Marriage is work. Anybody who doesn’t know that has lived a sheltered life, or seen so much divorce and disfunction in their life that they figure nobody works on their marriage…they just bail out when it gets tough. And that does seem to be the most common response – leave, get divorced and start over, maybe it will work the next time. For some, they beat the odds and find “happiness” in a second or third marriage, but for the majority, they either settle for ‘good enough’ or never settle again, moving from one failed attempt to another. Why is that? I’m not saying divorce is never an option (although that’s a different discussion), but it’s always the least desirable one and something God hates.
I’ve always thought (well, at least in the last 10 years) that dating in elementary school (yes it happens), middle school, high school and maybe even college was a bad idea. The school years are a training ground, and what are those who date training themselves to do? To QUIT when it’s tough. One person in the couple says something the other doesn’t like….then kick ’em to the curb. One ‘partner’ finds somebody else more interesting (cute, exciting, whatever) and decides to move on. A couple constantly argues about silly stuff and decides it’s “just not working out” as if they have no part to play in the whole mess. Some are better off then others, moving through a series of serial monogamy and having just one at a time, while others hook up with multiple people like trying clothes on and see which one fits best. Either way, it sets in place bad habits for marriage.
When I was a student pastor, I asked kids three questions to see if they were ready for dating (since dating is really about finding a spouse, not just a buddy for a good time)
1) Are you ready to be married?
(if not, why date? you don’t intend on sticking around anyway)
2) Are you ready to have kids?
(too many people think of sex as entertainment or something to do on a date – HELLO – what if you get pregnant? Not to mention missing out on God’s design for good sex)
3) Are you ready and able to… (for men) support a family or (for women) stay home and raise a family?
(somebody needs to pay the bills and when kids come, somebody needs to take care of them and train them and it’s not the daycare, government, school or churches ultimate responsibility – it’s the parents)
I’ve heard plenty of people (teens and parents alike) grumble about this being old-fashioned and unrealistic, but I simply disagree. I can’t think of any good reason to date if you can’t answer these questions in the affirmative. I believe that any skill, ability or social benefit that may be gained by dating could easily be picked up in other more healthy situations.
So sure, marriage is work, but the work starts well before we ever say “I do.” It starts with the parents teaching and modeling for their kids the value of commitment, hard work and self-control. If that’s done, there’ll be a better chance of a successful marriage and living happily ever after.