Was it a good time to get married?

My wife and I have been enjoying married life for the past six months. We regularly look back to our engagement, wedding and honeymoon. In every way, it seemed to be perfect timing. When some of my friends heard I was engaged and about to be married, one of the comments was «Well, it’s about time! You’re in your thirties!!»

It snowed on our wedding day. Some would say that’s terrible. We thought it was exciting – perfect timing! Our second evening as a married couple was Valentine’s day. We ate at a charming restaurant to the sound of a violin and guitar. That too seemed like perfect timing!

During these past months, though, magazines and statistics here in France are noting how marriage is less and less popular[1]. Marriage is seen more and more as «a noose choking you, an exhausting burden».

So, I could not help but wonder, was it really a good time to get married?

Jean-Claude Kaufmann, a French sociologist, makes some interesting remarks: «The general movement towards individualism and celibacy is complex… It is rare, for example, that singleness is deliberately sought. Yet a growing number of those who live it don’t wish to leave it (at least temporarily), or have high expectations on the conditions for leaving it.»[2]

As one who was single for over three decades, I think his observation on complexity is accurate. When we consider the different paths people follow, many factors are at play around us and in us, making it difficult to understand why many of us remain single. In many ways, singleness is a great option. It can be very well lived. Yet, as I look back to my own path, does that mean that I didn’t have any other commitments ? Jean-Claude Guillebaud makes a provocative statement about our generation: «We judge the value of constancy, commitment and perseverance as if that involves a benevolent servitude which has become outrageous. […]  Amazingly though, we willingly submit at the same time to other types of commitment which previously would have been judged constraining, for example, allegiance to a professional project, to oneself against all odds, to a social group or, of course, to one’s own natural tendencies.»[3] It is not that we do not know about commitment anymore. Instead, other commitments have taken the place of marriage. They come with their own limitations and burdens.

So, was it a good time to get married? At our wedding celebration, a Bible verse was shared that I found insightful. «Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm. » (Song of Solomon 8:6). The woman in the poem is asking her spouse for a commitment, inwardly and outwardly, to remain faithful to her. Wouldn’t one’s spouse find more security and stability through one’s commitment to marriage? Wouldn’t it be more fulfilling to lighten the other’s burden for him or her to be more free ?

That pattern of a commitment that sets free, lightens the burden is not easy to maintain, though. But it is found ultimately in the love Christ demonstrated, which the Scriptures place as the model of all relationships, marriage included. « Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her » (Ephesians 5:25). At the appointed time, he was committed to love and give Himself totally.

Paul Harrison

[1]« Pacs ou mariage, faire le bon choix » Publié le 30/06/2010 lepoint.fr ; http://www.insee.fr/fr/themes/document.asp?ref_id=ip1276#inter2

[2] Jean-Claude Kaufmann, La femme seule et le prince charmant, Nathan, 1999, p. 19

[3] Jean-Claude Guillebaud, La tyrannie du plaisir, Seuil, 1998, p. 471-472


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