If youâve been around here lately, you know that Iâve been defending early marriage. Iâve been doing this mostly because I think early marriage has a generally bad reputation, and I think it deserves some respect and reconsideration. I think young people are fully capable of getting married at an early age if they are committed and well-equipped for it.
But as a result of my ongoing defense of early marriage, my discussion has become quite one-sided. I know that. One reader even thought that I was implying that he sucked for not being married yet at age twenty-eight. That was not my intention at all, but I guess I can understand why he got some negative vibes, given all my praise and attention for early marriage.
The thing is, I donât think you have to get married early to have a healthy, fulfilling or meaningful life. Not by a long shot. You donât even have to get married at all, in my opinion.
1. Getting married probably wonât make you any happier.
As Kristin from Halfway to Normal has recently discussed, psychologists estimate that only about 10 percent of happiness comes from circumstances. No kidding. The rest has to do with your natural disposition and the attitude you bring to each and every day. So if youâre miserable being single, chances are youâll be equally miserable married. Itâs because of your nature and your attitude, not your marital status. Circumstances arenât really going to influence your emotional well-being all that much.
Iâve already told you a billion times that I truly love being married. But I wouldnât say Iâm any happier now that than I was before I was married. Not on a moment-by-moment basis, anyways.Â There are splendid things about marriage which occasionally make me choke with joy but overall Iâm still pretty mopey most of the time.
The reality is, Iâm still a depressive person by nature, and I donât do a great job of being optimistic. Iâm emotionally lazy, I guess. The happiness that I do experience has much more to do with whether or not I choose to take care of my body on a given day (by exercising and eating right), or whether I choose to have a positive outlook on things (which takes enormous effort). I am largely responsible for my own level of happiness — my marriage isnât.
I do not believe that the purpose of marriage is to bring us happiness anyways, so I donât think it will help you achieve it. Marriage has other purposes that have very little to do with happiness.
2. Getting married wonât help you figure out who you are.
If you were hoping that marriage would help you to get a better grasp of your identity, Iâm afraid to tell you that it probably wonât. Most of my married friends still have no freaking clue what theyâre going to do with their lives. They donât know what career they want to pursue, or whether they have a âcallingâ in life, or whether they want or will be able to have kids. Theyâre just as confused and worried and troubled about their futures as my single friends are. They still struggle with their personal identities.
And so do Ben and I.
Sure, I know that Iâm Benâs wife and that brings me comfort. And sure, I know who Iâm going to be crawling into bed with every night as I figure out my life, but thatâs about all the additional certainty I have. And even that is prone to change because my partner is dreadfully mortal. Who knows what will happen in the next five to ten years. Who knows how much longer I will have my Ben with me.Â I canât rely on him for my identity because we still have two separate bodies and souls.
3. Marriage is not the only way to grow up.
I wholeheartedly agree with Corey from Simple Marriage when he says that the primary purpose of marriage is to help us grow up â to shape us into more mature adults. I have argued the same thing in previous posts.
But Iâm sure Corey would agree that marriage is not the only kind of relationship that helps us grow up. Marriage is one way but itâs not the only way. People who remain single will not inevitably miss out on the opportunity to become more fully human.
I do believe that intimate relationships are essential to growing up, though. So if youâre not married, or not planning to get married, I still think itâs very important for you to live with other people. Living with others will stretch and shape you into a more complete, mature human being. Living alone is not conducive to growing up, in my opinion. But living in community is.
So move in with some roommates. Enter a monastery. Participate in overseas relief missions. Travel with a close-knit group of friends.Â Heck, even if youâre married you might want to try some of these things. They will make your soul even bigger than it could ever grow with just a mate.
I believe that human connection is essential to growing up, because if you live by yourself you forget that you are not the most important person in the world. But this human connection doesnât have to take the form of marriage.
4. If you remain single, you will have more opportunity to do totally wicked-awesome things for the world.
Thereâs a reason ole St. Paul says that itâs good for a man or woman not to get married. As he puts it,
An unmarried man is concerned about the Lordâs affairs â how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world â how he can please his wife â and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lordâs affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world â how she can please her husband. (1 Cor 7:32-34)
In other words, being married takes an enormous amount of attention that could otherwise be focused on doing good for the world. If you choose to marry, you are less likely to do a truly bang-up job of helping the poor and saving the environment and stuff like that because spouses are needy and distracting. If youâre single, you are more free to pursue your passions and do enormous good for the world. You donât have to deal with a sick or whiney spouse or âachieving excellence in marriageâ or raising kids. You can do other amazing things.
Marriage is a good thing, but it is not the only good thing.
What are some other reasons you can think of for why marriage is not the answer to lifeâs problems? What are some other advantages to a single life?