In my family there is a lot of brokenness, so many relationships that have gone wrong. My parents’ messy marriage is over. I now have three sets of grandparents. I’ve worked through countless hurts to pick up the shattered pieces of my life. Yet I still want to get married.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been through long seasons where I thought marriage was to blame for all the pain and suffering in my life. I began to think marriage was toxic. I swore I would never get married because I didn’t want to be in a binding agreement with another person who could potentially hurt me. But all I had to base my opinion on were the relationships I had witnessed in my own home and in the homes of my closest friends, all of which were unhealthy.
It wasn’t until high school that I got to see firsthand what a truly healthy marriage could look like, and it absolutely blew my mind. A long-time boyfriend of mine had parents who very clearly loved and cherished one another. I spent countless hours with them when I was over at his house and it never ceased to amaze me how they worked together—how even if they had a disagreement, neither of them started screaming at the top of their lungs. Instead, they listened to one another, heard each person’s point of view, and came to a decision without starting World War III. Then they would kiss and move on. I couldn’t believe it! They seemed so normal, but this was so foreign to me. One time I even asked my boyfriend to pinch me because I wasn’t sure if what I was seeing was real.
Then I met a couple at church who led my high school Sunday school class. What stood out the most to me was the way they laughed with each other. They always seemed happy to be around each other, something I rarely saw in my parents’ relationship. I figured they must be the exception, that their marriage was one of the few perfect ones. But they were very candid with us about how their marriage wasn’t perfect and how they had disagreements just like everyone else. They explained that marriage is about choosing to love your spouse well even when you don’t see eye to eye. It’s being a team and doing the hard work of pushing through obstacles, without letting your differences break you apart.
These couples made me believe in marriage again. I decided that if marriage could look like it did in their lives, then I absolutely wanted it for my own life. I realized marriage isn’t toxic, it’s beautiful—and that I could have a healthy, committed relationship just like them.
When I started dating in high school, I resolved to never enter into a relationship unless I could see myself marrying the person. That’s not to say I was planning on getting married anytime soon, but I viewed each of my relationships as practice for the lifelong commitment I am looking for. As an adult, I continue to approach dating this way.
For me, marriage was and continues to be the ultimate relationship goal. Not just marriage for the sake of being married, and not a marriage like my parents’. I want what I saw in those two couples. I believe in marriage because a lasting, lifelong bond with another person—a bond that’s imperfect and messy but also beautiful and filled to the brim with love—is something that I can realize in my own life.