Why ‘I do’ is bigger than you

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Did you ever wonder what happened to Cinderella’s stepsisters after she married the prince and left to live happily ever after in the castle?

Yeah me either.

Love stories tend to focus only on the people inside them. Which makes sense…it’s a love story, not the Proud Family.

However, to say that relationships don’t affect people outside of them is just not true. This is especially important when it comes to marriage. The idea that marriage is supposed to last forever isn’t a silly fairy tale or a random rule an uptight monk decided would be a good idea; it’s the foundation for family life.

Love is meant to be eternal…not just to last as long as it feels good. The family unit depends on this. The security that comes from a couple that stays together provides their children with the opportunity to learn what it means to love and be loved. Love entails permanency; anything less is insufficient and breaks the most essential player in loving relationships: trust.

This isn’t just my opinion: we know that parental divorce leads to lower trust in future relationships of the children.

In other words, something that is already difficult (entrusting yourself completely to someone else) is made exponentially more challenging.

Trust is everything. Self-gift necessitates a surrender of control that can’t happen without faith in the other person.

When trust is broken in a vital relationship – the one that sets the example for all the relationships to come – we are left impaired for life. This may seem like an exaggeration, I thought so too until I experienced the ramifications in my own relationship.

Facing my trust issues has been one of the biggest hurdles I’ve faced thus far and not one I would wish on my worst enemy. The pain, confusion and helplessness that arises when you feel you can’t trust someone you care deeply about is overwhelming and has often threatened what I know to be a really good thing. When there is betrayal in a formative relationship (as what happens in divorce), our outlook on intimacy and relationships becomes skewed…unnatural.

Despite the normalcy of divorce, I know I’m not the only person suffering it’s severe consequences. The marriage rate in the U.S. is at an all time low. An important reason given for this is the fact  that millennials’ ‘don’t think it’s likely to last.’ (Deseret News, 2015). We are also getting married a lot later in life (at the age of 27 for women and 29 for men compared to the ages of 20 and 23 in 1960, according to Bentley.edu). We are experiencing a ‘cultural retreat’ from marriage…and it is no bueno.

What we’ve resorted to is cohabiting – or living together outside of marriage. We think that this kind of relationship is preferable to making a vow and then breaking it later. While understandable, this idea couldn’t be further from the truth. This type of relationship is dramatically less stable and has a much lower rate of success than those of married couples (Deseret News, 2015). But, we think we’re smart so…here we are.

We also take part in what’s being called ‘serial dating’; where we go on multiple dates with multiple different people over a short span of time. Apps like Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid, Coffee Meets Bagel, Hinge, Happn and others are all out there to help us find dates quickly. The convenience of it makes us more detached from the outcome: ‘hey if it doesn’t work out with this person, there are 1,569 other matches I can reach out to.’

There’s nothing wrong with meeting someone over the internet; the problem arises when we treat dating like we’re flipping through TV channels as opposed to what it should be: a genuine effort to discover another person and find out if you can see yourself marrying them.

Marriage and family have been pushed aside in the name of practicality and as a result we’re becoming even more self-centered. The thing is, it’s not just about us. Love is necessarily other focused: the person we marry and the children we have have everything to gain from our unconditional love. We can’t afford to just look out for ourselves; there’s too much at stake.

It’s not glamorous or exciting to think about Cinderella and prince Charming’s children or how their relationship affected their community, but that’s really everything. After all, we can tell a tree by it’s fruit!

What we do in life matters, but nothing matters more than the close relationships we have with the people we love. Love (like trust) is learned and it can’t be learned if we’re focused on just our own needs and desires…it’s bigger than that.

We may say ‘I do’ at the altar, but really it is so much more than just about us; if we take this seriously we can love others fully and allow them to then do the same…and isn’t that quite the privilege?

 

 

 

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