The Why of Marriage
Joe Clark ~~ Sep 22, 2002

In the midst of an interesting discussion tonight, I realized that the current quote on my "Wife Page" may be in error. The quote is from a Burlap to Cashmere song: "You have one wing, I have another; ... like one angel we'll fly far away." While that line has probably been enjoyed by many sentimental folks such as myself, is it possible that it is dead wrong? Is it possible that, at least in the context I used it, it has no resemblance to reality?

The basic question could be phrased as, "Why do people get married?" or "What is the purpose of marriage?" To help think about these, I'd like to discuss the "completing" and "complementing" arguments for marriage. It is commonly held that dependence (relying on a spouse for completion) is bad, and because of that a husband and wife should not be overly dependent on one another. More applicable to my situation are the typical statements that as a single person I should be working on building my own life as a godly righteous person and I should seek out a vision from God for my life individually instead of seeking to find a wife to somehow complete my restless life. On the other hand, people also tell me from time to time that if I want to "find someone" someday, I have to work at it now (I can't just sit at home and write web pages and expect The One to make herself known). They remind me that even though God is up there guiding, He does expect us to use our minds and take some steps ourselves as well in our lives. But that is beside the point. The point is that, according to some or most, the point of marriage is not to find personal completeness, but to join visions with another, and to pursue the same goals together, and encourage one another along the way -- something like that.

Well, I have some issues with that. Realize, of course, that like all of my writings on this subject, I write from a fairly complete lack of any real experience on these matters, and so I have no credibility except my vicarious musings. (This bothers me, but who gives me a choice in the matter?) So anything I say that sounds reasonable (or unreasonable) is probably just idealistic babble, and everyone knows that idealism is the realm of philosophers and dreamers who sit on rocks by lakes watching sunsets (or by engineers sitting in front of computers listening to nature music), not by real people living real lives. That being said, I have thoughts on the whole "marriage==completion" theory.

I think there is value in saying that there is a lot of learning to be done before one is ready for marriage. This is obvious. I am not saying that learning is complete in my life. I am reminded from time to time that I still have areas in my life that hinder me from being the kind of husband I should be (I laugh to connect myself with the word "husband"). I know very little about relationships of this sort and how to make them work. I *think* I know something about them from thinking about biblical principles and from listening to others who have a clue. But in reality I am inexperienced, and that inexperience prevents me from knowing anything with any amount of certainty. But in my humble view, I find that the complementing theory doesn't always make sense. If it is true that I should be completely independent and happy as a single before I'm ready for marriage, then what's the point? If I'm complete and happy being single, and I believe as they say that marriage is hard work and marriage is distracting and all that, then why should I get married? Why do we hear how great it is at every wedding if God prefers the single life? When have you heard marriage spoken of as the second-best option -- not at any wedding I bet. If we are supposed to be need-based as Christians (giving up what is not essential), and marriage is never truly a "need" but only a nice addition to our life, like a new pool table or a nice piece of artwork on the wall, then why should we seek it or glorify it at all? I'm being sarcastic, but maybe you see a glimpse of my dilemma.

So with this in mind, I am tempted to believe, fool that I apparently am, that the "completion" theory has its attractive qualities. For one, it doesn't tell me to be perfect before I can look for something more. I'm not too worried about this one, because it seems to me that while I have a lot to learn, I am on the path, and someday I will be "perfect enough" and "independent enough" to be worthy of a real relationship, that is, if anyone ever chooses to notice that worth. I may be thoroughly disgusted and bitter-ified with all such ideas of "love and junk" by that time, but never mind that. I think what makes the completion theory more attractive is that it is...well, more sentimental. Sorry, I'm sentimental. I don't always think with my head. Oops me. But the complementing theory reminds me of business partners: "Your vision is to go in direction X. That is my vision as well. By combining efforts we can move forward faster and accomplish more. We can achieve. Therefore, we should be partners. Amen." Well, joy, but that's very matter-of-fact and lacking in emotion. Oops, I said the e word. The complementing theory seems like more of a surface level bond. I am always the one searching for the deep things (ie real in both logic and feeling). So given the choice between something deep and a business partnership, guess which I tend to prefer...

