Our society doesn’t know anything about marriage

Oh, there are certainly some individuals, some couples, that possess immense wisdom and knowledge on the subject; wisdom and knowledge earned from years of experience, crafted with an intuition and maturity that few achieve and fewer even attempt to achieve. Some people in our society know something about marriage. My parents know plenty about it. They’ve been married for over 30 years, they’ve had six kids; they’ve seen the ups and downs, they’ve withstood every challenge and obstacle that the world can present. Their marriage is real, their love is real, and it’s an inspiration to me and my wife. There are some in my parents’ camp, but our society as a whole? No.

No, it doesn’t know a thing about marriage.

Just look at what we’ve done to the institution. Look at the sorry state of the sacrament. Consider how frivolously and arrogantly many of us flutter in and out of marriages, like the union isn’t any more significant than a part time job at Applebee’s. The turnover rate in marriage these days is worse than the turnover rate at telemarketing firms. The “prevailing wisdom” about marriage is bunk. It’s garbage. It’s trash. It’s one of the principle reasons why our culture can not claim to be more “enlightened” or “advanced” than societies past. Yes, I am aggressively, passionately, unapologetically hostile to our culture’s “lessons” about life and marriage; that’s another thing I learned from my parents.

I’ve been married to my wife for two years so I don’t pretend to be some sort of budding marriage counselor. Still, I know enough to recognize lies when I hear them. I know that we’ve weathered the storms and drawn closer to each other by rejecting virtually every piece of marital “insight” this twisted country has to offer. Particularly because we are Christian and we build the foundation of our marriage in Christ — a strategy that doesn’t gel with current trends.

A few days ago a guy named Seth Adam Smith wrote a viral post titled “Marriage isn’t for you.” Of course, the message he conveys isn’t what you’d expect from the subject line. He goes on to make the important and, you would think, completely uncontroversial point that marriage isn’t something you enter into only for yourself. You are in it for your spouse and, when the time comes, for your children. Marriage is an act and an institution of love. And love does not point inward. You don’t find the secret to a successful marriage by plunging down into the Cave of Self. There’s nothing down there but your own old dusty fears and self-centered obsessions. You find the secret in the other’s heart. We pledge as much when we take that vow before God.

I’m paraphrasing Seth’s thoughts, so go ahead and give his post a read. Dozens of people asked me to comment on his piece, yet I initially hesitated. The man is enjoying some great success with a fantastic message about love and unity, and I’m not looking to piggyback on his traffic. But then I began to read how he’s being attacked and criticized by the usual cadre of neo-liberal trolls and eternal naysayers. Somewhere in this sincere profession of faith and love and gratitude to his wife, the legions of modernist fools found something to complain about. As someone who recently met the wrath of this Army of Imbeciles after I — you guessed it — expressed my love for my wife, I thought it appropriate to chime in.

Seth, stay strong, brother. Your message was true, urgent, and “old fashioned,” which is why it’s met with so much anger by all of these tolerant, “open minded” folks.

I understand what you were trying to say. It was easy to understand because you stated it pretty clearly. And, sure, married people are still selfish. Married people in successful marriages still struggle with the urge to be self-absorbed. Nobody is making any Utopianist claims here. But the point — not just Seth’s point, but THE point — is that we have to fight that inclination and always work to serve and love the person we’ve married.

Yes, serve. Oh Lord, how antiquated. You know what? My wife serves me. She does. Does it sting to read that? “NO WOMAN SHOULD EVER SERVE A MAN, YOU CHAUVINIST!” Yeah, take that attitude into your fourth marriage and tell me how it works for you. My wife serves me and I serve her. And our service to each other manifests itself in different ways.

You might say, “well, that’s ONE way for a marriage to work.” No, it’s the only way. I don’t know this because I’m some kind of expert. I know it because I paid attention to the vows I took.

In modern times, we like to pretend marriage is just a “contract between consenting adults,” which makes it about as significant as your lease agreement, or the contract you sign with the guy who’s remodeling your kitchen. But it’s more than that. Those words I said to my wife when we stood on that altar: they meant something. And they didn’t mean something in the same way that a great symbol — like the flag — means something. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that the words did something. Something happened in that church that day. Something mysterious and supernatural occurred. My soul was joined with my wife’s and we became one. That’s not just some nice little phrase: it’s real. It happens. I became one with my wife.

The ring I put on her finger was a symbol. The flowers, the dresses, the myriad of other superficialities, these were all decorations. But the ceremony itself, and the words we spoke, they were neither symbolic nor decorative. They were real. God was there, and He took this physical event and elevated it into something mystical and other-worldy. And He will surely hold me to the vows I took, one way or another.

