Here are the traditional vows which have been used for marriage ceremonies all across America for decades:
“I, John, take you, Mary, for my lawful wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”
These are serious words for serious candidates. Christian couples decide every year in droves that now is the time to get engaged and get married. Today’s high divorce rate doesn’t deter them. Their parents’ or friends’ divorces don’t scare them. They’re going to go for it.
Some conscientiously choose who they are marrying, and they know exactly why they’re marrying this person. They choose great reasons to marry: they’ve been praying, watching, and seeking not just a mate but God’s input. They met and mesh. They’re convinced that they have found their soulmate. They both have absolutely no doubt that this is God’s will and God’s timing. They are willing to love sacrificially to pour their lives into pleasing the other person.
Others are falling into a decision to marry based on impulses, motivations and influences that they may not be aware of and that are not healthy. I reviewed several of the articles out there on poor reasons to get married and will summarize them here. Kind of like a meta-analysis.
Christian, know thyself before venturing into something as serious as marriage! Marriage is absolutely the most important decision you will ever make in your whole life, after choosing what to do with Christ, so choose wisely. Let’s get the chintziest ones out of the way first (and people do get married for these reasons!):
01. To have a dream wedding. Have you seen that billboard that says, “Loved the wedding! Invite me to the marriage! Signed, God.” A marriage goes way beyond the ceremony. You must prepare for both. People sometimes forget this simple minor detail!
02. To get cool gifts. Can you say “materialist”?
Now here are the not-so-chintzy, actual, negative reasons for getting married:
03. Because all your friends (it seems) are getting married. It’s really hard to feel left out when spring or summer is in the air and your friends are coupling off. Resist the impulse to find your nearest hookup and follow the herd. Wrong person and bad timing on your part today could mean a big, fat disaster and not a Greek (or whatever nationality!) wedding.
04. Your ex- just got engaged/married. There’s a reason why he/she is your ex-. Hopefully they got what they deserved and it’ll free your calendar and life for God’s best for you. Don’t get envious and start looking around for the next hookup to prove that you’re better than him/her and not a reject because you could marry first.
05. Financial stability for yourself and/or your children. This happens more often for women, who have a historic track record of earning less than men. It’s even more difficult when a divorce is involved, the woman gets custody of the children, and her income is cut in half. Learn to trust God, take time to look for a better job, and/or go to school to train for a better job. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve known and counseled who’ve had to flee atrociously abusive marriages with financially loaded men, but who were controlling.
06. Pressure from your family to marry. Your parents have made it clear that they want grandchildren. If you’re the oldest or last to marry, and especially if you are an only child, this family expectation to marry can feel like putting your head in a vise and giving it a few good twists on a holiday family gathering till your emotions explode. Give those family expectations to the Lord and train your family not to bug you about getting married and having babies. Use humor, confrontation, redirection, confidence, snappy answers, discussions about God’s sovereignty and God’s will, invitations to pray for you, and other tools as needed to teach your family how to deal with this potentially sensitive subject and leave you alone.
07. To have children. This is often more pronounced for women than men, as they sense their biological clock is “ticking away” and they don’t want to go into menopause without having children.
08. You’ve already had children together. Being biological parents together doesn’t automatically give you permission to marry, especially if your relationship is unstable—eg. dangerous, spiritually and emotionally draining, rife with arguments and power plays.
09. You’ve been living together. See number 8.
10. Because you want sex. Yes, the Bible does say it’s better to marry than to burn. But if you do not care for the entire other 95% of the marriage after you get married, what you dreamed would be sizzling sex will turn to fizzling flops.
11. Because you had sex. Sometimes the partner gets a person in bed and then tries to pressure them all the way to the altar as a way of keeping him/her by guilt. If this is how they treat you now, what makes you think he/she’s going to treat you better once they have you locked up in a marriage? Guilt is a terrible reason for doing anything. (For further information, see my blog post for February 28, 2016, “Drowning in Guilt is a Terrible Way to Live.”)
