As I was writing this paper, it reminded me of a LiveJournal entry. So here is the uncut, unedited Courtship and Marriage paper I wrote… enjoy!
Sitting on the shelf above me is a black, spiral bound notebook. Unassuming in design, it stays here at school until every once in awhile I am able to open it up and look inside. Inside its covers are years of poetry, prose, and letters written to my future wife. Every page shows her that even since I was eighteen I have been thinking of her and preparing my heart for her. Without that dedication, our marriage would not be able to stand tall through all of the difficulties this world brings. And now, with Courtship and Marriage and this paper, I have had more of an opportunity to think about what it means to be dedicated to my future wife – to look at what I truly want in a marriage, what problems might come up, and how I can help to fix them. Throughout all of it, there is no doubt in my mind that there will be a dedication beyond what we have on this earth – even up to heaven.
In our current American society, it is more important than ever to go into the covenant of marriage with a set of ideals and to know what you expect out of the union. Going into the relationship without it can prove to make it quite difficult to navigate through the difficult times. As I’ve grown and matured, I’ve been able to see things in myself that I help to define what I think a marriage should be like. First and foremost, I see marriage to be pointless without putting God as the first priority in both my life and my wife’s. As important as my wife is, and in fact will be the second priority in my life, our marriage is certain to fall to pieces if we don’t set our standards to Christ’s and not the world’s. The Biblical basis for this comes from the Ten Commandments, where God declares “You shall have no other gods before Me” (NASB, Ex 20:3). It is part of our fallen human nature to want to put idolize something, especially when it’s right in front of us. And so it serves to reason that if you have the one person you absolutely love over anything else in the world, you would tend to put him or her above everyone else. However, my spouse, like me, is imperfect. She will make mistakes, and will not always make the best choices. If I allow myself put her over God, I’m guaranteed to be disappointed. Also, without the Father at the helm of our relationship, my wife and I have a greater chance to be tossed in the storms of life. Life is not always easy and it often causes couples who were close in the beginning of their marriage to walk away from it later disappointed and dejected, disenchanted about the marriage by the world. In the Abundant Living Seminar, it is mentioned that “it is imperative that a couple’s focus and goals be on the Lord. The closer they each get to the Lord, the closer they will be drawn to one another in spirit” (Authority and Marriage, 13). Without making sure that our emphasis is on a relationship that glorifies God first, my wife and are losing so much of what can be an amazing marriage that is beyond her and me.
Secondly, here on earth, I see a marriage as a partnership. The word, taken from the Anglo-French word coparcener, means to be a joint heir (Merriam-Webster Online). Personally, I find that to be the best way to describe my marriage. We have been given by God a reward – each other – and get to be heirs to all that comes with the blessing. As a result, we have to work together to be guardians of the reward and prove ourselves worthy. This means different things for each of us in our roles, but means we both have an incredible amount of responsibility to God and each other, and an equal say in how we can have the marriage run as smoothly as possible.
As the husband, I feel my role is best summarized by being the ambassador of my wife, family, and God. An ambassador is an individual who represents his domain to the outside world at the behest of the rest of the people living with him. He seeks to bring good tidings about his domain to foreign dignitaries, and works to bring peace to each side so that it is possible to forge long term relationships. He never turns his back on his own country or disrespects his country, even if it means turning his back on someone else. In the same way, I as the husband must be the representative of my family to the outside world and show them what it is to be an Anderson. In all circumstances, I need to be loyal and loving to my wife, and never once bad mouth her in front of others (Thrasher, Marriage Responsibilities, October 18). When something tries to infiltrate my family to hurt it, it is my job to stand in its way and if I have to, to take the family away from it in order to protect it. In the domain of marriage, I am its representative.