People went after Seth, insisting that we “still maintain our own identity in marriage.”

Yeah, well, no we don’t. Yes, I am still me, but the nature of me has changed. If you want to be completely your “own person,” don’t get married. What is so hard about that? Coming to the altar with frivolous intentions is like a doctor performing neurosurgery just because he’s curious to see what a brain looks like. “Oh, you want me to actually fix this thing? Geez, I wasn’t trying to get into anything serious here.”

People enter marriage like mercenaries. They aren’t spouses — they’re scalpers. They give only when they get, and the amount that they give will be directly proportioned to the amount they receive. They are calculating and immature. They think their “feelings” are what should guide their union. They drift with the breeze until the breeze no longer carries them. They think of love as a train you buy tickets for and then ride as far as the track will take you. They don’t realize that love is a choice and we must CHOOSE it every day until we die. Sometimes we have to choose it in spite of ourselves and our feelings.

That’s the message about marriage that isn’t popular, and because it isn’t popular it must be shouted all the louder. I say these things not because I think I am an example of how to perfectly implement them, but because they are true. Simple as that.

Our culture is poison to marriage. Our culture is poison in general. Every day brings us more evidence of this fact.

*******

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403 Responses to Our society doesn’t know anything about marriage

  1. Solomon says:

    Due to marriage/divorce laws, Marriage is now just state-sanctioned boyfriend and girlfriend, and a vehicle for money transfer from earners to ‘victims’.

    As an aside, I think you and your readers might rather enjoy this book:

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  4. Melissa Avant says:

    Matt, thank you for your blog, and particularly for this one on marriage. My husband and I have been married for 28 years as of Oct.12th. I suggest you and your wife sit down and read this together every five years. I especially like your grasp of the solemnity of the covenant that couples make before a holy God. I could say a whole lot more, but space doesn’t permit. Suffice it to say, hard as it’s been at times to “stay in love” with each other, I’d do it all again.

  5. marisaporter says:

    If you’re serving each other then you’re not chauvinist. If you were to say (which you didn’t) that women should serve their husbands and not vice versa that would be pretty sad, but I’m not seeing that. I adore serving my husband and I adore that he loves and wants to care for me as well. I am totally committed to marriage and have been praying that I would find a way to share my beliefs with others in a loving and Christ-honoring way. Thanks for writing something I could read and appreciate.

  6. While this was a good read, I do think you’ve contradicted yourself a little bit–you talk about the “naysayers” and how negative they are, but then you end your post on such an awful, horrible note regarding society. I think we have flaws, but there is hope yet. Your post and others like it are proof of that. Regardless, your message is lost in the contradiction of your points and attitude of the post. I also think you’d stand to reach more people if you weren’t so dead set on your own religion. Marriage happens in all cultures and religions. Call me a liberal or what will you, but you will lose a great deal of people when they realize you’re essentially alienating them because they don’t believe in your god. They will come to the conclusion that they are automatically not worthy of marriage in your eyes. I apologize if that wasn’t the your intention but that is how the writing came across. Overall I do not disagree with your piece as a whole but like I said, your points could have been made better in this argument.

    • Scribbles says:

      You don’t get it at all do you? Why the hell should he water down and dilute his own beliefs in order to spread them? That’s meaningless, it’s mercenary. Who cares how many people he reaches if he’s only telling them what they want to hear? Besides, there’s a corner on that market already.

      • mgh says:

        He doesn’t need to water down his beliefs to get his point across. He should cut out being a judgmental, i-know-everything closed-minded person and consider that there is usually many valid, successful approaches to address most issues.

        • Lisa says:

          Perhaps you could enlighten us with a non-judgmental and more “inclusive” approach rather than sounding judgmental and closed minded about what Matt was saying?

          I’m serious here, it’s funny that the critics don’t offer alternatives, just diatribes. Matt has stated what he has learned, how his faith had informed him and how societal norms…shacking up, selfishness and self absorption (you know everyone gets a prize…we’re all wonderful just because we are) are detrimental to a strong marital bond. So if you see something that works for you, why not enlighten us with a cogent and well supported argument as to why?

      • M says:

        He also did a lot of judging of others without substantiating those judgments.

        • Lisa says:

          No, Matt was quite clear that the behaviors and some of the currently socially acceptable norms are in opposition to Christian teaching. That you may not agree with Christian teaching doesn’t mean the arguments were not substantiated. As he said, one only needs to look at the consequences of certain behaviors on our society. You don’t need to be a Christian (although it helps :-) ) to see that broken homes, broken families, families that never formed all serve to promote chaos, crime, substance abuse and poverty. You need not accept Christianity to look at reality.

