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Last week I heard the little “pop” sound on my computer and realized someone was “chatting me.” It was an old friend who had just recently broken up with his girlfriend. After e-chatting for a bit, I decided to run one of my little theories past him. He resonated with the portion I shared and said I should write it up. So here goes…
One of my little theories on why we aren’t getting or staying married:
Most people know how to satisfy themselves sexually and emotionally. It’s enough appeasement to get by, but not to the extent another human can satisfy. The other plus to self-satisfaction is that it won’t hurt us or leave us. It’s safer.
(Or so we think.)
In voluntarily delaying marriage we tend to hang out more with the same sex; people who think and act like us. We become accustomed to this and assume most people think and act like we act. Then we get married (or try to have a serious relationship) and we start longing for “the days with the boys” or a guy who can “engage and ask questions the way my girlfriends do.”
We then open the door to “the grass was greener when I was single.” Dissatisfaction becomes a welcomed guest and we set our gender at the head of the table because we start to see ourselves as the superior sex.
It’s hard to imagine we could become this extreme in our thinking, but it’s an easy place to go when we glorify the single days.
The next step that can follow the “grass is greener” trend is concluding since we “long for bro-time” or think our man is “not how we imagined,” we somehow made the wrong decision and are with the WRONG person. We often don’t give enough grace for differences and assume compatibility can’t be achieved and rewarding with work and understanding.
It seems that with our generation, “happiness” is the end all.
We give up on relationships for personal feelings of unhappiness or boredom. As if life was promised to always be fun. We are addicted to the “new.” Some are having loads of fun in ever-changing relationships. There may be huge red flags and warning signs, but because they feel happy and are far from bored, they stay in the relationship to “just give it a chance.”
My point? Get in a really boring relationship and it will probably last.
No. This is not what I am implying. I think relationships are life-giving and can be God ordained to help us experience life to the fullest. Romantic or otherwise, we see scripture point towards the necessity, growth and symbolism of being in relationship. What I think our generation needs to work harder at is moving away from the addiction to new and focus on the now with a hope for later.
NEW: The art of thinking there always has to be a better model.
(I once had a boyfriend say to me, “I tend to upgrade with each girl I date.” Talk about making me paranoid and insecure!)
NOW & LATER: The art of thinking introspectively (without becoming narcissistic) and looking at the big picture of how current decisions will affect life later. Then acting accordingly, even if it is contrary to one’s feelings (or lack of feelings).
We often point our fingers at our parent’s generation who stayed in “loveless” marriages for 30 years and then divorced. But is that justification for us getting divorced after two years because we don’t want to do what they did? Growing up I always heard, “Joy, two wrongs don’t make a right.”
We can think it is more authentic to divorce and break up after a couple years because we “deserve to be happy,” or we can choose to be a different generation than the last. I know “hard work” can’t be the answer for dark, sinful, abusive relationships…that is not what I am promoting. But for those of us who are simply in “un-fun” seasons of life, looking for the world to make us happy, then I hate to say it, but we will probably die alone.
First, we need to have our ultimate hope in Jesus, because humans will always fail us on some level. Second, unless we choose to believe that working and committing could produce happiness and fulfillment different than our single days, we will always give up and go back to the safety of like-minded friends and masturbating emotionally and physically. We will be seemingly satisfied, but very much alone.
“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us,
like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine
what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
– C.S. Lewis
Do you agree?
Why do you think we are delaying marriage or divorcing so quickly?
How do you think infinite joy is different than happiness?
Name: Melissa Bent
Location: Boise, ID
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Love and Respect (Now) is a division of Love and Respect. Please be considerate.
I’m coming up on my 4 year anniversary with my saint of a husband, and since I’ve proven to be sooooo good at being married, I’m thinking of writing a book to share with other, less mature people about how to be as good at marriage as I am!
SIKE!!!!!!!!! Like, duh. I was totally joshin’ ya.
I haven’t been doing this very long, but I’m telling you, I’ve gotten majorly bored like 15 times already. Like, I was really asking myself “why do people get married at all?” And so I thought, I guess the only thing left to do is settle for boredom for the rest of my life. That thought lasted about .5 seconds because then the voice of my dad (who’s been happily married for 28 years) popped into my head and told me, “Make your own fun, Bubba.” Wise words. I think boredom is often a fleeting feeling we choose to indulge in, like a grown-up form of pouting. But instead of trading up via divorce for someone who stimulates you more than the person you’re committed to, buy a slip ‘n slide or join a book club together. Bake Paula Deen’s mile high apple pie. Do the deed every night for a month. Paint each other’s portrait. Audit a class at a university. If boredom is biggest problem in your marriage, you’re a blessed person who just needs to make your own fun, Bubba.
