothing but a piece of a man, and she’s a fraction of a woman, then you two together will still NEVER make a WHOLE partnership! It’s impossible—mathematically and relationally!
But the world keeps trying it anyway. The millions of failures are giving marriage a bad reputation. A couple of examples:
- A co-worker said one day, knowing what she knows now, she would never get married again! She loves her husband and all, but…
- A niece posted a survey on her Facebook page, asking men why they don’t want to get married these days. Dozens of responses reflected the same sentiment: It’s way too dangerous because it will probably not work out and “she” will take all my stuff when we get divorced!
II. TWO SUGGESTIONS
So, these are my two simple suggestions. Take ‘em or leave ‘em. No apologies made. Seen too much hurt and too many broken hearts and busted dreams to beat around the bush anymore:
- Analyze yourself and your partner. If you are already going with someone, convince them to go take the PREPARE/ENRICH® Premarital assessment ( https://www.prepare-enrich.com/ ). Or take the SYMBIS Assessment (Save Your Marriage Before It Starts--https://www.symbis.com/couples/). These analyses, while not perfect, will reveal many of the weak spots in you, your partner, and your relationship. They will reveal your lack of confidence; the dominance (desire to control) of one partner and the avoidance or unhealthy submissiveness in the other; the effects on you from your parents’ alcohol or drug use, abuse of you, or family separation; the amount of stress you are under and what causes it; your ability to communicate effectively and to resolve conflict; the presence of unrealistic expectations; your emotional stability; your ability to adjust to changes or your inflexibility (also called stubbornness); your level of commitment; and many other revelations regarding traits that are necessary for a successful relationship.
For individual analysis, SYMBIS has a $20 personal assessment, Yada! (https://www.yada.com/), that will help you get to know yourself in over nine different categories. You should also take the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Survey (https://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/), to discover how your prior traumas and upbringing have affected you. Your view of yourself, others, and the world is determined by your childhood experiences. And your behaviors and attitudes are determined by this view. You should also take some trauma-informed counseling sessions to teach you methods to heal. There are both secular and spiritual methods to heal. This is one such website: https://aceovercomers.org/.
What is very obvious now, if not before, is that almost everybody is very wounded by the time they reach adulthood, and it affects them emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually, sexually, economically, and in every other aspect. We are products of our upbringings, and although we might look beautiful and handsome on the outside, especially when we’re young, we can be completely devastated, damaged, and dangerously destroyed on the inside—completely unseen. E.g., why are millions of American kids taking drugs for depression and self-destructive behaviors? Why do so many 20- and 30-year-olds suffer from depression and addictions? And, believe it or not, millions of people have become demonized from their traumas and need spiritual deliverance. Some suffer more than others, but this is the truth: NO one is “normal” anymore! But we never think about that. We just see that beautiful girl and that handsome young man and decide that they are our soul mate, so let’s get married, never realizing they are a basket case!
But marriage was made for—and requires—“normal” people. Whole people. Self-sacrificing people who can deny themselves and their own gratification to love another. Mature people who can commit themselves unconditionally for another’s well-being. Honest, trustworthy people who don’t play games to protect themselves by defrauding their spouses. People who can forgive the faults and mistakes of another—over and over and over. People who are in control of themselves and their emotions. People who are actively growing in their maturity, not stuck in some infantile stage of arrested development. Increasingly, the world is missing such people. Which brings us to the second part:
- Develop a REAL relationship with God and allow Jesus Christ to TRANSFORM you. As I said, I make this suggestion unapologetically. I won’t spend any time trying to prove that for the last 2,000 years, belief in Jesus Christ has undoubtedly brought transformation—of character, of desires, of behavior, of thoughts and attitudes, indeed, of life itself—to literally billions of people. IT WORKS! Forget about all the hypocrites you know: They might not even know Him. Most people are cultural Christians anyway ("CHRINOS, Christians In Name Only"), and comparatively few actually know God and allow Him to drive and control their lives on a practical, daily basis. Forget about all the questions that you think are unanswerable: He will reveal answers to you. I myself was one smart dude, I thought, with lots of deep theological questions and objections that I just knew no one could ever answer, thinking myself too smart to fall for the “foolishness of the Gospel,” as the highly intelligent Apostle Paul called it. BUT GOD… has answered almost all. He has radically changed my life, like nothing else could do!
And in the process, He has completely HEALED and TRANSFORMED me. He will transform anybody. He can turn a selfish, narcissistic person into a self-sacrificing person. He can make a very proud, stubborn, “hard to get along with” person into a humble, cooperative man or woman that you can live with. He can convert a dishonest, scheming, sneaky boyfriend into an honorable, trustworthy husband. He can release you from all your deepest FEARS and insecurities that DRIVE your life in negative ways and make you able to trust Him—instead of being a chronic control freak. Then you can afford to love other people when you are no longer driven by your own desperate neediness and fears. He will remove addictions by removing the very cause of the addictions. Fear, hatred, insecurity, inability to love another unconditionally, unforgiveness, resentment, indeed, all negative attitudes and behaviors, God can change. He will change you from the inside out. Despite how much dysfunction you grew up with, He can make you WHOLE. Believe on Jesus and commit your life to Him today! Talk to Him, confess your sins, and surrender your life to Him, as He is truly only a prayer away!
Furthermore, God is the ONLY Source of AGAPE LOVE—an “out of this world” love—the kind of love He Himself had for us in sacrificing Himself in the form of Jesus Christ, to save us from sin and ourselves even when we were His enemies choosing our own downward paths. God’s love for us depends on HIMSELF, NOT our ability to earn or be worthy of His love. This kind of love, God's love, “has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). When we RECEIVE it, we are enabled to GIVE it—and only then. And it never runs out! Because agape is unconditional and endless love, agape in both partners makes marriage permanent, soul-fulfilling, and happy. Without agape, you will run out of love, forgiveness, patience, and commitment under certain conditions, threatening to kill your marriage. Agape empowers you to treat others like God treats you, under any and all circumstances, and every marriage has quite a few of these trying, relationship-threatening situations. Poor marriages are based on human love that says, “I’ll love you as long as you act lovable.” Why? “Because my love for you is actually nothing more than loving the nice way you make ME feel. I'll scratch your back as long as you scratch my back.” THAT is really nothing more than being in love with yourself! Good marriages are based on unselfish love.
THIS is the kind of person you want to be and the only kind you want to marry. Anything less, you are asking for trouble. Take your chances if you dare. Nothing new. People have been doing so for millennia.
God bless us all.