So, obviously no man is an island—he needs a woman. Together they make a big island, which is why everyone honeymoons in Hawaii…
My wife and I are in our mid-twenties, which means every spring our mailbox is full of envelopes unlike the envelopes we get the rest of the year. Some are square. Some have fancy calligraphy. All of them testify to a couple eager for marriage. Many of these couples are committed Christians who have diligently prepared for a marriage full of love and self-sacrifice. They have invited lots of people to their wedding, but unfortunately they are going into marriage alone–on purpose.
There is wisdom in preserving exclusive, intimate space in a marriage, especially at the beginning (see Deuteronomy 24:5). But the quality of this space is deepened by and even dependent on rich relationships with others. Here are a few reasons to find close allies in the early years of marriage.
Christ died that his church might live: The glory of the church is not just her diversity of every tribe, tongue, and nation. She is glorious in her unity under one Lord, a unity that warrants calling other believers “father,” “mother,” “sister” and “brother.” While marriage requires leaving and cleaving, all those dearly beloved cannot meaningfully support the marriage if they know little about it. Through the embrace of a local congregation a young couple is reminded that their new family is part of a bigger, more important family.
Good friends support a marriage: Marriages are the best demonstrations of C.S. Lewis’ point that groups of friends amplify enjoyment of each individual. We often fall in love with someone for things they do when they are interacting with others; withdrawal from other relationships removes this pleasure. A close friend is able to personally remind a frustrated wife that her husband is a faithful man who loves her very much, or call a confused husband to simple obedience. Young married life thrives on support, not seclusion.
It’s not either/or, it’s both/and: My dad loves saying this. It’s the best response to young couples that say they aren’t sustaining deep friendships due to their commitment to a deep marriage. If the dilemma is friendship or marriage, you know where to go. But finding yourself in this dilemma is the third most serious problem you could possibly have, following problems with God and problems your spouse. Make time for the people around you before you make time for anything else.
The grass is greener from far away: If superficial interaction with others is all we have besides our spouse, it is very easy to think our relationship is the only one with challenges, or our spouse the only one with weaknesses. Flee this temptation by getting up close and personal with others, among them people you’re prone to idealize. Ask old lovers how they worked out early differences. Great refreshment is found in realizing our failures aren’t abnormal or debilitating.
Tis much better to give than receive: Two people in love are very sweet, sometimes too sweet; a marriage will rot if its fruit is not given away. Because of this, couples who plan on waiting to have children need to find ways to serve others in the mean time. Pets are good (my wife and I are foster parents for orphan kittens), but not as challenging or valuable as things made in God’s image. While you’re at it, find humans you’ll see enough to fail in front of and get annoyed by.