I was aghast, my friends.
Aghast when I came across this post called: The ‘Just You Wait’ Mantra: Is Marriage Really That Hard? on Her.meneutics (Christianity Today’s blog for women). The post was written by Sharon Hodde Miller.
In the post Sharon discusses how lots of people gave her the ‘just you wait,’ advice regarding the difficulties of marriage. Sharon feels that some of the “advice” given to her about the first or second year of marriage was unhelpful.
A quote from her post:
“Now, heading into our fourth year of marriage and expecting our first child any day now, my husband and I continue to receive these counsels of doom. Between the “just you wait” predictions about the unavoidable doldrums of marriage, or the “just you wait” warnings about the difficulties of parenting, some people feel obliged to fix our worries on the future rather than encourage us to enjoy the present.
Just you wait. Why do Christians sling this statement at one another? Is the motivation genuine concern? A sincere effort to help younger couples prepare? Or is it an attempt at normalizing our own hardships? A fruit of cynicism? All of the above?”
I had a strong reaction to this post. So much so, I had to sit my tail down and think about it for 3 days. In short, I needed to calm down.
1. I’m frustrated that someone who has only been married 4 years, has no children yet and has never been through infertility, deaths, poverty, marital strife or crisis would have the audacity, the sheer ballsy audacity to claim that marriage isn’t that hard. (If she had been through any of these things she fails to mention it).
To be fair, she says in the comments that she interviewed several older couples who shared the same sentiment as her. That would have been helpful to know in the article. I want to know who said it and I want to know what in the H they been through to start tossing around the idea that marriage isn’t that hard. Please, sista-girl-honey-chile don’t leave out information like that! And if you’ve been through something, Sharon that would test your marriage, TELL US.
2. What on earth am I supposed to think? I entered into marriage with someone who EVERYONE in my life (pastors, teachers, mentors, parents & peers) agreed was not just a good choice for us both but a FANTASTIC choice. Yet, as early as our honeymoon we’d had our 2nd knock down drag out 7 hr. argument in which I was left figuratively whimpering in the corner wondering what the hell I’d just done. And then we proceeded to have an o.k. first year, a worse 3rd year, an awful 5th year, a crazy 7th year, a torrential 10th year, a traumatic 11th year, and thankfully a not-as-bad-as-last-year 12th year. We almost didn’t make it. When I read her article what I see is: ‘YOU. ARE. A SCREW. UP. You did it wrong. Marriage is easy and you, Dave & Grace Biskie suck at marriage, because we —woohoo— find it be TOTALLY AWESOME. So there’.
3. What are the divorced people supposed to think? Immediately, I felt a tremendous amount of compassion for people who tried marriage and for a gajillion different reasons it didn’t work out. And where on earth is there any sort of grace or compassion for them? Because for Sharon after 4 years, it’s been great. ‘So…again if marriage was hard for you must be useless as a marriage partner.’
At the end of her article she says this…
“In a society where marriages and unborn lives are often treated as disposable, we can’t be sloppy with our words. Yes, let’s protect young Christians from a romanticism that ultimately self-destructs, but let us do so in a way that honors the institutions of marriage and family. Neither romanticism nor cynicism will lead to the kind of cultural shift that our marriages and families so desperately need.”
I found her words completely ironical because I haven’t seen more sloppy words as hers. I wonder if she (or the editors, ahem) had asked themselves how this piece would be received by divorcee’s or people currently living in unhappy marriages. I wonder if they would have moved forward in publishing as is.
I wonder this because I find her words to be dangerous.
Yep, dangerous. Particularly because marriages are failing at an increased level for those of us who choose to marry at all, and many are putting it off all together.
Implying that ‘just you wait’ advice is “fixing people worries on the future,” is dangerous.
Implying that marriage is easy, because it has been for her is dangerous.
Implying that she didn’t need ‘advice’ or fair warning about what looms ahead is dangerous.
Implying that she doesn’t need any additional ‘advice’ or words about what is to come…is dangerous.
Frankly, it’s frightening to me.
As someone who, in the context of our marriage has weathered the death of a father, a death of a close grandmother, a psychotic break of a close family member, 2 family members in despair or poverty, losing a sister, postpartum depression, chronic neck and back pain, regular depression, ADD, ADHD, a frequently unhappy baby, one of us got hit by a drunk driver, 2 cars totaled, 3 car accidents, losing a full salary, food stamps, debt, and the biggest storm of all: two children under 4, HOW COULD I POSSIBLY IMPLY THAT MARRIAGE IS EASY?
I couldn’t, I wouldn’t. Because that’s life. Married and unmarried alike, people survive a lot of drama. And if two people can make it through that together, healthily it was NOT easy.
When you have been married 4 years and you marriage hasn’t yet weathered a crisis you don’t get to write an article like that. You can, but I have to respond. It’s not fair to those of us who are still trying to make our jacked up marriages work.
We are still in it to win it, and we want to keep hearing advice and warnings and wise words because we know we have a lot to learn. We know we can’t brag on 4 easy years.
Saying that marriage is easy is like saying that infertility is a piece of cake.
…it’s like saying having breast cancer is a piece of cake.
…it’s like saying parenting is a piece of cake.
But when you haven’t struggled with infertility or breast cancer or parenting it’s pretty easy to act like it *should be* a piece of cake.
The truth is infertility is a beast and it has crumpled even the best of them.
The truth is living through breast cancer has killed people. Lots and lots of people.
The truth is parenting is the most ridiculously hard experience and a lot of people are ravaged by their children. Heart broken.
The truth is marriage is one of the most difficult things to do IN ALL OF LIFE and more people fail to do well than thrive.
More people cheat than don’t.
More people get divorced than don’t.
More people fail to love their spouse well, than to actually continuously love, grow and thrive through the myriad of unbearable struggles and triumphs of life.
So don’t act like marriage is a pie in the sky and no one but you, (apparently) needs advice or warnings.
The person I want to see write this article is the one who has been married for 10, 15, 25 or 40 years who can say this is what life has looked like and done to us and here is how we made it. I want them to not just warn me but also describe in detail everything we can do to enjoy lasting intimacy while raising amazing, life-giving healthy children.
And I want that person to tell me, Grace Biskie —the one slogging through 12 years of marriage with 2 little kids and a helluva lot of baggage— what advice and warnings I need so that God willing Dave & I can make it another 12, 24 or 48 years.
That’s what I need and that’s what my friends need. And I will not stop giving warnings to people I love about the pitfalls and hardships of marriage. And if I do stop loving my friends through hard words, I expect them to slap me. Hard.
It’s not ‘cynicism’ as she says, it’s choosing to live in reality.
The reality being that divorce emotionally ravages people, and their children. All I ask, is that we treat people respectfully by acknowledging the difficulty and offering fair warning and loving advice.
And if you know me, you’ve been warned.