I have a dear active LDS friend. She married her high school sweetheart after waiting for him on his mission and dating him for two more years. They were married for five years…before he filed for divorce and left the church.
My parents got engaged five days after their first date. They are still married.
How does that happen?
I thought it was so important to know someone before you marry them and then everything works out?
See, after a few basic traits of ‘must haves’ and ‘can’t haves’ for the sake of compatibility, the person you marry is of little to no consequence.
Because they aren’t the person you will stay married to.
In a study done by a Harvard psychologist, Dr. Dan Gilbert, he interviewed thousands of individuals about personal change and concluded that “all of us are walking around with an illusion, an illusion that history, our personal history, has just come to an end, that we have just recently become the people that we were always meant to be and will be for the rest of our lives.” (Read the whole TED talk here) That is because it is easier to look back and see the changes that have happened than it is to look into the future and imagine inconceivable circumstances that will surely shape us.
That “illusion” that WE have already done most of our changing in life is as scientifically and rationally ridiculous as the “illusion” that we are marrying someone for the rest of our lives.
I, for one, have spent so much time trying to find ‘this specific type of girl,’ while completely ignoring the fact that she will be different in 5 years, 10 years, 50 years…and guess what…?
So will I.
And if marriage is a commitment, then, in effect, I have to choose to stay committed and married to a new person, as a new person, every day.
That choice is made by work.
Now what does some 29-year old single guy know about this? Not much. But what I do know is that my fear of marrying the wrong person is completely unfounded based on the fact that I will never marry one person.
TIME Magazine’s Theologian of the year in 2001 and longtime Duke professor Stanley Hauerwas said, “We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary problem is…leaning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married” (“Sex and Politics: Bertrand Russell and ‘Human Sexuality'” in the Christian Century, April 19, 1978, 417-22).
So what I’m saying is that my friend is to fault and my parents are to emulate?
Not at all. There are so many circumstances I can’t even pretend to understand about why one couple is together and the other isn’t.
What I’m saying is that we only have one choice…and that is to continually choose to be married to the same new person over and over.
And that, to me, is a lot less scary than I feared. (Actually, it sounds quite nice. Who knows…maybe I’m changing my mind on this whole ‘single for life’ thing; but then again, it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it?)
So after looking for compatibility, love and marriage is about finding someone who is committed to change with me as we constantly become new creatures in Christ. For in the seas of change, it is only on a sure foundation that we can anchor our relationships.