I am pleasantly surprised at the rise of responsible young men taking accountability for their actions. Last year one of my good friends told me about her friend who had a terrible family history, escaped home to live with her boyfriend, and then got pregnant. I was expecting the usual story, that the young man either pushes her to get an abortion or leaves, but this guy was different, he was thrilled that they were having a baby and wanted them to get married. He got a decent-paying job and they’re looking to pay down a small house now, while she’s staying at home (by choice) to care for their baby. The girl has never been happier and she’s eager to give her child the family life she never got to experience herself. But this wouldn’t have happened without the young man’s sense of responsibility and genuine love.
Another story I stumbled across just this morning on Facebook. A guy I went to high school with but never really talked to also admitted to getting his girlfriend pregnant, and he wrote a sweet long paragraph about how he didn’t care what people thought, that he was going to work hard to make a living to provide for his new family, that he was determined to make them happy. It almost brought me to tears to read about a guy his age actually taking on so much responsibility all at once, but it seemed to be a no-brainer for him, effortless even.
Now, I know these aren’t the situations that many Christians would smile upon, getting pregnant out of wedlock. And I actually do understand why, but not from an unreasonably judgmental perspective as many non-Christians may think – actually the opposite. I’ve set out to demonstrate why adhering to Christian ideals for male-female relationships is actually beneficial in the long run, especially for women. That’s because even though I see evidence of more young men taking a stand, there are still tales of abandonment, of poor young girls desperately trying to extract child support from the disinterested fathers of their babies, of being pressured into an abortion that the girl didn’t necessarily want, of single mothers struggling to make ends meet just out of high school. The fact is that without the clear intent of marriage, women unfortunately have very little bargaining power when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex. Often times women have no idea how much their men are willing to sacrifice for them until they tell them they’re pregnant and everything falls apart. So, you might be lucky like the girls I have written about above, or you might be one of the unlucky ones. It all hinges on what the man actually wants – an easy sexual relationship or a genuine loving life-long commitment, and that’s not usually clear until things get difficult.
In my view, backed by my faith, marriage actually protects women. When done right, a woman can be courted by a man, but she doesn’t have to give in to his desires unless she has some proof that he will stay with her when life gets rough – that proof is that he is courting her to marry her. With that protective barrier, a woman can learn about what kind of man he is by talking to him and having dates without the fog of a sexual relationship clouding their judgment on whether or not they should be together for the long haul. It is in both their best interests to be honest with each other because they are looking for life partners, not a one-time fling or a relationship in which neither of them know where it’s progressing, and thus should bring different standards to the table.
Once they’re married, the woman has the security of knowing she will not be easily abandoned. She knows because before getting married they should have already discussed the important things, like how they will work together, how they will prepare when they have a baby, etc. This peace of mind is very healthy for both of them, but especially for the woman, since we value stability, safety, and certainty.
Now, I know marriage is not perfect. I know that people screw it up, that even though promises are made for a lifelong commitment, they are not always honored. But I think that has more to do with the state of our culture, our lack of accountability, than it has to do with marriage being a supposedly flawed “institution.” It has to do with the fact that marriage is scorned, even if only implicitly, in the media. It has to do with the fact that people see marriage as a death sentence to romance. It has to do with the fact that people think they have to “test their chemistry” before they get married, to have sex, to move in together, that people think they need to sample other people before they decide what they want. It has to do with the fact that we have taken God out of the equation of marriage.
It may make people uncomfortable, but part of the reason marriage is so screwed up right now is because we’ve decided that our way is better than God’s way, that marriage is oppressive to women rather than protective, that sexual desires are uncontrollable and must always be satisfied for the sake of not being “repressed,” that we do not want to make sacrifices anymore because we are not submitting ourselves to a Higher Authority. And look how that’s turned out for us! Teenage pregnancies, poor single mothers and fatherless kids, divorce, depression, STDs, trust issues, kids having to navigate the complexities of step-families, and the list goes on. So much for empowerment.
It’s funny, because when I talk to fellow young people, life-long marriage is still a dream that most of us have, but we have lost sight of the recipe for it. If you ask someone whether they would rather spend their life going through multiple partners or find “the one” that they will be married to for the rest of their lives, most of them will say the latter, but their behaviors will match the former. We’re all confused; clueless. Marriage seems more like an illusory ideal that nobody can live up to, when that is so not true. All we have to do is go back to the Creator of marriage, lay down our pride, and turn to Christ. It seems hard, but it’s actually simple. Only in Christ can you learn truly how to love another person and make sacrifices for them, how to stay loyal to them, how to communicate. If you make a mistake, you just keep turning back to Him, modelling your relationship off of His relationship with the Church. At least I’ve seen more success coming out of that model than I’ve seen in the world.