Marriage: It’s Not About You
I was listening to an audio conversation online recently between a few pastors. They were discussing how they didn’t enjoy doing weddings as part of their pastoral duties because the focus was always on the bride and groom or frivolities of the wedding party. Narcissism and the ideology of “This is MY big day!” were very common annoyances for them. The services were often rushed, and people seemed to expect it to be all talk about the couple and their life, sans Jesus.
This even applied to religious couples who were looking to get married in the church. They wanted to control the service so it fit with their “dream wedding.” Their priorities were on the quality of the production, not the God who had blessed them by bringing them together. The pastors were rightly irritated that couples were stepping into the church to get married but not expecting to hear Jesus preached during the ceremony and service.
These pastors knew what many don’t, married couples included: marriage isn’t about you. Marriage is a mirror of Christ and His Bride, the Church.
A Christian marriage should be centered around Christ and point us to His Sacrifice for His Bride, not an expensive wedding, a perfect social media presence on a joint Facebook account, or what the husband and wife wants. These petty focuses are fleeting, but a focus on Jesus is not.
Unfortunately, this is offensive to many. The truth usually is. Those couples who do operate with Jesus as their priority are often ridiculed and scorned by our modern culture. In a world of full of an emphasis on disposability and “fun”, endeavoring to stay together through thick and thin and making sacrifices for each other is abnormal. Staying in a relationship when things aren’t fun, in sickness, for poorer, etc., is contrary to the idea that relationships are about your enjoyment and pleasure rather than loving and serving your spouse.
Society has made interaction between people about power, or rather, a power struggle. No interaction is more strained by this than that of the relationship between men and women. Someone always has to be the oppressed(women) and the oppressor (men). Even if this social conditioning doesn’t prevent a marriage, it can destroy it from the inside out.
I learned this the hard way as a newlywed and small town transplant in a big liberal city. The friends I “made” turned out to be narcissistic leeches who had targeted and befriended me with an agenda. Shortly after I became pregnant, they laid plans to convince me that my husband was abusive and would physical injury myself and my son.
This all began because they heard me ask my husband if I could spend some time at a friend’s house. I consult him on all my decisions, including what I post on social media and when I go out with friends. Not because I have to, but because I respect him. They took this to be the ultimate offense towards my autonomy, feeding into their “evil patriarchy” ideology. I assured them that he was not controlling me and that our relationship was quite stable. They calmed down, for a time.
After our son was born, my husband asked me not to post breastfeeding photos online. To say they lost their minds is an understatement. They spewed their “my body, my choice” rhetoric and told me that exercising my “rights” as a woman meant that I had to post breastfeeding photos, especially if my husband asked me not to.
The worst part happened when my husband and I developed NICU PTSD after our son’s neonatal intensive care unit stay. While they coddled me, they treated my husband as though he was weak and pathetic for having it. They believed that him having the condition was fuel for their case for me divorcing him. When I said I didn’t want a divorce and that he and I were both interested in counseling, they told me I was brainwashed by the patriarchy and that I should make plans to go to a women’s shelter because my husband would probably snap and kill us. Some empowerment, huh?
Their desire to ridicule how our marriage operated and fabricate lies about our home life led me to cut off contact with them to prevent our family from suffering from their deceit. Their inability to handle how a healthy marriage works, with love and respect, while extreme, is indicative of how our culture sees marriage.
When love, respect, and sacrifice are abnormal in a society, there is a problem. We’ve lost sight of real love, the kind Christ modeled for us, and until we learn to emulate it again, marriages will continue to focus on the temporal rather than the eternal.