This past weekend I attended a friend's church in Dayton (more on my crazy travel-filled month in a later post), and the priest said something that both of us thought was completely inaccurate.
The priest asked whether our lives were different because of Easter, because of Jesus' resurrection, and argued that if they aren't different, then we don't fully understand Easter. In an attempt to draw an analogy, he mentioned that a couple had been married in that church the day before.
"If you don't feel different the day after your wedding," he said, "if getting married doesn't completely transform your life, then perhaps you don't fully understand what you've done."
He went on to say that in both cases, we had not an option but an obligation to live differently because of what had happened.
Leaving aside the discussion about Easter, let's talk about this perspective on marriage.
The friend whose church it was said she thought the priest was a bit biased because he's not married, and she may be right. How could he know what it's like to wake up the morning after your wedding? He understands marriage from a sacramental/theological view, sure, but in terms of talking about how it should make you "feel" to be married?
I'm not trying to downplay the importance of the marital commitment (which I realize means different things to different people). As you may know, my own wedding day marked for me a commitment of unconditional love for Mike, and it drew a clear demarcation for the physical aspects of our relationship.
But I've said before that I think it's dangerous to emphasize the wedding day too much, and I still believe that's true. Mike and I had been together almost five years by our wedding day, and I think the majority of the things that make us "us" were established by that point. I woke up the next morning still happy, still in love -- maybe slightly relieved that the wedding planning process was finally over, but not radically and fundamentally different. And yet this priest would have you believe that that's a problem -- that that means I didn't fully grasp what I had done.
In contrast, I think that if your wedding day constitutes a seismic shift in your life such that you feel completely and utterly different the day after than you did the day before, then I think there may be a problem.
Here are some possible radical attitude changes as a result of marriage that I don't think are all that great:
- "Now everything is perfect!" This is the infamous "honeymoon period." Now that you're married, all problems have vanished and you are so in love that nothing can touch you. God has sanctified your union and you are now untouchable, unbreakable. If you wake up the day after your wedding thinking you will never be unhappy again now that you're married... you have some rough times ahead.
- "Now he/she will change!" Making a promise to stay together doesn't make you or your partner into a perfect person, nor is it the magic bullet to get your partner to commit to make changes in their life. If you think that your messy, perpetually late, chain-smoking partner is going to become a neat, punctual non-smoker because "now we're married and everything's going to be different," you will more than likely be sorely disappointed. Change takes time; even if getting married does strengthen your partner's resolve to change (and there's no guarantee it will, or even that they'll feel they need to change), it will be one step in a much larger process.
- "Oh sh*t, what have I done?" This is pretty much the antithesis to the other types of "radical changes." This is essentially waking up the day after your wedding feeling radically different because making a permanent commitment to the person next to you has suddenly made you see them for who they are. The giddiness of courtship had blinded you, and now that you've got a ring on your finger, harsh reality is setting in. Or maybe your partner does change as a result of getting married, but for the worse -- dropping the "charade" of wooing you and instead becoming rude or even abusive. That certainly isn't what this priest meant about your wedding transforming your life.
I like what Monday's What Marriage Means to Me contributor said: "I see getting married as a roadstop rather than a destination in two people's journey as Partners for life." Even if your wedding day is a big, flashy, massively important roadstop, it's still just one piece of the journey. And if you have a healthy, loving relationship before and after reaching that particular milestone, I see no reason that passing through it has to fundamentally change you or your life for it to be meaningful.
What do you think? For those of you who are married, did you feel radically different after your wedding? For those of you who aren't, do you think getting married would make you feel completely different?