Good post, Joy.
One more thought, I think too many newlyweds (especially Christian ones) get married and nearly abandon all their same-sex friends because they think their spouse should be able to fulfill all their needs. Then they realize they indeed married someone of the opposite sex , and they really start to feel like their spouse is inadequate. (Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything, psh.) Hang on to those girlfriends, ladies. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
I love this C.S. Lewis quote! I am seeing such an attitude of entitlement and searching in our generation. Most things considered, I agree with your theory…but I do have one thing to add. I think that there has also been a very selfish move towards making relationship decisions alone. By this I mean, not thinking critically through marriage decisions with family (or not listening to their concerns) and not putting the relationship on God’s alter, letting Him give His approval. Our generation is all about happiness and new adventures. We are addicted to new, lacking in contentment.
Kelly – You always make me laugh and everything you said was right on in my opinion and great advice. I would also like you to paint MY portrait. GO!
Audrey – I agree with your addition, in fact I feel like I usually land on that point in most of my Ask Joy videos and feel like I am starting to sound like a broken record. I’ll just keep saying it though because it’s Biblical.
Traci – I agree with your Happiness and Joy comment whole heartedly. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.
Kelly- SO true! My husband and I like to say, “Only boring people can get bored.” Also, there is so much to be said for fellowship with women too, while still making your husband a priority. Another danger I have seen though is when boredom sets in, they start popping out the kids. Sure, they will get an adventure and a lack of boredom, but will their discontentment still linger? I dare to say that our culture starts breeding a heart of discontentment and prepping for divorce when we jump from boyfriend to boyfriend starting in Jr. High. We don’t have to be patient or bored, so why would we ever learn to just chill? We mistake commitments for a lack of freedom.
In the book, Just Do Something (about Decision Making and the Will of God), Kevin DeYoung says that we are a generation of “tinkerers”. He says,”We tinker with doctrine, girlfriends, boyfriends, majors, living in our parent’s basement, and spiritual practices”. Highly recommend the book. Short, practical convicting and freeing.
Marry for holiness not happiness sounds line the worst advice I have ever heard. Have we come to the point where to have sex we must get married or even worse are we not strong enough, so get married so you don’t sin??
Secondly, why are so many Christians getting divorced?Because that is what is expected. What if you enjoy the time spent with your friends? What if you like dating and meeting new people? Does God not still love you?
I can’t speak for your generation (which is not mine), but I think this sounds spot-on: “What I think our generation needs to work harder at is moving away from the addiction to new and focus on the now with a hope for later.”
But I’m not advocating for early marriage, or marriage for everyone! I married too young (22) for the wrong reasons, then we spent a decade trying to make the marriage work before getting a divorce.
The key, I think, is knowing yourself—the person God created you to be, as an individual—and not looking for happiness in the wrong things. That’s where the addiction to newness comes in, I think. We keep thinking the next relationship or move or job will make us happy.
By the way, Joy, have you read the book Stumbling Toward Happiness? It’s really brilliant. It speaks to some of what you’re saying in this post.
I don’t know if I fully agree. I think a majority of the problem is that we are so much into the business of making ourselves happy, that we don’t find joy in other’s happiness. We have a generation that’s been told that we ‘deserve’ more. And how many of us have just been babied so we can’t take criticism even in a healthy manner? So people disagree. Someone makes a harsh comment and this time they don’t apologize. Or maybe the never did, they generally were just extra nice for a day. Someone reads a novel, watches a movie or commercial, or hears one story of how someone else proposed and wondered, “why doesn’t my spouse love me like that?” Someone responds to a lack of physical intimacy with a lack of emotional intimacy. All the while our selfishness makes it harder for us to love or let people love us. Meanwhile, our society says its fine, that you deserve to be happy and the best route for happiness is starting anew.
We have a hard time accepting that a lot of our relational problems are based in ourselves.
