Have you ever asked people what they think the purpose of marriage is? You may be surprised at what kind of answers you get. Look it up on a google search and you find all kinds of answers: “tax breaks”, “to raise a family”, “stability”, and “to keep divorce attorneys making triple digits” are just a few of the answers you will actually find! One (legitimate) survey was done by the Pew Research Center in July of 2007 that polled over 2,000 random selected participants in the United States and asked them a series of questions about marriage. Do you know what the #1 answer was for what these randomly selected people was when they asked what the purpose of marriage was?
When asking the non-church attending population, 68% of them said that the main purpose of marriage was for mutual happiness and a distant second with 21% was raising children.
Now when Pew researchers talked to those who attended church on a weekly basis, the numbers changed… but not by much! 58% of weekly church attendees said that mutual happiness was the main reason for marriage while 25% said the main purpose was for raising children. Only 14% said that neither one of these was the main reason for marriage. 
What does this mean? It means that the predominant train of thought for both Christians and non-Christians is that happiness is paramount in marriage. That is what the population at large thinks is the main reason why we get hitched. While this may be the prevailing answer that most Americans agree on, it is a far cry from the Biblical idea of marriage, and herein lies a huge problem when it comes to the covenant of marriage. Americans say happiness is paramount; the Bible says that God’s glory is the reason for marriage. Marriage is not about your happiness; it is about God’s glory. Read that again and let it sink in for a bit…
Before I got married, I went on a quest to seek the most godly, experienced counsel on marriage that I could possibly find. I come from a divorced home and that was really rough on my brothers and I so I resolved to do everything I could to ensure that that did not happen to my up and coming family. I thought taking some preventative measures would pay off some long term dividends, and boy was I right.
So I set out with a mission of asking anyone and everyone that had been married for over 20 years what their marital advice was for a rookie husband to be. I ended up getting a lot of good words of wisdom, ranging from “Always open the door for your wife no matter how old you get” to “A happy wife is a happy life!” to “Have sex as often as possible”. (Needless to say, that last one was a favorite of mine!) But there was one person who did not give me any advice, even though I specifically asked for it. I don’t even think you could even call what they told me wisdom because it was bigger than that. What they told me actually changed my whole perception on what marriage is and what it is supposed to be about. What he said hit me like a ton of bricks. Even after reading Ephesians 5 what seemed like a billion times, I had somehow missed this crucial, paradigm shifting thought.
When I asked him for advice, he simply said, “Marriage is not about your happiness. It is about your holiness.” I looked at him dumbfounded because I couldn’t even process what he said in that moment. Sure, I nodded my head like I understood, but let’s be honest, there are many times we just nod our heads in agreement because we don’t want to look stupid because we didn’t get what the person we are talking to just said. Come on, confess, you’ve done that too.
After walking away from that conversation, the idea that marriage was not about happiness but about my holiness continued to scramble my brain. What does that even mean? How does holiness play a part in marriage? How do I get sanctified by some other person? Wasn’t that Jesus’ job? Then after some more thought and prayer, things started clicking. The pieces of Ephesians 5 started to resurface. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. I started meditating on that. What does it mean to revere Christ? It means to be in awe of, to regard with deep admiration and respect, to worship. So my marriage is supposed to somehow make me admire Christ more, to draw me closer to Him, to actually increase my worship of Him. Now if you have been married for any amount of time, you know there are days where marriage may test your faith, but to increase your faith and reverence? To actually make me more holy?
I tried breaking this down logically so I could get a better mental and spiritual grip on this. If my wife and I are submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ and it is in turn drawing me closer to Jesus, then I am going to become more holy. I started to get it on the theoretical level, but then thought to myself, what about the day to day practical stuff? Sure that sounds nice conceptually speaking, but when you just get home from an insane day at work where your last nerve was grated in a disastrous meeting with your boss and all you want to do is crash on the couch but the kids are screaming and hungry, the house is trashed, your wife is stressed, the dishes are not done and the pot of angel hair pasta is bubbling over… where does the whole holiness thing play in now?
Now I don’t want you to miss this. I even started a new paragraph just so you would pay more attention. These are the moments that play an integral role in defining who you are as a husband. These are the types of daily scenarios where God is giving you the opportunity to grow in holiness and Christ likeness. What would make you happy? Letting your wife handle the kids and dinner because hey, you work 50+ hours to provide for this family. The least your wife can do is get the kids under control and put dinner on the table, right? Sure, that might make you happy, but what your wife brings to the table or whether you are happy or not aren’t even the right questions to be asking. That is like asking how many touchdowns a Red Sox pitcher threw in last night’s game versus the Yankees. It’s the wrong question for the wrong sport. Touchdowns have nothing to do with baseball. Likewise, in the context of marriage, you have to start by asking the right question. The question frames everything else and if the question is off, everything is off from the get go. You can’t choose the right answer if you don’t even have the right question. The right question to be asking yourself in these situations is “What is going to make me holy? What response is going to draw me closer to Christ and help me to become more like Him?” Trust me, there are going to be days where you are exhausted after a long days work and you step over that threshold into a house of chaos and the last thing you want to do is more work. As a husband, however, you can make the choice to roll up your sleeves, get those dishes done, not only strain the noodles but also throw the sauce on the other burner and give your wife a hand. Yes, you are going to go against what your body and nature are telling you to do, but you are also choosing to do what you know is the godly thing to do is. (Sounds eerily familiar to what Jesus says in Matthew 10:39… imagine that!) You tell me which scenario is going to draw you closer to Christ; being the servant or acting like the king and expecting everyone in the household to serve you?
…. Be sure to check out part 1 of the “Marriage Is Not About Your Happiness” if you haven’t already!
2 thoughts on “Marriage Is Not About Your Happiness (Part 2/3)”
Matt, your blog is amazing and really gives me the gut check that i need sometimes. If my husband and i both think the same way, happiness will just naturally come despite it not being the purpose of my marriage. By us being the best daughters and sons to Christ, we are better spouses to one another.
Perhaps that’s why, when a couple is no longer “happy”, they feel free to divorce – Christian or not. :/