Marriage is not a ball and chain

The word “commitment” always sounds like a big, heavy burden, especially to today’s youth. But a true, loving marriage is freeing, not shackling.

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If there was one piece of advice I could pass on to young people about love, it would be not to buy into “the old ball and chain” view of marriage.

We’ve all heard the phrase. This stereotype is perpetuated almost everywhere in the media: populating television shows, music, and movies with unhappy couples who criticize, cajole, and even cheat on one another. (The idea seems to be that conflict equals drama, which keeps viewers and listeners tuning in.)

MORE TO READ: Why does Goldie Hawn think marriage is just “a piece of paper”?

But I pray that you, whether you are a young man or woman, have better marriage role models to look up to in in real life. Still, even if you’re blessed with happily married parents or grandparents, it’s hard not to see the unhappy side of marriage. People in your own circles—especially those who are unhappy in their own relationships—may try to discourage you from getting engaged or married by saying any number of things:

“Enjoy your freedom. When you’re single, you don’t have to answer to anyone!”

“Marriage is an institution … but who wants to live in an institution?”

“You’re so young. How can you know what you want?”

Here’s the thing: If you’re under age 30, I agree that you would do well to be cautious before saying “I do.” Taking things slowly is never a bad idea. However, many of my friends got married young and have stayed happily married for decades.

Sharon Edwards, who has been married to her teenage sweetheart for 26 years, explains that sometimes love trumps age: “Because we were high school sweethearts, people felt we should simply postpone until we had grown up a bit more. We didn’t, and I’m so thankful! I believe we finished growing up together in a way that keeps us close today. No one knows me better and after 26 years, we continue to cherish one another.”

“In marriage, you get to share life with your best friend every day.”

Of course, marriage—whenever it’s undertaken–can be challenging and, at times, overwhelming. Every couple who says “I do” goes through ups and downs, some severe. (Even once you get married, no matter how old you are, I can’t stress the benefits of scriptural-based counseling enough.) And not every union lasts.

Still. It’s an “institution” worth fighting for.

A marriage in which both individuals are fully vested in the relationship is a beautiful thing. God created marriage to benefit both husbands and wives. When I asked around, I easily found many other long-married couples who were eager to point out the “up sides” of a marriage to the younger generation, too. together, we came up with five very good (and surprisingly freeing!) perks:

1. Companionship

Kim Kinsfather, who will be married 25 years in January, notes, “In marriage, you get to share life with your best friend every day. You walk through the good, the bad, and sometimes even the ugly together.”

Other friends agreed with Kim, and so do I.

My husband Carey and I have been married for over two decades, and though it hasn’t always been easy, I wouldn’t change anything. Really. He has seen me through chronic pain, depression, the birth of our two sons (and the sleepless nights that followed), and job loss. I’ve held his hand and prayed for him during a mid-life crisis, health challenges, and family drama. In addition, we’ve listened, loved, and laughed more than I thought possible. Carey was my best friend before we ever dated, and I’m grateful that we are still sharing our lives.

MORE TO READ: 7 lessons from the marriage of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip

Though it’s bittersweet, we’ve delighted in seeing our boys grow up and find their own passions. We’ve traveled, ministered, and grown as people and Christians … together. That kind of support frees you to move through life with confidence and love.

2. Healthy habits

Reviewing The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially by Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, Richard Niolon reports, “What’s so great about marriage? … Single men have mortality rates that are 250% higher than married men. Single women have mortality rates that are 50% higher than married women … Having a spouse can decrease your risk for dying from cancer as much as knocking ten years off your life. Single people spend longer in the hospital, and have a greater risk of dying after surgery.”

When we live purpose-focused, our relationship and servanthood is not drudgery—it’s life giving.”

If that weren’t impressive enough, in one recent study out of New York University’s Lagone Medical Center, researchers found that married men and women had a lower chance of cardiovascular disease compared to single people: “Doctors aren’t entirely sure why, but it’s possible that since marriages typically offer a person emotional support, physical and intellectual intimacy, as well as deeper social ties to family, they might lower blood pressure and improve heart health overall.”

A healthy hearty and longer life are gifts, not chains.

MORE TO READ: The 4 real health benefits of love and marriage

3. Safety in numbers

A married partner can help you defy temptation. With your spouse’s help, you can be more consistent at consuming (or not consuming) certain foods, exercising consistently, and scheduling regular check-ups.

In our case, Carey urges me to take care of myself in the midst of busy seasons and lock the doors in our home (what can I say? I grew up in the country), and I bolster his efforts at eating right by shopping for and cooking healthy meals. I also prod him to call the doctor when he experiences a health issue.

4. Purpose & parenthood

Marriage expert and author Julie Gorman put it this way: “The more a couple lives toward a unified purpose, the more they enjoy marriage and celebrate their relationship to its fullest. Like anything in life, there is power, connection, and unity when we share a similar goal and desired outcome. When we live purpose-focused, our relationship and servanthood is not drudgery—it’s life giving.”

Carey and I call this having an “on-mission marriage.” When you look at your relationship, what kinds of talents and experiences has God joined? He can use those to make a difference in other people’s lives. In fact, He longs to do so. As Bill Farrel, author of marriage books with his wife Pam, notes: “Your marriage is designed to impact people today and for generations to come. I am amazed at how Pam and I still talk about her grandparents’ 60-year marriage a decade after they have both passed away,” he says.

“They were certainly not perfect, and they would be considered obscure by most of the world’s population, but their influence lives on in us. Their committed love for each other has inspired the rest of the family to remain faithful. Their work ethic has created a willingness to be industrious in their kids, grandkids and great grandkids. Their hours of storytelling around the kitchen table has given rise to a family who works diligently at communicating with one another.”

5. Transformation

I recently listened to a podcast by songwriter Christy Nockels, in which she shared the blessing of planning her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. In this specific episode, she looked back on a particularly painful season in her mom and dad’s union, in which they chose humility, repentance, and forgiveness. They remained in the marriage, rather than walking away from one another. Nockels says, “I marvel at the restoration of God. I see two completely different people now, which is such a beautiful picture. God stays the same, yesterday, today and forever, but we were made to become. We were made to be transformed into His image, with ever increasing glory…The grace of God is more than a hymn we sing, it’s the air we breathe. It’s more of a reality than anything we can see.”

Such truth! As my friend Lilly Allison says, “One of the benefits of marriage is that you grow and evolve over time, and as it happens, you also move more into the image of Christ.”

Carey and I are no longer the same people we were in our mid-20s, when he proposed. And, I’ll admit, I barely let the words of proposal fall from his mouth before I exclaimed, “YES!” But if we had stubbornly insisted on staying the same, our growth—separately and as a couple—would have been stunted. Sometimes, we grew as persons in different ways or at different speeds. However, the journey has been fascinating, and well worth the effort.

So my young friends, lean into His grace, and as He leads, take the leap. Married love is a picture of Christ and the Church … and the effort we put into the relationship with our spouse pays eternal dividends.

Dena Dyer
Dena Dyer
Dena's work has appeared in dozens of publications, including Reader's Digest, Woman's World, Family Circle, Redbook, Today's Christian Woman, and more. She's also the author or co-author of eight books; her newest release (written with her husband of 21 years) is the humorous devotional book, Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples.

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