        • Lisa says:

          Also M as do the rest of those disagreeing with Matt, you fail to provide any argument supporting YOUR position. I asked you for a non-judgmental and universal argument in opposition to Matt’s statements. What did you do? Just another diatribe, another “shoot the messenger” response.

      • M says:

        In my opinion, the most important attribute to bring to marriage is the ability to adapt and change what the most important attribute is in that moment. It isn’t always going to be serving your spouse. It is having patience as a spouse shows characteristics that are difficult to tolerate. Forgiveness when a spouse makes a mistake or a trespass. Understanding when there is a disagreement, imagine that – understanding. Communication when there may be hard feelings and the spouse is oblivious to it. Service when your spouse could use a reminder that someone cares. I could go on.

        My disagreement with Mr. Walsh is about his unnecessarily mean and judgmental delivery. Not his core message. When I wish to share a message with my child I don’t tell my child that people everywhere are horrible, that society is going to hell, and that the world is a terrible place. (Mr. Walsh may not have used those words, but they were very implied) I get to the point and explain how I feel and why my approach is beneficial.

        • Tony says:

          I guess it’s a difference of realistic versus optimistic. Sure, giving your kids the message that the world is great and everybody loves each other is going to make them a lot happier. But it will also be a lie. The truth would be telling them that the divorce rate is over 50% and has been climbing every year, and it’s partly due to terrible messages from liberals.

    • Jack says:

      People always want Christians to be all inclusive of other religions. What you may not understand is that true Christians have a relationship, not a religion. Why would they speak of anything but the truth that they know. It’s not something they put on on Sunday and take off when at work or writing their thoughts. It is a part of them in everything they do. It is who they are. If someone doesn’t listen to what Matt says because he speaks of God, it will be their loss, not his.

      • Exactly! Thank you Jack!

      • Charitas says:

        Whew! thank you Jack. Surprisingly simple yet how few people really understand.

      • Benjamin Harrison says:

        People have a right to believe, and people have a right to disagree, and have a right to disagree with the disagreement.

      • Lauren says:

        Very well said, Jack!! I am going to quote you! Thank you!

      • Abigail says:

        I appreciate what he said too even though I’m Muslim! I don’t feel judged or offended because he doesn’t believe in Allah – I take the good in what he says and am able to quietly leave aside what does not agree with my own worldview. Giving in marriage, and for that matter the impossibility of really religious people to “gel” with overall culture, are mutual issues for both religions.

      • Cotton says:

        But so do most other major religions, in their eyes…

        Some things that are true to you are not true to other people. Some things that are true to other people are not true to you. That’s why it’s important for the government to promote equal support.

    • Bill says:

      The true naysayer always amazes me. I doesn’t matter what idea someone is trying to get across or how they say or write it, the naysayer will find something they don’t like and will then discount the entire idea. How do they ever learn anything?

    • melleemak says:

      Though I disagree on your review of his religious convictions permeating Matt’s writing understand what you are saying about hope. And I agree with that statement. Most of Matt’s posts I have agreed with as I share his values, but often times I am slightly turned off by the aggression that his statements are written in. There are a lot of terrible things happening, and I think the decay marriage and the family unit is an arrow pointing to the future and disintegration of society. BUT as long as good people are willing to speak up and rally other good people together there is ALWAYS hope.
      Matt, I think you’re great, and I know you’re angry, and I understand why but you seem to either fill or end your posts with proclamations of doom and gloom. Christ’s message was a message of hope and love, I hope you’ll consider that as you continue to preach the truth.

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  8. guy says:

    This sounds like a heap of “us vs. them” intertwined with some good principles about marriage and fidelity.

  9. leia says:

    I enjoyed the blog,and I do think that the main problem with marriages nowadays is self entitlement and self absorbency. My husband and I take time for each others needs.We go shooting together and bullet shopping when he needs a break, and he’ll take me dancing and fabric shopping when I’m feeling down. Our individual needs are being met, but we’re doing it together. We build our marriage on common ground and so far its been working. Doesnt matter how many years its been, because thats like telling a 6 year old that they know nothing just because I have a masters degree. After all don’t kids say the darnest things? I think our world’s problem is that we focus too much on the differences. Christian, Muslim, Atheist, black, white, Asian. Poor, rich, middle class. And even female vs male. May I suggest that everyone wants support, love and a better world, and we should work together on that instead of tearing each other down? So what if I believe that a God exists and you dont? I firmly believe that you are trying to live life as best as you can, and guess what, so am I. Doing things differently isn’t always a bad thing.

