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Marriage 101: Why get married?

Before You get married:  Answer the Relational FUAQs (Frequently UnAnswered Questions)



Have you ever asked the Frequently UnAnswered Questions? 

If not, you need to.  I am not expecting you to take them all on at one time.  But if you can take them slowly and have your significant other do the same, you will be a long way down the road to knowing what potential problems you might face (or actual problems you are facing) in your relationship.

Most of the questions below are questions about hopes, dreams and expectations and they are divided topically.  What I suggest is that you be as honest as you can with your answers, even if your answers vary widely from your partner’s.  Pay special attention to the areas where there is wide variance between you and your partner.  Where major gaps exist are where major relational problems originate.  Big gaps force big compromises or big issues, which can lead to anger, resentment, bitterness and especially disappointment.

*One must realize that keeping anger, resentment, bitterness and disappointment at minimum levels is a crucial thing when it comes to marital health. 

So, if you do discover big gaps between you and your partner while you answer the questions below, do not ignore them or wish them away.  Make sure to find someone who can help you determine how to best bridge these gaps now before it is too late.

Now without further ado, let’s jump into our first set of FUAQs about why you want to get married in the first place…

I.  Motivation Questions

Do you have the correct motivations for marriage? 

Motivations are what drive you to act.  Motivations are what get you to press the pedal down and charge into a decision.  Motivations are the why behind the what.  They are the reasons why we move.  And if we move for the wrong reasons - if we step out because of misguided motives - and if things do not go the way that we thought they might, we will live doubt-ridden, frustrated lives…

I know far too many people who have less-than-perfect motivations when it comes to stepping into the search for a life partner.  People want to get married, but they desire a relationship for the wrong reasons.  Some of the most classic motivations are listed below with accompanying explanation and critique. 

1.  It’s time - Our culture is pretty clear.  Marriage is supposed to happen for normal people at some point between the ages of 19 and 35.  If you do not land someone for an altar meeting ‘I do’ during this stage, you will be quietly judged as a relational failure or some sort of oddball.  In America, marriage is an expectation.  It means something.  And it has a timeframe, which carries with it a pressure for most people. 

“I have to get married soon.”  That is what I hear people saying beginning from the time they graduate from high school until the ceremony is planned.  This voice gets louder and this pursuit gets more desperate with each passing birthday.  “Are you seriously dating anyone?”  That is the question coming from all directions.  And we feel it and we act to answer it. We know the “acceptable” window to grab hold of a significant other and we do all we can to check this off of our lists before the furrowed brows and turned down mouths undo our self-confidence.  As a result of this, we tend to settle for some one rather than the right one.  Or even worse, we bring someone into our most intimate nearness before we have been fully formed. We allow the cultural pressures to rush us into a hasty decision.  We do not wait because we cannot wait. 

And isn’t culture correct?  Look at the mirror.  The mirror agrees.  My reflection is at its best during this timeframe.  I have the best chance to get the best person if I have fewer wrinkles and tighter pecs.  I am at my most attractive now, even if I am still emotionally and spiritually immature.  I can attract a better-looking human if I sign up now.  So let’s go.  Let’s give in to cultural expectations.  Let’s give into our reflections.  Let’s set ourselves up for a soul-crushing divorce.  

“Not the best idea, Culture!”

While it is true that one will never be completely ready for marriage, this does not mean that the “soonest moment” is as good as any.  There are relational, emotional and spiritual lessons you can master before vowing your way into a lifelong covenant, which will help to increase your chances for joy and success within marriage.  It is a better time for marriage after you have “educated” yourself in these things.  So whether you are 18 or 45 (13 in Kentucky), do not let the rush set in.  Do not be motivated by someone else’s timeframe for you.  Become as ready as you can before you order the wedding cake.

2.  Completion - In the 1990’s there was hardly any movie quote more famous than the one Tom Cruise spoke out to Renee Zelwegger in the movie Jerry Maguire.  As Tom looked across the room, over several couches I am sure he was longing to jump on, his character told his estranged wife, “You complete me.”  And while super cheesy, this line has become a motivation for people as they seek to ‘hook a lifer’ to put in their heart’s prison. 

I have counseled many people of both sexes who will speak out this same sentiment.  Either “I want someone to complete me,” or “I am marrying this person because they will complete me.”  Sounds cool, if only we were puzzles (but then it would not be that cool if we were puzzles, because puzzles do not marry – they are inanimate.) 

The best part of this stated motivation is that people who say it are correct in their self-assessment.  They are incomplete and they do need completing.  We are all gapped and chipped and most of us are well aware of these breezy spaces.  This is an important realization that I do not want to minimize.  It is this realization that brings us to the truth of our personal brokenness, which can lead us to seeking help.  But it is a dangerous motivation for marriage. 


Reality:  The person you are either dating or searching for will be like you in their incompletion.  They will not complete you and you will not complete them.  In fact, this person will do more to complicate you than complete you.  “You complicate me,” is what we should be saying to each other. 

