Sunday, June 3, 2012

Marriage vs. Cohabitation: A lesson on Faith

I like talking about relationships a lot, and I'm sorry.  It's just such an important part of my little Mormon life.

This is gonna be a deep post.  It touches on a concept I've struggled with for a very long time.

I knew a boy back in high school that I really, REALLY admired. We became good friends, but we didn't always see eye to eye on things.  One day, we were talking about sex before marriage. He said something that would fascinate me for years:

"I don't think I really know if I love someone until I see her naked."

Yes.  That was what he said.  He went on to explain his feelings a bit more, and what I got out of it was that you really need to know an entire person in order to really love them.  You can really like a person a lot, but if there's no physical attraction, you really can't have the ideal romantic relationship.

This statement irks me on so many levels, but it also has left me with a lot of confusion and it made me really think about what I believed in regards to marriage, relationships, and sex.

 To set the record straight, I think it is wrong -- nay, downright sinful -- to participate in physical intimacy outside the bonds of matrimony.  God has told us not to do it, and if you do do it, there will be consequences.  Some of them you can get out of with repentance, but some you can't.  If that belief offends anyone, I'm sorry.  But I care about what God wants more than what anyone here on earth wants.

I do not apologize for this belief in the slightest, but I know that there are reasons why people break this commandment.  For one thing, it's super hard.  I know. Staying chaste is one of the biggest challenges people can face. I'm not ignorant of the fact that those feelings and desires to engage in such activity exist.  God meant for them to exist.   It's not like murder or stealing because it really can be a good thing in the right circumstances.  Good Mormons have sex.  You're supposed to have it when you're married.  It strengthens the relationship, makes you feel good, allows you to have the joy of children...  So many good things!  And as an added problem, Satan knows the stakes are high, so he's really upped his ante in making the sin look irresistible.  Remaining a virgin until you are married is a big sacrifice when the rest of the world is pressuring you and looks down on you for it.  I'm not ashamed to say that I have had to make some serious, difficult sacrifices to keep myself chaste.

It is hard, but it is so possible, and it is so worth it.

Within the past couple of decades, society has come to accept this idea that couples can live together and engage in sexual activity without making the commitment to marriage.  Some couples manage to co-inhabit for years.  Sometimes they eventually do get married, sometimes they don't.  Sometimes they stick together til they die, sometimes they don't.  From what I've gathered, people who adopt this lifestyle have sort of the same attitude that my good friend from high school had.  "I really don't know if I want to marry them yet.  Maybe we should live together for some time and see how we feel in a year or two.  Let's 'test the waters' and figure out if we are sexually compatible.  I'm not ready to commit for good, but can't I at least enjoy the complete extent of our relationship while I do have feelings for this person?"

Now, I'm a logical person. When I heard Mr. High School Buddy explain this mindset to me, I thought it seemed pretty logical.  Marriage is a super important decision.  And, at least in the world I grew up in, marriage was for eternal keepsies.  You don't go back on marriage.  Once you marry someone, you're with them.  Divorce isn't an option, except in rare circumstances.  Before I make this HUGE decision, I'd like to do my homework and really get to know the person I'm planning on marrying.  If I don't, I could end up with someone I'm not really happy with, and then my life will be miserable.  I don't want my life to be miserable!  Maybe the test for physical compatibility isn't as far-fetched as my leaders make it sound.  Yeah, you shouldn't be having sex all over the place with just anyone. But what if you really do have legitimate feelings for someone, and you're at least willing to commit to them for a time, but you're still not sure if you're ready for forever?  Marriage seems like an awfully big risk if you don't even know if you will really love that person, inside and out, with and without their clothes on.

But of course, I can't deny that the revelation speaks otherwise.  Physical intimacy is meant for a man and a woman who are united under holy matrimony -- whether it be in the temple or otherwise.  You need to be married before you can have sex with a person.  It's super important that you do so.  I had a testimony of this fact, but I didn't quite know why it was that important.  And that little hole in the logic really got to me.  How can I really have a testimony of the Law of Chastity if I don't have any idea why it's important?  I suppose God tells us to do things without telling us why all the time, but this one seemed too big of a deal to go without any real reasoning behind it.  I prayed for answers, and I sort of lived on that prayer for years, vacillating between feelings of doubt and anxiety and feelings of hope that God would indeed answer my prayer someday.

Last week, at Institute, we talked a little about the Law of Chastity in a class called "Preparing for an Eternal Marriage."  There was a discussion about some of the customs that are accepted by worldly standards, but not God's standards.  Someone brought up the notion of non-marital co-habitation and I started having that battle with myself again...

But then it came to me:  Faith.  Faith is the answer to everything.

I think you can have faith in God, but you can also have faith in a marriage, because marriage is of God.  Maybe faith in marriage comes from having faith in God.  Either way, faith is the answer.  As we read in the scriptures, faith is the knowledge or hope of things not seen.  Faith can mean an expectation of something that will happen later in the future, or it can be the belief of something that currently exists but that is just not seen.  Faith is the opposite of fear.

I think people who choose to put off marriage while still enjoying its benefits are not acting out of faith, but out of fear.  They aren't willing to make the ultimate commitment because they fear that they will be making a mistake if they do.  I don't think God's plan is designed for people to fear.  We need to have faith.  We need to remember that God will always be with us in our marriages.  If you have faith, you have a hope that a relationship will work, even if there are unknowns.  If you have faith, you don't have any need to fear the future.  If you have faith in God, you know he will help you, even if things get rough down the road.  If you have faith in your marriage, you maintain a belief that it can work, even if you and your spouse aren't completely compatible in every way.  I believe, then, that marriage is the ultimate act of faith.  Marriage is committing to your belief that the marriage will work.  It's like saying, "I don't know what the future brings, but I believe that this can last forever.  And I'm going to give up my single life completely to co-exist with someone completely.  In sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for time and all eternity.

I'll keep using that "test the waters" analogy.  There is no need to test the waters if you have faith that the waters will be just fine.  More often than not, they will be.  People who get married usually have their relationships last longer than those who simply live together.  But what if the water isn't fine?  What if, three months later, you realize that the water's a little more frigid than you're comfortable with.  Maybe it's the sex, maybe it's just his nagging personality, or maybe you just feel like you've settled and you could have had better.  No matter what the issue is, there is a way to make the relationship work.  If you include God in your relationship through faith, God will give you a way for your relationship to work.  Maybe he'll heat up the water, or maybe he'll just help you change your attitude about it.  No matter what the issue, things get easier when you have faith that God will help you.

Now that I've learned this, I have a very different attitude toward that statement that my friend made long ago.  Not only do I believe it isn't true, I also find it to be rather insulting.  I can now imagine how I would feel if someone said that about me.  If a guy can't know he loves me without seeing me naked first, that means he has no faith in me and no faith in our relationship.  It means that the physical aspects of a relationship are the only things to him that matter in a marriage.  That's just stupid and shallow.  Marriage is much more than just the physical.  Yes, it's important, but once again, if you approach your marriage with the right attitude and with the right amount of faith, you can be happy with anyone in every aspect.  I don't think my friend will ever truly love someone if he approaches his relationships with that attitude.

So... bottom line.  There's no need to not get married yet if you have faith.  Faith is the answer to everything.  Faith is the way you can keep the Law of Chastity until the day you die.  With God, all things are possible, and all marriages are possible.

Listening to:  Candlelight Carol by BYU Women's Chorus
Things going on today:  A fireside, lots of homework.
Blessings:  Periods only come once a month, not once a week.
Learned:  Laughter can actually provide lots of ease from menstrual cramps.

No comments:

Post a Comment