    • Benjamin Harrison says:

      My wife and I have opposite political registries, and have opposite personal computer preferences, etc. But none of that is allowed to drive the destructive wedge.

      I personally have found that much of the conflict in today’s world really involves someone feeling bothered about something else, but not willing to be honest about what it is.

      I mean yes, my father and I enjoy nice barbecue father-son time when I visit my parents’ place despite my father being an Atheist and myself Christian. Tearing each other down is usually symptomatic of personal insecurity.

  10. Reenski says:

    Reblogged this on Reenie Keen is Dead and Gone and commented:
    A little more on marriage that I generally agree with.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful post. I’m not married yet, and I’m not very religious. I do have beliefs, but I don’t practice prayer very regularly. I do, however, believe that God has a greater plan for the world that we, as people, will probably never understand. So I do believe that the vows recited at a wedding by the bride and groom should be meant, and meant with every fiber in their being. They are said before God (“We gather here before God” is just for kicks and giggles), and I believe becoming one with someone is very real and on a holy level. Society relies too much on divorce, so people think, “Oh, let’s get married, and if it turns out we shouldn’t have gotten married, then we can just divorce. Problem solved.”
    When the day comes that I say my vows, I will mean them, and I’ll know in my heart that my partner means them.
    This is a great post, and the world needs more people that understand the real meaning of marriage.

    • Benjamin Harrison says:

      A lot of people have succumbed to fearing the material side of marriage, which is not a good thing. If you look at the material benefits of marriage, those alone don’t justify enough to make a marriage a good thing so much as a liability. To a lot of people, divorce and the material liabilities involved sadly detract from them seeing what real marriage is like. Sadly, the same problems with divorce are also present when cohabitating relationships don’t turn out well too. That is not to say that I condemn 100 percent every guy I know who cohabitates with his girlfriend, I know quite a few, I would recommend upgrading it to marriage as a possible consideration.

      Marriage isn’t also this ideal fairy tale relationship like the Disney movies, it’s about forgiving your spouse despite the occasional baby stress, fatigue, headaches, and so on that happens. It’s also about being busy and hitting the ground running too. When I got married last year, it has been intense when it happened and I was a recently graduated engineering student moving from one contract job or that perfect security where I can just rest life out easy, but I found that despite the hitting the ground running that is reality for most people when they start, it’s worth it at the same time.

      You have my best of wishes Anon, thanks for the insight.

      Benjamin Harrison

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  13. Shannon says:

    Wow, thanks for telling me what marriage is, I had no idea I was way too intelligent for it.

  14. Ellie says:

    http://cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/words-i-choke-on-or-used-to-anyway/

    Matt, I think this is a good post for normals. But people in abusive marriages hear these things all the time and feel condemned and like they just aren’t trying hard enough. I am not sure where this message is unpopular. I have never met anyone who had a flippant attitude about marriage. Ending a marriage takes a huge financial, emotional, physical toll. And the few people I know, myself included, who’ve had to do it, fought for years to avoid it. In cases where there is abuse, it is a blessing to have the legal protection that comes from divorce.

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  16. The longer I am married the more I see that marriage is about transforming people into better versions of themselves. You’ll never get better loving support and accurate criticism from anything other than marriage.

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  27. Disheartened says:

    The problem with both of these blogs is that they’re oversimplifications, and that you’re being rude. First of all, yes, marriage is about the other person, but it’s not completely about the other person. Seth’s post talked about how he was worried before he got married, and the advice to him was, it’s not about you, it’s about them. That’s complete rubbish. If someone approaches you on the street and asks you to marry them because it would be mighty convenient for them, you would say no, because it’s not just about them. That’s my personal beef with both of these blogs. And being rude doesn’t get your point across, it just generates controversy for views. So please stop it. Believe it or not, if you want to actually make a positive difference in the world, you should stop vomiting hostile words onto the internet. Being gentle instead of forceful won’t give you as much “success,” but it’ll mean what you’re doing isn’t a net loss for civilization. (This comes from someone who agrees with your point but believes that your efforts are actually causing harm, rather than being a positive influence.)

  28. Edward says:

    Hit the nail on the head… I do not agree with society and it’s view of marriage… It seems that more and more young people decide to get married… Then using “un-happiness” or ” incompatibility” as a reason to jump ship when the going gets tough, or when feelings of lust pass..one will always be incompatible on one lever or another, with someone else..that is why the vows are there.. To promise that you WILL keep on loving and being there for your spouse.. Despite everything.

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