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Marriage Won’t Set You Free: Getting Real About Our Expectations

I know… I’ve been writing a lot about marriage.  It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot.  I’m single and 27; it’s what single 27-year-olds do, I guess.

Usually, thinking about marriage leads us ladies into this manic depressive state of panic and dread.  Thinking about marriage or a lack thereof leads to trouble.  We start in with self-pity (oh, poor me), try to fake righteousness (but God must have something better), and then move on to stifled desires (I guess maybe I shouldn’t want marriage then).  We mix in some anger at God, some resistance to His will, some frustrated hope, put the cap on and shake.

The result is an explosion of emotions and a defiant clinging to our ‘rights’ as women that launches us headfirst into a pile of lust and self-loathing.

That’s usually what happens.

But I’ve been taking a whole new approach to thinking about marriage.  See, if marriage is good and desirable, then desiring it is good.  This means that desiring it should not lead me to a fatal cocktail of frustrated emotions.  If desiring it does lead me to a fatal cocktail of emotions, I must be desiring it for the wrong reasons or misunderstanding God’s purpose for it.

Same goes for sex.  Sex is good and God-honoring, and something we as women were designed to have and to enjoy.  True story.  It is not wrong to desire sex.  If that desire leads me down a road of failure, then I must be desiring it for the wrong reasons, or misunderstanding God’s purpose for it.

Interesting train of thought, isn’t it?

It was all inspired by Lauren, over at the Good Women Project.  If you don’t know about GWP or you haven’t ‘met’ Lauren, you need to meet Lauren.  She is edgy, real, has a killer love story, and is the master of the high messy bun (of which I am not).  I started paying attention to Lauren when I read her article in Huffington Post about her own exposure to porn.  Yep, Lauren’s been there!

Lauren’s approach to her own marriage absolutely intrigues me, and no this isn’t a post about Lauren, but I just feel she has so much wisdom at 25 years old.  She is very realistic and genuine in her approach to sex and marriage.  Perhaps my favorite thought of hers to date (one that inspired this post) is one from her personal blog when speaking about Five Myths of Marriage:

Girls Miraculously Transform Into “A WIFE.”I don’t put down my Lauren name-tag and pick up my Wife name-tag. In fact, the more I’ve tried to “be a good wife” instead of being a good version of myself, the more problems we’ve run into. Being a “good wife” projects poor expectations of a relationship status and a relationship role, but being a loving Lauren to a man I’m crazy about? Oh yes. I can do that. ALSO. “Being a wife” takes up a pretty small part of my day, and that’s not a euphemism. Most of my day is still filled with being the exact same person I was as a single person, and I’m still the only person that is 100% responsible for my present and future.”

Read her stuff, I’m telling you, you’ll like her.

Here’s the point.  We have been believing lies about marriage.

We have been slapping expectations on it that will not only frustrate us now, but will frustrate us later too.  Marriage does not change who you are.  It changes what you are.  It changes your status.  Will it change you?  Sure, like a good friendship will change you, like a good Bible study will change you, like being involved in church will change you– like life will change you.

Marriage does not make you beautiful.  God makes you beautiful.  A husband recognizes that beauty and cherishes that beauty.

Marriage does not make you free.  We’ve debunked this idea a few times.  Yes, married women- women who can have sex ‘whenever they want’- still struggle with pornography, lust, masturbation, etc.  Men are not a magic pill for freedom, so don’t get fussy with God when He doesn’t give you what you ‘need’ to break free.  God is what you need; a husband is what you want— that’s the difference.

Marriage does not heal.  I know some of you come from abusive backgrounds, and I am so sorry for that.  Especially in cases of men abusing us, we each are hoping, looking, praying for a man to come in and fix those broken pieces.  We all want husbands to show us what real love looks like, to treat us like real men should treat us, to patch up our brokenness.  They can’t though.  They are men- they are people, and people will let us down.  People will hurt us.  God is the only one who can fix our broken pieces, bind up our wounds, and heal our hearts.

Marriage does not make you whole.  I cannot stand this idea that marriage is two halves making a whole.  How is that even Biblical?  God did not say, “I need to finish building Adam, so let’s make an Eve.”  What, exactly, are we supposed to be completing in each other?

Now, I understand when husbands and wives refer to each other as their ‘better half.’  That’s good.  Two become one, so then they are half of the equation.  But it’s two becoming one, not two halves becoming one.  There is no mystery in two halves becoming one; two halves always become one.  We are not supposed to be walking around acting like we’re missing necessary ingredients to life.  We are made complete in Christ.

So the next time you think about marriage (which you are probably doing now), quit thinking about all the reasons you “need” to have it.  Instead, think of all the ways God meets your needs and praise Him for that.  He makes you beautiful.  He makes you free.  He heals you, and He makes you whole.

Don’t put God-sized expectations on your future marriage, all it will do is stress you out now, and stress your husband out later.  Let God be God; let Him heal you and make you whole- your husband will thank you.

3 comments

  1. So excellent, Jessica. I can think of one guy who needed to hear this, especially the last part about wholeness. Wait, that guy is me. Speaking of a guy who used to listen to all the “love songs” that reek of desperation, longing, and neediness, I grew up the same way feeling “incomplete” without a woman to love. I very much desire love too, and as you said, it can be an idol. It’s hard to think about it.

    I loved this piece, and I’m a guy. Hope that doesn’t make me weird.

  2. Great post! …and make that two guys; Genesis 2:18, Matthew 19:12, and 1 Corinthians 7:9 make it difficult to deny what God intentionally created within most of us: a deep desire for intimacy in marriage.

    (BTW Jessica, like you, Lauren writes very well indeed, and she too has been through an awful lot–a testimony of God’s grace and power to heal.)

  3. i must say, this was a great post. I always thought, “if i could only get married, all this lust would go away. I could scratch my itch and not feel guilty about it, i’d be doing it the way God intended!” But of course, that’s so wrong. God is meant to fill all of our voids and longings until he sees fit to allow another individual to see to other needs that shouldn’t have even been awoken in the first place. But I know He can do anything.