Not saying that we don’t enter relationships with someone else that is holy and perfect. Its just easy to take their crap and be the judge of how you feel they should be treated.
Anyways, meh. It all gives me a headache and makes me angry and sad at the same time.
But one more thing- on the marrying for holiness, I kind of think that’s a crock. I don’t think that Jesus pursued me because “its the right thing to do,” or He would be a better God by doing it. I think (and I believe its biblical) that He loved me and pursues me because He wants me to be around Him (not that I deserve it.) Marry for love, marry for lust, marry for friendship or because you’ve been set up and you accept that lot. Marriage, if you are committed to following Jesus, will be the best vessel for holiness on earth; if you are marrying first for holiness, I feel sorry for your spouse and I think you’re probably going to end up a little farther off target than you expect.
My pastor once said, “We think marriage is intended to fulfill us, make us happy, when really God uses marriage to perform a ‘self-ectomy’ on us. Marriage teaches us that it cannot be all about ourself and our self desires.” I love that! Marriage is fulfilling! But, there is so much more to it. Perhaps we see things backwards sometimes.
Dana – Great question…no one has to get married, but logically you can ask yourself, “do I want to get married someday or not?” Dating only to have fun would probably be something Proverbs may allude to as foolish. I think you are coming a view of Christians who date and take it WAY too seriously. They assume on a first date they should know if it’s “the one.” You should have fun, but seek to find a balance and be honest with yourself and what you are doing—keep the people you are dating in mind as well…
Kristin – Thank you for your encouragement and sharing. I am checking out that book at your recommendation!
Keith – I am not sure what you disagree with that I wrote? Can you explain? Maybe I did a poor job of saying that I think this is one area that prevents us from getting/staying married but I don’t think it’s the only.
Josh – I haven’t read Gary Thomas’s book but I know the premise and I know the book has helped a ton of relationships. I think where people who haven’t read the book probably get caught up is that they think by saying marriage is for holiness that we will have to suffer through marriage. End of story. Mike alluded to this, but I don’t think that’s what Thomas is saying. However, as Christians we know scripture says that if we marry, we will have trouble. (1 Corinthians 7:28) I think that’s what our generation is shocked by…we were expecting marriage to fix our problems. I think I like the C.S. Lewis quote so much because there is a difference between JOY and HAPPINESS. Happiness is making mud pies, but Joy is a deep satisfaction (as Traci mentioned) and peace that brings a result that most want from happiness but can never attain. I think this equates to what we see people wanting through dating tons of people or the constant new, all the while unaware of the deep satisfaction and joy that can come with marriage. It takes a bit more work, but the reward is great.
Audrey – “Self-ectomy” …I like that. Any relationship: friendship, family, dating or marriage should cause us to take a closer look at ourselves if we truly are in relationship.
love it. we haven’t finished reading the book yet but have been enjoying it so far. i think there’s a lot to say about making your marriage worth something (@kelly). i also think there’s a lot to say about protecting whatever that formula for fun/faith/growth is.. there’s merits in the work.
this post made me compare being a newly wed to senior year of high school when everyone had so much potential ahead. some people just stay in high school mode forever (@buddy garrity and every dillan panther alum) and life, goals, maturity, and comforts peaks at 18. it’s kind of sad, not exciting, like marriage on life support, but maybe joy is in the eye of the beholder.
i know, that could be a tagline for your own perfume line some day.
Oh. my. My head is spinning from all the comments. So let’s see what comes out of the vortex . . .
I’m coming from another generation, so keep that in mind as you read. Just thought I’d put that out there. 😉
We don’t all choose to put off marriage. For some of us a serious dating relationship has eluded us. It hasn’t been a choice to NOT get married. Once most of your friends are married, hanging out with your married guy friends isn’t quite the same—especially if you don’t have history with their wives. Yes, you can build new history, but it generally involves ALL of you which eventually (in my life) leads to becoming a better friend with the wife. My guess is it’s the same for guys—they don’t normally spend a lot of time hanging out with their married female friends without it being couple time. So—all that to say it’s not a simple choice to delay marriage and just hang out with members of the same gender.
