Danielle Bean, a wife and mother of eight, is editorial director of Faith & Family magazine and author of My Cup of Tea, Mom to Mom, Day to Day, and most recently Small Steps for Catholic Moms. Read more of her blogging at Faith & Family Live and DanielleBean.com.
Is marriage unnecessary and restricting?
Hannah Seligson, author of A Little Bit Married: How to Know When It’s Time to Walk Down the Aisle or Out the Door, suggests that more and more modern couples think so:
“There is now a huge gray area between dating and marriage—it’s a place where men and women are forming long-term relationships that have many similarities to marriage, yet aren’t quite. It’s the place beyond the point of being just boyfriend and girlfriend, but not married. These are relationships that 50 or 60 years ago would have most likely culminated in marriage, but today are just part of the relationship experimentation that’s endemic to many people’s twenties and thirties.”
Ultimately, Seligson concludes that unrealistic expectations, fear of divorce, long career paths, deferred adulthood, and ready access to birth control add up to plummeting marriage rates. The longer couples wait to get married the less likely they are to ever tie the knot.
I once heard actor Will Smith interviewed about the success of his 13-year marriage to Jada Pinkett. In his response, he emphasized the fact that divorce is not an option. He shared that when he sees other couples go into marriage thinking that divorce is a possibility, he always thinks: “You’re getting divorced!”
I think he’s right. In my experience, it’s very common for couples, no matter how happily matched, to go through tough times in which they would seriously think about divorce—if they considered it an option.
If couples live together instead of getting married, when the inevitable tough times arrive, of course they will break up instead of sticking it out.
As a consequence, what used to be a natural progression from dating to marriage has now become a pattern of serial relationships. These relationships mimic marriage in some fundamental ways—living together, sharing finances, even having children together. But all of them lack the fundamental foundation of a committed relationship and of course the relationship-saving graces that come with the sacrament of marriage.
If you expect a human relationship to be flawless and make you eternally happy, you are setting yourself up for disillusionment.
Only God never disappoints. Only grace can save relationships when human weakness mucks them them up.
We can pretend and we can play house, but in the end, there’s no such thing as “a little bit married.”