Note: In last week’s post, I quoted J. R. R. Tolkien’s saying that monogamy for men isn’t natural. I agree. It is, however, worth the effort as I explain in this post and its follow-up.
“He who loves one woman has loved them all. He who has loved many women has loved none.” – Spanish proverb
In my last post, I explained why the myth of “The One” could be hazardous to your prospects for a healthy and satisfying marriage. Some men refer to this phenomenon as oneitis (as in: one-itis), and its effects generally produce rash decisions in men. Women tell each other not to settle; I’m telling you not to settle. Marriage is far too important a commitment — lifelong, remember? — to enter without counting the cost. At the same time, I am telling you not to drive past a sign that says “last chance for gasoline for 100 miles.”
Today I’d like for us to talk about the challenges and rewards of monogamy. If oneitis and overexalting romantic love cause men to rush into commitment too quickly, the exclusivity and security of marriage — two of the greatest blessings of marriage — can feel (note that word, feel) confining and motivate men and women to seek too hasty an exit.
No-fault divorce and other aspects of what is called family law, combined with western consumerism have caused far too many couples to give up and check out before they discover the sweetness of overcoming these challenges together.
Too much of a good thing?
Those who preach against monogamy claim that it’s boring and unrealistic. Citing evolutionary biology they say that, since we’re animals, we’re wired for promiscuity. For this reason, they argue, a man’s desire for novelty and variety is nothing surprising and nothing to get upset about. Any man will tell you that his loins have no conscience, but if we were honest, we would have to acknowledge that we are to use our minds and our moral sense to govern and control our impulses — and our loins.
After all, if the presence of an urge is sufficient proof of its rightness, we would steal and kill with impunity. I’m not aware of any mainstream school of thought that endorses theft and murder on the grounds they are natural. Only sexuality is given such an out. That should tell you something. Besides, if God commands that we avoid certain behaviors, it would seem reasonable that it can be done.
In the same way that single men should avoid cultivating a scarcity mindset, a married man should also view his marriage as a place of abundance. It is true that the husband has pledged himself for life to one woman, but she is now and forever his woman. Instead of seeing this as cutting himself off from possibilities, he has unlocked the door to a treasure house if he knows how to appreciate it.
Please note: There is no shortage of things that can go wrong in marriage. I still believe it’s worth it, and I wouldn’t even try it without God’s help.
Marriage to the right woman is a blessing, but it’s still hard work
Even before the fall (Genesis 3 — you could look it up), Adam and Eve had work to do, tending the Garden of Eden. After the fall the work became more difficult. So even if you are blessed to marry a beautiful, godly, kind, generous and sensible woman who wants to follow your lead, she is still as fallen as you are. As her husband, you still have the task of being the spiritual head of your wife and of leading her toward Christ over the course of your life together. Note that if you must lead her toward Christ, you will both have to overcome your tendency to stray away from him. That’s on you, mate.
Feelings will come and go, and the child-rearing years will affect your relationship, her body, your body, and the time you will have available to cultivate your relationship. Resist the temptation to regard any moment, any hour, any day or any year as the sum of what your marriage is or can be. Each of these is a snapshot that can convey a piece of the truth, but cannot contain it all. Assume the best about each other.
I’ll write more about this later, but if I could only give one piece of advice it would be this: Make your relationship with your wife the most important relationship under Heaven — and certainly the most important relationship in the house. If you make it about the kids, you’ll lose your purpose when they grow up and move out, knocking the poles out of your tent.