A young man proposing to young woman. Are your reasons for marriage the "right" reasons?

Why did you get married in the first place, or why do you want to get married? And if you are married, why are you still married today? Those reasons are probably different. Many couples get married because of nice feelings, but feelings are not big enough reasons for marriage in the long run. In deciding whether to get married, or if your marriage is troubled, it will bring clarity to understand what marriage is for.

Some statistics say that there are more single (unmarried) adults in the United States than there are married adults. That statistic is difficult to authenticate, but it’s not surprising. Economic and social reasons for marriage have lost much of their power. And the marriages many young people have seen have been anything but appealing, so they often have no mental template for what a healthy marriage can become.

If you’re reading this because you’re interested in being married, this is the best time to think about the reason for marriage. And if you are married, it’s never too late to develop that healthy mental template of what marriage is for and what it can become.

Covenant vs. Contract

Perhaps unconsciously most people today imagine marriage as a contract. If you make me feel really good then I want to be married to you. I’ll stay married to you as long as you meet my needs. If you no longer make me feel good or meet my needs, I reserve the right to leave. That may be unstated, but it’s the mindset.

The problem with that mindset is that your spouse will fail to make you feel good and will not meet all your needs. Guaranteed. Do you then leave the marriage?

A contract says, “If you do that, I’ll do this.” It’s a transaction. A marriage as a contract is not much more than payment for services rendered. (How superficial and unmeaningful!)

A covenant says, “This is what I promise to do, regardless of what you do.” That’s how God relates to us. God says, “I will be Your Savior, Your God. I will transform you.” (See Hebrews 8:10-12) You and I have the option to refuse to engage with God, but it’s not a transaction.

That’s what marriage is, in God’s economy; a covenant. I don’t base my behavior on you making me feel good or meeting my needs. I make my commitment to you, period. The End.

(Marriage can become toxic. There are times God releases you from a marriage.)

Bad Reasons for Marriage

So let’s get explicit about some “bad” reasons for marriage. These are not uncommon reasons people get married, but they will not be strong enough to keep you going in the long run. Are you basing your marriage on any of these?

  • You make me feel good. I’m not sure I really love you; I just love how you make me feel.
  • I expect you to meet my needs–for connection, affirmation, care, time, sex, whatever.
  • We had sex, so now I’m emotionally hooked to you, so we’ve got to get married.
  • Getting married seemed the thing to do. It just happened, and now we’re stuck.
  • I married you because I need/want you to fix me, to take care of me.
  • I married you because I thought I could rescue/change/fix you to be who I need/want.

Butterflies and sexual attraction and feeling you could talk forever are nice things, good things. God built us with the capacity to experience those good things, and there would be a lot fewer marriages without those nice things.

But those things cannot withstand the weight of a marriage long-term. If you got married for one or more of those reasons your marriage can grow. God can do amazing things. The two of you together with God can build something of beauty and resilience. But the foundation will need to be excavated and strengthened.

Better Reasons for Marriage

Marriage was God’s idea. He created it as an object lesion, a demonstration, of the whole-person intimacy He desires with each one of us. As limited and often distorted as human marriage is, a godly marriage acts out in time and space God’s plan for union with us.

And marriage is also a laboratory in which we learn to love well. Marriage is not the goal of the Christian life or the only way we can learn to love. But get close enough to another sinner and your own sin and brokenness will be put on display. God intended marriage as a place where we can learn and grow and be healed and become like Him.

The nice feelings, for most modern individuals, are the stimulus to enter marriage. Great! And if in the process you learn to see marriage as a covenant, a demonstration of who God desires to be to us, and a laboratory in which you can learn to love well, then marriage is doing its job.

If you are or want to be married, may you come to know marriage for what God intended it to be.

Your Turn: What’s the reason you got married or want to get married? Are you seeing any deeper reasons for your marriage now? Leave a comment below.

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  • What are your reasons for marriage? Marriage as a contract–I’ll love you as long as you make me feel good–doesn’t last. Marriage is a covenant, a demonstration of God’s desire for union with us, and a laboratory in which we learn to love well.   Tweet that.

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