We all grow up with different views of marriage and what it means, but how much of what we see is a true picture of what marriage is really like? Whether we see positive or negative examples of marriage, or perhaps no examples at all, there are certain myths about marriage we bring into our relationships with us.
Maria Dyck dispels three common marriage myths and illuminates some of the blessings couples experience together as they grow into their relationships.
I never dreamed of getting married.
In fact, I wasn’t sure I wanted to get married, have children, and live in a house with a white picket fence at all! I wanted a life full of adventure and excitement. I wanted to see the world and accomplish great and important things, and I was fairly certain marriage would not allow me to do that.
Perhaps my view on marriage was tainted by my Mennonite culture and upbringing. Many of my cousins married at a young age and quickly lost themselves in a flurry of children, diapers, and chaos. From my perspective, they ceased to exist and lived only to serve their husbands. My grandmother had fled a terrible marriage, living in its bitter shadows for the rest of her life and taking every opportunity to warn young, impressionable ears about the dangers of marriage. When I finally got engaged, I hid my ring from her as I knew she would be displeased. I was not wrong. Upon seeing the ring, she glared at me and declared, “So! You finally sold yourself, did ya?!”
But God has a peculiar way of bringing about what is best for us even when we try to avoid it, and so at the age of 23, I found myself married—and to a Mennonite man no less! Twenty-one years later, my view on marriage has changed significantly. Having been well loved and cared for has shown me how wrongly I misjudged many aspects of marriage.
Though terrible marriages are plentiful and a painful reality, I misjudged what marriage could look like when God was honored and both partners sought the best for each other. Marriage has been surprisingly surprising. I did not anticipate many of its wonderful benefits, nor did I anticipate exposing the many lies, half-truths, and myths about marriage which I believed and which caused me great anxiety.
MARRIAGE MYTH #1: MARRIAGE IS BORING
Nearly every Christian romance novel I read ended at the first kiss. Few stories portrayed a healthy and vibrant marriage because, by then, the drama and excitement were long gone. The best stories dragged out the ‘love-at-first-sight-but-I’ll-pretend-I-hate-you’ dilemma until the very last page. This constant diet of romance novels led me to believe that the best part of a relationship was falling in love, not staying in love. Falling in love was exciting; staying in love was boring.
When I observed marriages around me, they did indeed look dull and lifeless. The husband went to work; the wife took care of the house, and both made marriage look more like a business contract than a vibrant relationship. Add in crying children, snotty noses, sleepless nights, and the perpetual mini-van, and marriage looked downright depressing!
I wish I had known that marriage can be deeply satisfying even when it is not all romances and roses. There is deep contentment and joy in doing life with a partner who is committed to you. It is possible to live a life of adventure even after saying ‘I do’ and—shockingly—even after having children. Marriage is only boring if you are boring—that is, if you quit seeking the Lord, quit dreaming, quit laughing, and quit trying new adventures.
It is ironic that, at this point in our marriage, we do look a little boring! And while that may be what is portrayed on the outside, we are anything BUT bored! What used to be exciting has lost its allure, and what looked deceptively boring has become precious. Falling in love was the easy part; staying in love is where I’ve found the true treasure.
MARRIAGE MYTH #2: MARRIAGE MEANT BEING A DOORMAT
I struggled for years to find the balance between having an opinion and being submissive. Coming from a Mennonite culture taught me that my value as a woman depended on how hard I worked, and how well I took care of my husband, catering to his every need. I loved him, but I didn’t understand why he couldn’t pick up his own socks. I struggled to be a good wife when being a good wife felt like I had died to who I was.
Submission is often misunderstood and sometimes used to coerce women into staying in abusive relationships. This must grieve God greatly for that is not what He intended marriage to look like. Submission was never meant to be a punishment, but even so, it was difficult.
How could I respect my husband and still have my own opinions?
How could I submit to him without rolling over and playing dead?
What did submission even mean?
These questions would take me years to answer. Understanding submission took time and much digging into Scripture. Eventually, my understanding of Scripture led me to believe that God had given me my own mind and giftings to be used for His purpose and glory, and I was short-changing my marriage when I did not use them. God does not view women as ‘less than’ and neither does my husband, but shaking loose the old ideas of submission took time.
MARRIAGE MYTH #3: MARRIAGE MEANT KILLING MY DREAMS
I thought getting married meant I had to die to the dreams stored inside of me. And to some extent, this was true because you cannot have a strong and healthy marriage without sacrifice.
When I married, I gave up my family, and because I met and married my husband in Central America, I gave up my country and my dream for further education. Those dreams needed to be laid aside to pursue the new dreams God had given me.
Giving up your dreams to get married can sound archaic and contrary to our culture’s views, but it depends on how you look at it. On one hand, it can feel like entrapment. On the other hand, consider: Is your life really yours to live?
In Romans 12, Paul describes our lives as a “living sacrifice” and in Galatians 2:20, he writes that his life is no longer his own because “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” My life belongs to Christ before it belongs to my husband, and I must live in obedience to everything Christ has called me to—not everything my husband calls me to. Whether or not a woman marries, this is her calling as a child of God. In reality, I was giving up my dreams because God called me to—not because my husband required it.
I also discovered that when God allows one dream to die, He plants another—one better than what was lost and sweeter than you could ever have imagined.
What has surprised you about marriage?
Perhaps you also walked into your relationship with a load of myths about marriage. Perhaps your past experiences tarnished your view on marriage and set you up to be cynical and distrusting. If so, may I encourage you to seek what God has to say about marriage in His Word?
In Scripture, we see how God treats men, women, husbands, wives, sinners, and saints alike and gives us the key to loving each other well. It shows us His compassionate grace, tender mercies, and gives us a picture of what marriage can look like when both husband and wife live devoted to Christ and to each other.
Marriage may still always remain a bit of a mystery, but it is one worth solving—even if it takes a lifetime.
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