My wife, on the other hand, could be thought of as the president of the domain. She is the benevolent leader of the world on the inside. She oversees the needs of those in her territory, and will do everything in her power to provide for the needs of her people. She provides strength and encouragement to those who represent her, and gives them advice and help when they need it. When I am married, I see my wife as the one who is able to take gracious care of the home and all of the intricacies that entails. She provides the heart and soul – the encouragement for those who are downtrodden. As we go through the decisions of life, she gives me advice and help when I need it. She defines with her life what it is to be a part of the domain we have become heirs to. (Thrasher, Marriage Responsibilities, October 18)
Together as a couple, we have a continued responsibility to be proper caretakers of God’s gift of our marriage. As joint heirs, this means that we have to be sure to take care of each other as best we can. When one of us is down, we build each other up. We strive in all ways to encourage spiritual growth in each other, and help each other to make the best decisions in our lives outside the home. Without any of this, we are doomed to be taken out of the inheritance of love God has bestowed upon us.
Another one my core beliefs about marriage is the sacredness and importance of have a marriage that places an emphasis on having children. The two biggest things I want to do with my life are to be a husband and a father because I find no higher calling on this earth than those two professions. In Genesis, God gives Adam and Eve a mandate to Noah, saying to “be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it” (NASB, Gen. 9:7). This is something I also take personally as a calling from God. To have the opportunity to take a life, dedicate it to God, and help it grow is something so exciting and fantastic to me. Obviously, there will be difficulties and worries – in my own family I know I have caused plenty gray hairs atop my parent’s heads. However, in the world we live in and the one we will bring our children into, there is and will continue to be a short supply of true and Godly individuals, and I will make it my pledge then as I do now to do all that is in my power to raise compassionate and caring children. Even more so, to be able to have a stable, loving household for a child to grow in is becoming rarer. Since 1960, the rate of out-of-wedlock births has gone from one in twenty to one in three (Bennett, 179). Being blessed to have had a loving mother and father raise me together, I can’t imagine not having the benefit of understanding what it is to live without both parents to teach me and would not want anything else for my children. However, even with all of that, I feel God has groomed me to be a father, and I look forward to starting a family with my wife.
Obviously when you live with someone there are bound to be problems. No one can ever expect to live in an imperfect world without them. I have learned, however, that the best way to solve problems is to anticipate them and deal with them before they get larger. Three particular problems come in my mind when thinking about marriage: jobs, and the ambition of being in the work world; money woes and how to be able to have enough money for kids, college and retirement; and personality differences.
My biggest fear when coming into marriage is being able to balance my home life and my job life and having my wife do the same while still having our ambitions realized. In my home growing up, my father worked everyday while my mother stayed home and raised my brother and me. It was so beneficial to have my mother at home when I returned from school and have a hug or encouragement waiting for me. I have always believed that a mother can do a much better job than a father when tending to the day-to-day needs of a child. Her warm touch and gentle spirit make her a better candidate to clean a scraped knee and kiss the pain away than a man’s more “There-is-a-problem-now-I-need-to-find-a-solution” attitude. This even proves out in the real world: Constance Hardesty of Youth and Society reported that:
Males who, during childhood, had a mother who worked fulltime as a homemaker reported greater orientation toward employment. Sons who reported that their fathers spent enough time with them in their childhood had greater orientation toward employment. Finally, young adult men who reported a greater desire to imitate their fathers reported a higher orientation to employment. (283-297)
In essence, those sons who had a father who was working and a mother who stayed at home were more likely to strive for success. That being said, the chances of me finding someone to marry either in my undergraduate or post-graduate collegiate life is very good. And it seems that it would be frivolous for my wife to spend all of that time in college and not be able to achieve whatever she wanted to do before meeting me. I would feel very guilty if after all of her studies and her desire to go out and work was extinguished just because I decided what was best for the family. However, if she does not want to stay at home when we have younger children, we simply run the risk of having children who don’t feel nearly as attached to the family, spending time back and forth in daycare and homecare.
