News Flash: You don’t have to be married to be happy. You may be thinking, “I already knew that”, but you would be amazed how often this has come up over my years in the ministry. Single folks don’t actually say they have to be married to be happy, of course. They don’t say it, but many do live it.
How do they live it? There are a lot of ways. Sometimes you see people’s belief in their attitudes. They are frustrated, angry, depressed, unsure, hurting. When you begin to ask questions, somewhere along the way, it comes up that they aren’t married yet. Other times, you see it in people’s life focus. All arrows point to finding a spouse, as though that accomplishment is the pinnacle of their lives.
The Must-Get-Married Trap
I see basically three groups of people who are most prone to fall into the “must get married” trap.
1. Women. Age doesn’t seem to matter. I’ve seen little girls whose main focus was their future wedding, 70 year olds who were scouting out looking for a man, and everything in between. I have seen every known tactic and emotion surface. Somehow, it gets instilled in women that marriage equals happiness, and nothing else will suffice.
2. Men. I see this “hurry-up-itis” mostly in men who have past some magical “I-should-be-married-by-now” age in their own minds or the minds of their well-meaning friends. Generally speaking, they seem to be immune until they reach that age, but often fall into depression after they reach it.
3. Singles called into the ministry. This is a big one. Somehow, we have been given the impression that you can’t really serve God unless you’re married. It seems to be an unstated law — Thou must be married to serveth thy God. (Catholics excepted, of course. They go to the other end of the spectrum and forbid marriage for those serving in ministry. Don’t worry, I’m not opening a theological debate here — just talking casually about beliefs of different denominations. If this upsets you, please refer to the title of this post and remember my topic.)
But are these people right? Do you have to be married to be happy or to serve God?
The reality is that whatever is in you, you will take into the marriage. If you are unhappy, discontent, or always looking for the next great thing to make you happy, those attitudes are not going to disappear just because you got married. You take it with you. Now that you’re finally married, it will be something else. “If my husband would just pay more attention to me, then I’d be happy” or “If my wife would just take better care of my physical needs, then I’d be happy” or “If I just made more money”… The list is as vast as the people who believe it.
If you believe that marriage is going to magically fix some issue in your life, you will find yourself very disappointed. Often, I have seen people get married to fix two main issues: Loneliness and lust. After nearly 20 years in full time ministry, I have yet to ever see marriage fix either one. In just a few years, the people that thought marriage would solve their problems end up in our counseling office because the issue is worse. You take the issue with you. If you want to marry to cure yourself of loneliness, I will tell you that there is no place more lonely than a room full of people. Your spouse cannot fulfill that need in your life. To start a marriage in that way is to start a very needy and dependent relationship. If you believe that marriage will cure you of lust, I will tell you that the new wears off very quickly. A wandering eye that isn’t trained to stay home will not magically obey the rules just because there is a piece of paper to make things official.
It’s All About You
The reality is that starting a relationship to make yourself happy or to fix a problem, whether it’s loneliness, lust or any other issue, cannot make you happy for one very simple reason. It’s all about you. That is the common thread in all those reasons people want to marry. Selfishness. Me-ism. A relationship can never be truly happy or healthy as long as it’s all about you.