One of my very dear, former students, who just graduated, Ashley Alexander has a post on marriage. Actually, it’s more like a rant, or a venting, as she titles the entry, “ventage on marriage.”
Please read the post…good post by the way. And then you will more fully understand my comments. But the main “vent”, is that once people get married, they drop off the face of the planet.
I used to think that was true as well, when I was single. Because when you are single, you do as you please. You go to bed when you want to, you get up when you want to, you lay around, and there is no one else you are accountable to for your time. Not even your parents anymore. And not your friends. But just yourself. Being single allows one to be as selfish as they like. And I say that from my own experience, though you may disagree. But that is not the case when you are married. This is not a long, thought-out response, but rather some general observations about this thought.
When I was single, I used to get mad at my married friends for disappearing as well. And don’t get me wrong, some couples do a better job of maintaining friends, etc. But now that I am only about three weeks into this marriage thing, I have now crossed over to the other side, and I now see things from a completely different perspective.
First, I am no longer just on my own, accountable to only myself. Even when you are dating, you still feel on your own. But entering into marriage is a huge thing, and you are now living, two people as one, in this great mystery that God has created, and priorities radically shift. You now have someone else who you are accountable to. You now have someone else who depends on you for certain things. When I was single, I could spend all day reading, and not do a thing. Let the dishes go. Let the laundry sit another week. Let the bills sit a few more days. Keep the fridge empty. But now I can’t live that way anymore. Or really…I don’t want to live that way anymore. My wife and I both have things to do, and we have helped take on each other’s responsibilities as well. I can’t imagine what life is like when a kid comes along.
Second, living in Los Angeles makes the shift from single life, to married life look even that much more radical. Los Angeles seems like a culture whose growth has been stunted, and wishes to live in eternal singleness, where one’s sole goal is to please themselves and do what they want. Now that’s a total generalization, and I’m not speaking about most people. But face it. Where else in the United States are people as shocked as they are here, if you happened to get married at 22, or 25. How appalling that is to some people. While in other regions, marriage is just the next step into maturity and growing up. I’m 30 years old. And I’m pretty positive that if I did not leave AZ, I would have married at a much earlier age. But coming to California alleviated the pressures of that social norm. So I think that what we view as a radical departure into another phase of life, young adults living in Los Angeles see it as a totally shocking, and a non-stop slide into less freedom.
Third, what about those opposite sex friends? This seems to be Ashley’s main complaint. And I understand it, since I used to be a guy with a lot of female friends. But now that I have moved through dating, engagement and marriage, I better understand boundary issues. Having friends of the opposite sex is very normal, and healthy. But I do think that there needs to be healthy boundaries between men and women when one moves into a serious relationship, and into marriage. In fact, I would say for myself, that the female friends I have now are those who are friends with my wife and I, co-workers, and those in my ministry. But they are friends, and not people that I develop a serious relationship with, or maintain some type of separate friendship with outside of my relationship with my wife.
I would say, that many people who don’t develop healthy relationships with their same sex, and have an overabundance of opposite sex friends, are the ones who most misunderstand the boundary issues involved. They are the ones who are most upset when their opposite sex friend gets married, and no longer wants to spend that alone time with them.
Though many would see the pulling away of their opposite sex friends as not being fair, and rude, etc., I would say it’s a good step, and natural one to setting up proper boundaries, and protecting one’s marriage.
Fourth, I think we live in a culture where more and more people are hanging out in groups, and less and less are willing to take the risk of asking someone else out. I think groups are great. But I see all around me where young adults only hang out in groups…guys and girls together…and they don’t know how to take that next step, and move into a new phase of a relationship. They are already getting the best of both worlds. Dating people, but still having all these people around them. So when it comes time to get more serious and set better boundaries, they often don’t want to. I mean…honestly…what guy, who is able to hang out with 4-5 girls a night, is really going to want to settle down with one girl in a relationship. That’s a hard transition for many people. So that guy is content dating a girl who will let him hang out with other female friends, but is she wants something more serious, then he thinks she is being unfair. Again, I’m generalizing, but I see this all the time, and talk with people all the time who are struggling with this.
Fifth, I think marriage helps us appreciate our same sex friends more than ever. I see this with my friends who are married, and beginning in my own marriage. Marriage is a key transition in life, that helps one live in this beautiful mystery of marriage with someone of the opposite sex, while developing amazing friendships with those of the same sex. I appreciate my guy friends now, more than ever, and what they bring to my personal life, and to my marriage.
In closing, I hope to be in a marriage where my wife and I develop healthy relationships with our married and single friends. But we have also transitioned into a new phase in life, and some things are going to be changing, if they haven’t already. Marriage is the coming together of two independent, free willed people, but something happens in that marriage. There is an interdependece that is created between the independence you have from each other, and the dependence you have with one another.
This is an issue that is determined by what side of the fence you stand on. Because I have stood on both sides, and now see both perspectives. Rather than seeing it as what side is right or wrong, rather see it as a natural transition from one life stage to the next. Married people have moved out of the single life, into a totally different existence. And single people see things very differently, and fail to take into account what it means to live so intimately with another person.
Paul was right in I Corinthians 7:34 in saying that one’s “interests are divided.” Single people are about the interests of what they want to be about. But married people are about added interests, such as their wife and husband. I enjoyed my single life, and it was very fulfilling for me. But I’m also very excited about being married, as I believe Paul in Ephesians 5 portrays it in the similar vein of the relationship between Christ and the Church.
Moving from singleness to marriage is a transition for everyone involved. For friends, family, co-workers, and each other. The transitional phases give one a different perspective on people, vocation, hobbies, etc.
So thank you for the thoughts Ashley, as you have expressed what I have felt, and what I would have wrote years ago. But now that I have transitioned to this new phase, I view life very differently. And may single friends be of good encouragement and support to their married friends, and may married friends be of the same mind, and make time for their single friends.