The best way to anticipate this problem before it occurs is to talk to my fiancée frankly before we choose to get married. It is important to have a clear understanding about what one expects about marriage and how to deal with each other’s desires. Through the discretion process, I plan to make one of my biggest priorities to find a woman who shares the same attitude I do concerning a mother staying at home, because it’s much easier to share a vision that it is to try to change someone’s mind when they’ve had it made up already.
Secondly, another of my concerns is money and how to have enough to do everything we need to do as a family. Money is one of the things that most couples argue about – in fact; about 50 percent of problems in a marriage have something to do with money (Hendricks, 111). Without money, it is increasingly difficult to do much in this world. When I get married, I want to be sure that I can fully provide for my family’s needs. This obviously includes basic staples such as money for food and shelter, but even from the start of our marriage, I want to be sure to have the money to support my children through college later in life, and to start having money for retirement. Retirement alone will cost a significant amount of money. Assuming 7.5 percent interest, it will take $2,206,509 of today’s current dollars to be able to spend $1,000 a week in retirement (Retirement Calculators). And with trying to balance all of that on just one income makes it even more daunting. However, even with all of the frightening truth about having enough money, the solution is simple – being willing to say no to myself in order to save for later. Budgeting my money even before I’m married will help me have more money to work with in the future. Indeed, it gets more and more difficult to save money with more and more mouths to feel and people to take care of. Thinking ahead allows for when it’s just me to forgo some of my expendable income for the sake of taking care of a family in the future.
The last major problem I envision is dealing with the differences in personality that inevitably rise out of living with someone else. The simplest way of dealing with this issue is to become a student of yourself and your mate and to learn how best to treat each other. For example, I have taken a lot of time to learn about myself as it relates to the Myers-Briggs test. I am an ENFP. This means I am an individual who looks at life as one exciting experience and needs to experience it for all it’s worth in an authentic manner (Kiersey 156). This floods into my relationships as well, being someone who strives to bring the best out of others and to enjoy my partner through motivation and inspiration (Personality Page). However, even with all of those good things there are things which I don’t do very well. I have a major issue with finishing a project once I start it. Always on the lookout for something newer and more exciting, I tend to go for that rather than finishing what I already started (Personality Page). Knowing these things not only helps me try to grow and to learn how to, in this example, stick to whatever project I am on, but also to find someone who will help me to be an individual who will stay on topic and encourage me to stay focused in life. In the end, having different personalities can be the biggest blessing in a marriage, but only when husband and wife appreciate each other for them.
I realize even now that marriage will not be perfect – with two imperfect people I can’t expect it to be. However, I feel that even with all of the problems that may occur God put my wife and me together for a reason, a reason which should never be broken by divorce. There are countless verses that support this, but even with all of that, I think it’s just a waste. If I am going to spend countless hours, a large portion of my heart, and significant amounts of money on the person that I believe more truly than anyone else to be the person I want to spend all of eternity with, why would I be silly enough to break it off after the goal was accomplished? More than anything, divorce shows a lack of preparation in the front end of a relationship, and a hope that it will just all fall into place after the wedding.
I went to Burger King yesterday in the Outlets for dinner. As I was waiting for my order, I overheard two women working behind the counter talking about relationships:
“I don’t need a man to keep me satisfied!” yelled the manager.
“Wait, aren’t you married?” returned the other woman.
“Oh, that’s just out of convenience.”
“Yeah, for cheaper taxes and better care insurance rates, right?”
That’s the type of marriage I want to avoid. The degradation of one of God’s more sacred gifts reduced to nothing but a tax shelter. But yet, that is simply the way our world is going. We look for convenience and when it does not work, we choose to go our separate ways. As I have had a chance to think about what I want my marriage to be, it has allowed me to think about being the man who will do all he can to treat and love my wife as a friend, lover, and indeed an extension of myself. Though there will be problems, I want to work as hard as I can to work with her and go through them together to make us stronger and closer. Because when it comes right down to it, I see my Savior in my future wife’s eyes, not dollars.