It was a passing comment as she walked out the door. “I can usually tell when my priorities are out of whack,” She said, grabbing her purse from the coat rack. “I start seeing marriage as an escape from my reality, and that’s when I start wanting it too much.”
Her words rang in my ears for hours afterward. That’s it. That’s the problem.
It’s a problem I’m all too familiar with – I did the same thing when I was single. When work and school and life got stressful, I’d daydream about the day I’d be married – the day a man would “pick up the slack” and help me bear this burden. Though I’d never label myself a damsel in distress, that’s exactly what I acted like under pressure. Outwardly, I was capable; but inwardly, I was searching for a human rescuer from my circumstances.
But marriage is not an escape route. It is not the only way to survive the pressures of life, and quite often it doesn’t make things easier, but exponentially harder. When spouses fail our expectations – expectations often grown and groomed in single years – we end up disappointed (even angry) that they aren’t holding up their end of a bargain we made up in our minds.
Certainly the companionship of marriage offers support and love for times of difficulty (my husband and I are facing this right now). But if you train your mind to see marriage as the escape from the difficulties of your singleness, you will not bear your part of the marriage burden when the going gets tough.
Do you see marriage as an escape? Are you depending on an institution or a person instead of dealing with your circumstances biblically? If you are, it may manifest itself in the following ways.
Marriage as an Escape from Loneliness
Last week I called married people to a deeper understanding of their single friends. Today I’m challenging singles to be open-minded to a truth married people know: marriage does NOT cure loneliness. I’ve been married almost four years, and I have not forgotten what singleness felt like. I have not forgotten what it feels like to be alone. When singles act as if married people don’t understand loneliness, they’re revealing just how much they misunderstand what marriage really is.
When both husband and wife love one another selflessly, marriage offers support and understanding. But in every marriage there are times when one person does not understand the other – and doesn’t try to. There are times of separation during business trips and deployment. There are seasons where a couple’s differences loom larger than ever before. Each of these moments represents a form of emotional or physical loneliness, all within the marriage bond.
If you think marriage will cure your loneliness and never learn to deal with it in a spiritual way, you’ll put unrealistic expectations on your spouse. Your spouse is not meant to fulfill you. They are not designed to meet your deepest needs or bear every burden you face in life. Jesus Christ is meant to do that. If you don’t train yourself to turn to Him in overwhelm, you’ll enter marriage looking to your spouse as an earthly Savior – and when he fails, as he inevitably will, expectations and idols will crash around you, crowding your marriage with baggage you didn’t need to carry.
I’m grateful I learned this before marriage, because my husband and I are often separated by business. Read how I dealt with it in this post.
Marriage as an Escape from Reality
Just as marriage is not an escape from loneliness, it is not an escape from reality. A daydream here and there doesn’t hurt, but if you turn to marital fantasies every time life gets tough, there is a god in your life other than Christ.
Christ promises to comfort us (Luke 16:25), to bring us joy (Luke 15:7), to reward us (Matt. 16:27), to be with us (Matt. 18:20), and to bring us rest (Luke 11:28). These promises exist for us to meditate upon, to claim, and to reach for when our circumstances are overwhelming. But when we deal with life’s pressures by instead meditating on a fictionalized future, we’re putting our trust in humanity – not in Christ.
It should come as no surprise that those who intentionally focus their minds on Christ deal with stress in a more stable, gracious fashion than those who turn to fantasy. This is consistent with Scripture’s promise:
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Is. 26:3)
But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge–do not give me over to death. (Ps. 141:8)
The best way to prepare for marriage is to deal with your present reality in a God-honoring way. This is accomplished by acknowledging what’s right in front of you, coming to Christ, and learning to walk by His Spirit through every challenge.
Marriage as an Escape from Responsibility
Finally, marriage is not an escape from responsibility. If anything, it’s an addition of responsibility. The apostle Paul pointed this out in 1 Corinthians 7:34-35:
…The unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
If you’re looking to marriage to remove the responsibility of work, family, or anything else, you’re coming at it from the wrong angle. When we marry, we’re committing to serve and sacrifice; not get and gain. We DO gain some wonderful things in marriage, but those rewards are not the point. If they were, we’d give up and get out when the personal gains end (and many people do).
I want to specifically address the issue of work here, because that’s where I see this issue the most (especially in conservative circles). Desiring marriage so you no longer have to work outside the home reveals an unhealthy heart attitude. If you one day have the chance to stay home with children (or before kids, in rare cases), that’s a great blessing, but you can’t assume you will always have that privilege. Your work as a single prepares you for the demands of marriage and life in general. What if your husband loses his job? What if he is in an accident? What if you can’t survive on his salary alone? It is in those times that your work history will be essential.
From as young as eighteen, I hoped to one day stay home with my kids – mostly because I planned to homeschool. But from that age, I made every effort to obtain a career I could take home with me when motherhood came knocking. Now, almost a decade later, my husband and I are in precisely the position I described above: my work and salary are necessary. If I had neglected my work, refused to embrace my responsibility, or stopped “trying” once I stayed home, we would be in a much worse position than we are now. Don’t waste these years. Invest in yourself. Invest in your future. You do not know what marriage will demand from you.
Marriage is Not a Savior
Simply put, marriage is not an escape from your loneliness, reality, or responsibility. I challenge you today to consider how you’ve been looking at marriage. Ask God to tear down any idols – idols that deceive and blind you to the beauty of your present life, and the preparation you need for what lies ahead.
Marriage won’t save you from your current life. It is not a destination; it is a journey. It’s not an ending, but a beginning of something new and challenging, much like the life you’re facing now.
Make a habit of turning to the only Savior you really need, and marriage will come much easier when the day arrives.