Now, my thoughts on "deep" are probably misguided as well. I suppose I often think that mushy=deep, or emotions=deep. As everyone who has a clue tells me, that theory is dead wrong, and quite the opposite is true: emotions are at least 30% evil and while they may run deep, they are fleeting and do not last. Emotions lead us to make invalid assumptions -- they lie to us -- and are to be handled like fire, apparently, and doused with a firm sense of realism often. Such is the wisdom of the wise. But there comes a time in life when we can learn, and learn, and share and share, and experience and experience, but we still ask, "Is there nothing more?" I am speaking in anti-parables here, because at the forefront of my mind for this moment is the problem of experiencing God and feeling emotions relating to God. And this pursuit -- trying to "feel" God, aka trying to know Him in reality and not just in the abstract contrived sense -- seems to be a worthwhile and necessary goal, all discussions of pure doctrine aside, if we handle things carefully. But the advice in relationships with fallen people is to avoid emotion and base relationships on ... whatever else we can find ... rather than emotions. Maybe that's okay, but what else do we base them on? Commitment? Right....fickle people (which includes most if not all of us) break commitments often, even the most sacred ones, and people change, and commitments that were once honored can sometimes be thrown away. Commitments that are not sealed in writing (which includes all of a relationship up until the wedding day) are as easily discarded as an old newspaper, given the right circumstances. What else might we base relationships on? History and a shared past? That too is not a highly solid foundation, because history is history, and the present is reality. Or maybe shared beliefs? It is sadly true that those who share similar beliefs do not always see eye to eye on many things, and even if people agree on 99%, it may be the 1% that drives people apart over time. Or simply assumptions? Well, that's a common base, but assumptions have a way of being wrong, and relationships based on assumptions tend to go nowhere good fast. So while emotions, even "wise emotions" are not a solid foundation for things, so they say, the other, more solid foundations are not necessarily solid either. So I maintain for now that searching for the deep things, even if those are the emotional things, is not a completely totally misguided search.

Let me add to that, though, that I think searching for the deep goes beyond feelings. When I think deep thoughts, I'd like to believe that I mean more than emotions. I'd like to believe I mean things like searching to find God in a new way (that sounds mystical, but I mean it in a mostly-traditional way). I'd like to believe that I can think about deep things like stargazing and pondering the universe without it being a feelings-dominated picture. But it is true, honestly, that a lot of the deepness I search for is tied up in emotion and feelings.

Okay enough about that. This talk of feelings serves as introduction to the completion theory. This theory says that when two people join themselves together in marriage, they actually fit like two wings to form one bird, or two puzzle pieces to complete the puzzle, or two halves of the yin yang. This is a cute idea, and is symbolically pleasing, and *I* think it seems to be the tone of some of the scripture verses talking about marriage (the two will become one flesh, etc.). But while the basic idea might be okay, apparently in practice the completion theory is evil because if people are overly dependent on one another (a logical restatement of completion theory), the situation can go sour quickly. Dependence on another human, as everyone is so fond of saying, is like depending on a splintering stick. No one is perfect, especially in relational matters. People let us down, that is a fact of life, and so depending on another will always lead to pain and suffering. The situation is even worse when the dependence only goes one way -- one person is dependent, the other is not. It is rarely the case that both partners are equally dependent, and thus problems arise when one pulls on the other more strongly, and if not dealt with, this stress can rip the relationship apart.

Now, in response to that, I there a difference between dependence (needing another for some sense of completion) and some crazy addiction that can rip a person's life apart? It's true that dependence can lead to addiction, but does it have to? Does it always? I'd like to think it doesn't. I think of things like the verse I mentioned above, and I think that there is (and, gasp, should be) an element of dependence involved. When two substances become one, in some ways they are no longer known as two but one. Of course in marriage the two people are still individuals, but I wonder if God means for it to be as individualistic as the complementing theory makes it out to be at times. Individualism can reduce vulnerability, but it also reduces closeness. Idealism says that marriage is supposed to be about closeness and togetherness as opposed to strict individualism (or business-like individualism). Idealism says that marriage is not just a business partnership. It *is* to be two people looking outward with one vision, but is that *all* it is? ... But I know, idealism is stupid and wrong and probably comes from watching too many sappy movies and making too many wishes in life.

So what do you think? Is that original quote about two wings wrong? Is it based on a false assumption of marriage bringing a sense of completion? I'm not totally sure of my opinion, because I realize I'm just guessing, but you can see my perspective from the above paragraphs. Maybe someday someone will help me to see (non-vicariously) the difference between idealism and reality, and show me that marriage and all such bittersweet topics are a matter of complementing rather than completion. Until then, I will search for the answer in my typical aloof way, and try not to be too biased by my idealistic assumptions.