12. Being pressured or threatened by this person you’re dating. Anything done or acquired through power plays, coercion, manipulation, demands, and threats should feel uncomfortable and make you want to Run! Far! From such a person. Such tactics are ungodly and unrighteous. In the Bible, it is called oppression and affliction, and God hates it (1 Samuel 1:1-11; Psalm 34:15-22, 74:18-23 and 103:6).
13. Because you’re lonely. Everyone experiences loneliness once in a while. If you find yourself always pining and lonely, however, it’s probably time to rethink your schedule, your priorities, your social and spiritual network, and your relationship with God. If what’s inside your heart is broken, a marriage isn’t going to fill that jagged gap. Many married people will tell you—and perhaps some of you have already been married, and you can reassure those who have never been married—that the only thing more miserable than being single and lonely is being married and lonely. Don’t let temporary loneliness cause a desperation that will foist a permanent and terrible burden onto you.
14. Thinking this person is the best offer you can hope for. Settling. Dust settles. Cows settle. Don’t you settle for less than God’s best! You deserve far more than what the devil is offering you in your face. How’s that old song go, It’s so sad to belong to somebody else when the right person comes along?
15. It’s what you are supposed to do next in life. Not necessarily! Life does not always happen smoothly and in consecutive order. Pray, pray, pray away society’s expectations and see what the Lord might be putting in front of you.
16. Because someone told you it was God’s will. If you haven’t sensed that same strong and unmistakable calling, confirmed by friends and family, see number 12.
17. You don’t want to hurt their feelings. Better to hurt their feelings now than marry someone out of convenience and when you have no love or fire for them. Don’t train someone to manipulate you.
18. You think he/she will change after making that legal commitment and taking those vows. Can you say, “Laughable”? He or she has to change because they want to cooperate with God on that ongoing transformation. If they have a major character flaw now, it’s only going to get worse with marriage. That trait that you can’t stand now will become a huge, insufferable monster after the wedding.
19. Being influenced by social pressure through media and entertainment. Since when did Hollywood or Madison Avenue ever really get marriage right?
20. Because “the longer I wait, the fewer my options!” Age is a matter of the mind; if you don’t mind, it don’t matter! How well do you trust God for your future? “God is more interested in your future and your relationships than you are,” said Dr. Billy Graham. I think he’s right!
21. Because he/she is hot, popular, good-looking; they’ll boost my ego and social standing around here! If your worth, status, significance, and purpose come from who you marry, you probably need to rethink the authentic, real, and better reasons for marriage. It’s more giving than getting. By the way, what are you bringing into the marriage? A successful marriage that honors the Lord requires two people serving each other, not one self-centered, carnal person just taking from the marriage.
22. Because you want to be taken care of. You’re tired of having to fend for yourself. Do you want someone to cook you homemade meals, do your laundry, clean your house, pay your bills, and take care of your kids? Hire a housekeeper and a nanny until you are mature enough to marry for reals. If you can’t afford them, then maybe it is time to grow up and learn to do these important adult tasks yourself.
23. To get over your ex-. “Women process, men replace” is another one of those cultural sayings that developed merit through observation somewhere. Not allowing yourself to grieve and learn before jumping into another relationship is a great way to avoid the inevitable, but only for a short time. Unresolved issues will most likely ruin your current love interest.
24. You’ve been dating for a really long time. You’re thinking you should actually get married. What’s been stopping you? What’s been taking you both so long? Are you sure this is God’s will and timing? Should this happen at all?
25. To distract yourself from your issues. Marriage is a pretty big distraction, but not as bad as your issues popping up in your marriage when you least expect or want them. Deal with your issues now so they won’t have a chance of ruining your marriage.
26. To get away from your family. This is like going into the military to get away from authority. You jump out of the frying pan and into the fire when you run into a decision as big as marriage to get away from something negative. Don’t run away from the negative, walk toward the positive. Big difference.
