Two weeks ago I wrote in my weekly Marriage Memo about couples who live together but choose not to marry. I highlighted a provocative article in Newsweek by Bonnie Eslinger, who said she was committed to her life partner, Jeff, but did not want to marry him. "I do not need a piece of paper from the state to strengthen my commitment to Jeff," she wrote. "I do not believe in a religion that says romantic, committed love is moral only if couples pledge joint allegiance to God."
At the end of my column I asked for your thoughts. Why is marriage important to you and to our country? Why do you think we need to continue encouraging couples to get married?
I was very pleased by your response-in fact, I think many of your comments were much more perceptive than my own!
A number of readers felt that people like Eslinger don't have a full picture of marriage.
"A 'piece of paper' does not define a marriage," wrote Lisa Best. What does define it is "your commitment before God that you will love each other with the love that Paul describes [in 1 Corinthians 13]."
Christi Rudolph wrote,
"A wedding is a 'piece of paper' but a marriage is no such thing. A marriage is the commitment that two people enter into that state they will honor, protect, love, sacrifice all they have to the other person."
Bridget Groothuis wondered what makes people fearful of marriage.
"Marriage is meant to be a very freeing experience, a very rich experience, a place of safety, a place of reality, a place of commitment that builds the other up," she wrote. "It's a fortress you build together to keep out anything/anyone that seeks to destroy what you share, but it's also an oasis where two can find renewal and refreshment without fear."
Danni Sutana of New Mexico wrote that she could relate to what Eslinger wrote in Newsweek, but she said God changed her attitude:
For a long time I believed that I did not want to change me or dilute the illusion of me. Marriage would have done that-so I believed. I often thought I did not want to lose myself in my marriage. I often thought if I lost myself in marriage, I would become unhappy. I think I misunderstood the true concept of marriage.
I understand now that my relationships did not work out in the past because I was self centered. The world revolved around me and my identity. When I was able to identify with God, my life became God-centered …
After almost 3.5 years of living in sin with a man I love, God met me at a crossroads. My relationship was not working out no matter how much I claimed to love Art … Living together isn't good enough for me nor was it good enough for Art. Our marriage is a smooth sail compared to the turbulence we experienced. All we had to do was correct our ways and start living God's way.
Some of you told of the blessings you've experienced through marriage. Leané du Toit wrote,
"Me and my husband live in South Africa and have been married for a mere (WONDERFUL) two years. In my limited experience of married life, I can't begin to explain the passion I feel towards marriage and unity within a marriage! Few things make me prouder than to present myself as Mrs. Du Toit. I'm proud of my husband, and I'm proud of being his wife … Calling him my boyfriend, life partner or whatever other name than MY HUSBAND just wouldn't stick! I love committing to him and never a single day felt insecure about his commitment to me and our marriage! There's a certain kind of trust and security that can only be found within a marriage."
There is one other theme that appeared in many of the responses I received: Dealing with (in the words of one writer), "the good, the bad, and the ugly" in marriage. But I'm running out of space, so I'll save that topic for next week. In the meantime, click here to read through the full responses from many of the readers who wrote to talk about the importance of marriage.
Let me close by quoting from an e-mail by Greg Paintner, who said he "tried to think of an eloquent response to your questions but the best I could come up with is a list of things about marriage that I have enjoyed since being married." Here is his list:
- Someone to bring me closer to God
- Daily acceptance
- Support through the toughest struggles
- Love so great it can't be understood outside of marriage
- The ability to create life with our love
- Someone to share my life and love with forever
- Someone to keep me humble
- Another family to be part of
- A sense of true selflessness
- The excitement of getting closer to someone than ever imaginable
I couldn't have said it better myself.