I am fascinated by human relationships, particularly romantic ones. I have been thinking about them for as long as I can remember , but this summer I started doing more “research” so to speak, and this trip has had me thinking about romantic relationships more than normal. (This is most likely due to the fact that it seems that 90% of the tourists are couples).
It is a somewhat common idea in the secular world that “monogamy isn’t natural.” I actually think this may be true: if you define “natural” as easy. See, one of the primary things that I have been focused on and trying to figure out is the best way to make a healthy, exciting, fun, fulfilling, and peaceful relationship last longterm. For some, the answer is to not worry about the longterm part, and instead date (or even marry) someone until one of the previous attributes fails, and then move on to another relationship. It’s only natural. Maybe it is, I certainly don’t know enough to say otherwise, but I know that I am called to a higher standard.
As a Christian, monogamy is the path ahead of me. Monogamy or celibacy, and currently I think I would prefer the former. So if monogamy is the only option, then how does one make it work well? Thankfully my parents have been a solid example of a longterm devoted marriage throughout my life, and while there are many things that I have learned and want to emulate from their relationship, there are also many things that I want to avoid. I think this is true of every relationship. There will always be things that an individual, from the outside, will appreciate and things they will reject. I think this is just part of the human experience. Every person is different, and so everyone’s experiences and preferences will be different as well.
In fact, this is what makes relationships so incredibly tricky in the first place. Marriage takes two people, with different cultures, values*, interests, backgrounds, education, knowledge, temperaments, and goals, and puts them together, with an emotional and spiritual bond, and hopes and trusts that those bonds–ratified on the day of their marriage–are strong enough to last them for the rest of their lives. If that wasn’t difficult enough, you then get to add in each human’s sinful nature, and realize that the each person is going to continually hurt the other for as long as you both shall live.
Sign me up.
But I guess it’s worth it? Perhaps the thing that does make it all worth is actually how difficult it is. I don’t think it is the good times, the fun moments, or the great experiences that redeem marriage. It is not a matter of, “Yeah, this will be really hard, but in the midst of that, there will be good times that will balance it all out.” Instead I think the difficulty is what makes it part of the Good. How you respond, how you are tempered, how you grow through the hurt, the struggles, and the trials of marriage is (I think) what makes it worth it. If two people are committed to loving God, each other, and acting that out every day, then the people that they will become–as individuals and as a couple–is what makes it worth it.
What I am trying to do is put words to a form of sanctification without using the word. Marriage is–when done well–sanctifying for both parties. Therein lies the reward: in the present and eternity. Not to mention, marriage is also a Sacrament (There you go, I’m not a Protestant**). Through this outward and (as Christ tells us) worldly institution of marriage, both parties can experience divine grace. This grace comes through the chance to understand and experience divine love as the partner can, through God’s influence, be an example of that to their significant other.
I feel as though marriage can tend to have a bit of rose-tinting to it. Particularly within the couple itself, and also within Christianity. Certainly that has been my experience. I want to strip it of that and lay it bare. Examine it for what it is, what it can be, and see if it is found wanting. This really is my process with all things in life. I try to remove all preconceived notions of a thing and then work to determine what it is, what it is worth, and ultimately, what the Truth is about it. It is a bit similar to the work of Marcus Aurelius. I seek to understand, and through understanding gain knowledge, through knowledge to know Truth, and through Goodness, Truth, and Beauty, pursue the best life: to the glory of God.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
*I mean values like prizing small-town living vs big city living, not values in a larger sense which would be detrimental to have differences on.
** Protestants only recognize two sacraments while Anglicans, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox Christians recognize seven (or more). I myself am Anglican.