27. Your families and friends are close; “we grew up together. It just makes sense.” Not necessarily. Watch and pray, my friends!
28. You have reached a specific age that you should be married by now. God has the perfect person and timing for you, if He wants you married. Age is meaningless to the Eternal One when it comes to your supreme joy on earth. See number 20.
29. Bucket list: things to check off before you die. If you marry to check off a list, you’d better add “divorce” to your bucket list, too.
30. To prove that you can marry and that you are still desirable. Trying to prove a point to yourself by using someone to boost your competence and ego is selfish and unChristlike. See number 21.
31. Competition: “I am going to get married first/I am going to marry better than_______ !” There is no need at all for competition in the Kingdom of God except to outdo one another in love and good works. God is writing your love story even now, though you may have no clue when and how you will meet Mr. or Miss Right. Is this a spirit of jealousy or the pride of life driving you to a self-proclaimed contest? Better do an attitude check!
32. You two are in love though you just met, you’ve never had a fight, and you’re getting married like next week: “No, we don’t want your feedback. No, we’re not getting any premarital counseling. We just know.” Not giving yourselves enough time to get to know one another in several different seasons, settings, and conflicts is a set up for unpleasant surprises once you get married. It’s better to know what you are getting into and who you’re getting into before you dive in. Otherwise your fantasy partner may transform into an unwieldy beast after the wedding. Please take no chances. Please take advantage of the multiple books and workbooks as well as online and in-person resources available for premarital counseling from a godly source.
Cohabitation before marriage on the rise: does it lead to better relationships? Brittney R. Villalva for christianpost.com 4/4/13. http://www.christianpost.com/news/cohabitation-before-marriage-on-the-rise-does-it-lead-to-better-relationships-93279/ accessed 6/5/16
Divorce statistics and living together before marriage. Jodee Redmond for lovetoknow.com. http://divorce.lovetoknow.com/Divorce_Statistics_and_Living_Together accessed 6/5/16
5 bad reasons to get married. Joël Malm for relevantmagazine.com 7/1/14. http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationships/5-bad-reasons-get-married accessed 6/5/16
4 lies our culture tells us about living together before marriage. Felicia Alvarez for crosswalk.com 5/6/14. http://www.crosswalk.com/family/singles/4-lies-culture-tells-us-about-living-together-before-marriage.html accessed 6/5/16
Getting married for the wrong reasons. Soencouragement.org website. http://www.soencouragement.org/wrongreasons.htm accessed 6/5/16
16 wrong reasons to get married. Tristan Coppersmith for yourtango.com 5/19/10. http://www.yourtango.com/experts/tristan-coopersmith/14-worst-reasons-get-married accessed 6/5/16
10 worst reasons to get married. kalyani10 for futurescopes.com. http://www.futurescopes.com/getting-married/2410/10-worst-reasons-get-married accessed 6/5/16
The 6 worst reasons to get married. Meredith Bodgas for meritalbliss.com website. http://meritalbliss.com/2012/04/the-6-worst-reasons-to-get-married/ accessed 6/5/16
Top ten reasons to have a wedding and get married. Nina Callaway for Aboutstyle.com. http://weddings.about.com/od/weddingstressmanagement/ss/Top-10-Worst-Reasons-To-Have-A-Wedding-And-Get-Married.htm#showall accessed 6/5/16
Traditional wedding vows from various religions. Rev. Edward Searl, Unitarian Church of Hinsdale, IL for theknot.com. https://www.theknot.com/content/traditional-wedding-vows-from-various-religions accessed 6/5/16
Why living together isn’t a test-run for marriage. Dr. Juli Slattery for todayschristianwoman.com 6/2014. http://www.todayschristianwoman.com/articles/2014/june/why-living-together-isnt-test-run-for-marriage.html accessed 6/5/16