I have several friends who are cohabitating with their significant others. I’m reading article after article lately about how “courtship is dead,” commitments are obsolete, and young people are simply not getting married anymore. In reflecting on all this, I asked myself the question, “Why am I saying ‘yes’ to marriage? Am I missing something?”
Because it’s what we’re made for.
We weren’t meant for heartache or half-hearted commitments; we’ve been made to go “all in.” But many of us grew up dating as if we were training for divorce — dating serially just to have something to do, someone to keep us company for a limited time.
This is essentially the “language” contraception speaks: “you can only have 90% of my being. I’m going to be holding something back. You can have my body for now, but not all of my heart.”
But that’s not love. And we know it.
Love doesn’t say, “I’ll love you for two years,” or “I’ll love you until we disagree to the point where one of us has to move out.”
There is a dimension of true, authentic love that demands we commit to “forever” (thank you, Chris Brown); anything else is a counterfeit love, perhaps even a lust that has been revealed to be the self-seeking force that it is. We are all fickle men and women, and the Lord knows that I’ve fallen short of the ideal of disinterested love many times. But that doesn’t mean that the ideal doesn’t exist.
Economics, lack of formation, the loss of a sense of virtue and vice, human sin, and the culture itself are all playing a role in this generation’s explosion of cohabitation rates, fear of commitment, and the decline of marriage. Yes, it’s safer to never commit and to always keep your options open.
But cohabitating, as attractive and ‘rational’ as it may be to “try out” living with a partner, is a great way to train your heart for divorce. There’s no sacrifice. You can always have one foot out the door, ready to go if “things don’t work out” or someone else comes along. Our bodies “speak” a language. In authentic love, our whole body, mind, heart, and soul speaks a love that is free, total, faithful, and fruitful. Cohabitating, on the other hand, is our body speaking the language of “forever” while our hearts are saying, “just for now . . . something may change.”
We’re fascinated by weddings for a reason. There is something embedded within the fabric of our being that longs to give ourselves away totally and without reservation (either within a commitment to another in marriage or a total self-emptying through celibacy). There is a sacramental grace when our love is free, total, faithful, and fruitful because we love as we were fully designed to love.
Countless songs and musical artists (I’m looking at you, U2) reflect upon how giving yourself away is both life-sacrificing and life-giving. It’s the paradox of human love: we have to lose ourselves to find ourselves. It is the love that Jesus Christ “spoke” through His body on the cross; His arms were wide open, holding nothing back. His love – the model for our love – was free, total, faithful, and fruitful. We ache for that kind of love.
I’ve experienced life without my fiancée Jackie and I want no more of it. After years of discernment and three years in seminary formation, I’ve been graced with clarity and peace over this decision. I want to soak up as much Jackie Francois as I can in the time I have been given in this life. Her love has already broken me free of so many stubborn memories and unnecessary fear, giving me courage to become the man God needs me to be, a man that will do his best to lead her to Heaven.
I want to give Jackie all of me, not 80, or 90, or even 99% of me. We’re made as men and women to go all in.
That’s why I’m getting married.
Read more from Bobby Angel and Jackie Francois on their blog.