As I reflected on divorce via boredom, my first thought was, “We are sooooo spoiled! If boredom is our biggest challenge, we’ve become a generation of gilded whiners.” Sadly, I think this is a real problem for many couples—marriage isn’t as exciting as they thought it would be. When I was in high school my uncle (who was divorced) told me, “Marriage is dirty underwear on the floor and dishes in the sink. It’s not Disney World.” My grandmother corrected him with, “When you’re married to my husband it’s Disney World!” My grandparents faced multiple hardships (what might be considered insurmountable obstacles for some) and chose to find joy in each other and their life together. I think the key is they chose.
Divorce wasn’t easy in any sense of the word in my grandparents’ day. Perhaps by allowing divorce to be easy we’ve allowed smaller challenges to become big reasons.
Your conclusion that we have to choose and commit to a new different is spot on.
The whole marriage and holiness thing—I like the “self-ectomy” thought. I once had a pastor who defined holiness as total otherness. If a major function of marriage becomes removing self, well, that seems to be becoming totally other. In my mind that’s movement towards holiness.
Thanks for starting a great conversation!
lack of loyalty perhaps too? we are a culture without loyalty. We are not loyal to each other. We are not loyal to our jobs. We are not loyal to God. We are not loyal to churches.
One of the things I value most about my husband is that he is loyal. That is a characteristic I so value in people, it is something I’ve tried to work on in my own life too. It just doesn’t seem like something that is a norm in our culture anymore… I dunno…whatdya think?
Josh – Please create a mock up of that perfume line and I will look into financial backers. I want it on my desk by Friday.
Sheryl – Great insight. I know this is simply “one” of the aspects I see in my generation, not “the.” Part of my reason for being single is probably partly that theory, but the other part is that there is simply no man in my life. So I agree, sometimes it’s a choice, and sometimes it’s not a choice, but sometimes I think my generation has overlooked great “choices” because of their discontentment. One thing that defines the millennial generation, is our notion of entitlement. We often think we are the best, so we deserve the best. High standards are good, but when it causes us to think we are better, it will end up biting us big time.
I would love to know the story of your grandparents journey & marriage…
Jenny – Welcome home from Africa! While I think many people have “loyalist” as a part of their personality make up, I agree…a majority of this generation is more into having, being or knowing about the “new” instead of being proud of anything that they have come from or has shaped them. (At least that is what I have observed.) It’s now affecting our relationships.
Does your husband have a brother? jk.
I have a new question for you to jump off on. So many of these answers have been addressing the beauty of marriage or what it takes. But the one issue I have is that you are married of course you have to say that. Maybe not all of you are but most of the comments are about how loyal your husband is or what a saint. Which is great! The real question is what if you don’ t have anyone to marry, what if you can’t find that right person. Does that mean that you can’t be holy, that you can’t serve God just as well? Do we all have to be on the path of marriage?
Dana – I was going to see if someone else wanted to jump in and answer you, but I’ll give it a shot first.
We know that scripture calls all people to imitate Christ and “be Holy as I am Holy.” (1 Peter 1:16) It’s not a marriage thing or a single thing. What we are saying is that culture has affected many Christians to think that marriage will make them happy – end of story. Some people are now trying to come to terms that it’s for happiness yes, but not first and foremost. We choose to trust there is a deeper purpose of marriage since there are seasons of unhappiness.
Do we all have to be on the path of marriage? No.
What is the alternative? How do you think, as a single man who desires to be holy, he should live his life (especially in relationship to women) if he does not intend to get married?
I think that we all can read scripture the way we want to and make things easier on us. I think first and foremost God wants us to serve him. He wants us to wash the feet of those around us, just like he did for us. He died for our worthlessness or unholiness but we have to be careful not to live like that means we have a free pass. I totally think that we focus too much on things like do you drink? do you sleep with your girlfriend? Do you cuss? Instead of encouraging people to serve, to help, to work for others. We need to live a life that is focused on Jesus but with the knowledge we won’t ever be able to do it!!
Dana – I agree with what you have said. If we don’t focus on our love and desire to serve Christ, then our obedience will only come from a place of legalism.
Do you think I was using 1 Peter to make things easier on married people or single people or what? And please do answer my previous question if you get a chance…
Just because you feel the church has gone too extreme on one end, does that mean you ignore the instructions you think have been wrongly interpreted?
You sound very bound by rules you have heard. Remember you are free. No one is telling you what to do. Only you are responsible for figuring out if you believe scriptures instructions are for your freedom or your restriction. Get in scripture and figure out what you hear Him saying. Live for him, not for the world or for man.