We all bring craziness to the table and to think that another imperfect human who is carrying their own emptiness into oneness is going to be the missing piece we need is foolishness.  And it is actually a cruel expectation.  To bear the weight of having to be someone else’s completion is too heavy a burden.  If this is the reason you are bringing another human into your life, you will be disappointed.  They will not be able to do it. 

3. Straight-up attraction - Some people meet someone who fits right into their marriage ideal.  This person/prey is both hot enough and cool enough to warrant an immediate proposal.  Most of us have our lists and when someone matches most of the physical items on these lists, we claim them.  In other words, we become motivated by our ideals and driven by our common and physical senses.

This is a weak motivation because most of the things we are attracted to will fade and many of our ideals are not ideal.  People who marry beauty will struggle as their mate loses muscle and shakes hands with unattractiveness.

4.  Compatibility – Just because two people really, really like the same music, the same movies, the same television shows, the same style of hipster eyewear, the same restaurants, the same type of beer, and the same political party, does not mean they should get married. 

Yes, it is true that compatibility and shared affinities typically link people into fun friendships.  And yes, it is nice when these things exist within a marriage.  It would suck to be married to a Lady Gaga groupie who re-watches Friends episodes when you prefer Death Metal and think television has been created for idiots.

But, as a lot of “compatible” couples find out after moving from the fun, romantic dating relationship and into a busy and often stressful marriage relationship, a life together is not built solely on what you both enjoy.  Unfortunately they do not realize this truth until they’ve already locked in for life.  Many couples are easily fooled by the compatibility motivation because there is the thought that “I’ve finally found someone who is a lot like me, because they like what I like.  We have too much in common for this not to be a workable lifelong partnership.”  This is a mistake for many reasons:  the compatibility focus is on external similarities which usually change over time; people often temporarily like what you like because they want to be in a relationship with you and don’t want anything to get in the way of perfection.

In conclusion, if you can find a person who you are extremely compatible with and they also pass some deeper, internal tests for lifetime partnership, you are a blessed human being.  But do not let yourself fall in love with someone you would do better going to Coachella or on a cruise with once a year.

5.  Offspring look-alikes - Most people want kids.  I am not sure why.  Babies cry and poop.  Toddlers pull stuff off of store shelves and throw tantrums to get the newest video game systems.  Then, after twelve years of having every one of their needs met, they morph into teenagers who borrow money, mock their parents and wreck family cars. 

Anyway, I am not here to argue with the claim that there is no joy like having mini gene pool pals that will someday stick their parents into nursing homes.  I’m not the children-Grinch.  Kids are most certainly a blessing and I’m not trying to rain on any fertile parents’ parades.  I love playing with my nieces and nephews and training all of them how to successfully and sarcastically manage the world as it is.  (Having kids around can also be quite good for the person who needs to have their selfishness levels knocked down a few notches.)  But I will admit that I am here to attack “having children” as a motivation for marriage.  People who want to walk down the aisle with another person just so they can get one of these homemade tots are off their rockers. 

Having kids within a marriage is a grand miracle.  But let’s be honest – one command that has been adequately taken care of is “Be fruitful and multiply.”  We've got plenty of people on the earth and no big crowd is outside your window chanting for you to add to the pile and to the traffic. 

Just because you have the equipment to make it happen does not mean every couple should make use of that equipment to own a cool real-life doll to dress up and train in your odd manners and customs.  Go to the American Girl store and pretend first before you marry someone merely to have a partner who is willing to raise a kid with you. 

6.  Companionship/Fears of Loneliness – The Beatles sang it well:  “All the lonely people.  Where do they all come from?  All the lonely people.  Where do they all belong? Ah, look at all the lonely people.  Ah, look at all the lonely people.  Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name.  Nobody came.”

Who the heck wants to be Eleanor Rigby?  Who wants to be one of the lonely people?  A person who lives on a crowded planet, but without having anyone who knows them, who hears them and who loves them.  That sort of reality sounds like a nightmare for most people (minus a few well-adjusted introverts, hermits and recluses.)  And to keep from becoming one of these permanent lonelies, people grasp at marriage as if it will be their salvation from one of their greatest fears. 

“If I am married, I will always have someone who cares about me, who will always be with me and who will love me despite my weaknesses.”

A marriage = A lifetime companion = Someone to hang out with every day = Someone who will know me and care about me more than anyone else.

This is a really strong motivation for marriage in a lot of people.  And it is not a bad one.  But, here is some good advice for anyone who has this as a primary motivation for marriage:

-Don’t become dependent on one person for your happiness or your companionship.  This dependence can be smothering and can drive people away; as well, set you up to make ridiculous compromises to hold onto them.  If you “need” one person, you most likely won’t set healthy boundaries with them. 

-Have very low expectations for your lifetime companion.  Most humans are more horny attack dogs than faithful Golden Retrievers.  Don’t let a lonely heart fool you.  

-Don’t expect marriage to kill loneliness.  Some of the loneliest people in the world are married and cannot figure out why.  Most of the time it is because they have not built up a solid support structure of people outside of their marriage.