“It’s unatural, restricting and goes against our natural instincts, which is why people get restless in marriage,” argued my friend as we sat discussing relationships and sexual fidelity. My line of work has a tendency to bring up these sort of conversations.
He’s not alone in thinking that. It’s a line of thought that gets used to rationalize a myriad of behavior in marriages, such as the one I addressed here .
But this looks at divorce only as the sum of the marriage experience and nothing before.
Newsflash: When the city records office hands you your marriage license, it doesn’t come with a giant reset button for all your habits, attitudes and expectations about relationships.
You will be the same the day after you get married as you were the day before.
Could it be then that the way we’re operating in relationships before we get married is contributing to this supposed restlessness?
Growing up in a world shaped by the values of the Sexual Revolution, we’ve followed the guidelines:
- We’ve made a point of being sexually free, even if that meant being emotionally restrained.
- Our relationships have been intentionally brief to keep us from getting ‘tied down.’
- We’ve become experts at the short-term, non-committal, non-binding relationships that allow us to compartmentalize sex and intimacy.
- We’ve consistently chosen what meets our needs, what makes us happy, and what we want in the moment over restraint, postponing the good for the best and the well-being of another person.
If that is how we have approached our relationships, then we will have inevitably built habits of staying emotionally distant, of disengaging when the relationship no longer meets our needs or fails to hold our interest, and regularly moving on in search of ‘something better.’ Yet we’re told that none of that will matter when you finally find that person you want to spend forever with, that the ‘right person’ will make all the difference in how we feel about committment, intimacy and sacrifice.
Unfortunately, advocates of the Sexual Revolution could never guarantee freedom from regret, freedom from STDs, freedom from haunting memories, freedom from habits too hard to break.
In trading one freedom for another, we unwittingly put on shackles of a different kind.
We underestimate the power of those habits we are forming during college and the years following. We think it won’t matter that we slept with a dozen people, or that our spouse is going to be fine with our online subscriptions to XXX websites. I know there are a host of other contributing factors to marriages falling apart, but we can no longer afford to tell those who are single, who are in college and even high school that their decisions today will not affect their relationships tomorrow.
The good news is none of this is irreversible. We are not a damaged generation beyond repair. We’ve watched our parents and have the benefit of learning from them: what works and what has failed abysmally. And if their story is not one that you want, you’re not bound to repeat the same mistakes.
But turning the tide will require work, hard work. It will mean facing your past, being brutally honest about some of the destructive habits you’ve formed and being ruthless in breaking them.
We can change the story for our generation, and by extension, for our kids. They don’t have to grow up like many of us have, with divorced parents, step parents and single parents. The patchwork relationships of our parent’s generation do not have to be those of our own.
I want more for you.
I want you to date with intention, to build relational habits that are laying a stronger foundation for tomorrow and to be excited about marriage.
I want you to enjoy a marriage that is honest, that is glorious, that is full of struggles, and vulnerable moments. A marriage that lasts.
All because you decided today to do something different.
Photo courtesy of Steve Snodgrass