Marriage Is a Contract

By Maggie Reimherr

Marriage: joining two lives into one for a lifetime of passionate romance, heart eye emojis, butterflies in your stomach, right?

That’s what culture would lead us to believe.

Have you ever noticed that many fictional love stories really end in the beginning? They show the strife, the struggle, and the chase leading up to a grand moment when the couple declare their love for one another. They end in a happily ever after, oftentimes a wedding. In real life, the wedding is not the destination. At some point, you realize something important: the person I’ve fallen for is a human… and humans have flaws.

By definition, marriage isn’t simply a romantic entanglement - it’s a contract. Sexy, right?

Mar·riage /merij/

the legally or formally recognized union of a man and a woman (or, in some jurisdictions, two people of the same sex) as partners in a relationship.
— Thanks, Google

It seems like people often enter into marriage forgetting that it’s a contractual partnership, only meant to be nullified in situations of infidelity or abuse. We idolize the romantic notion of spending the rest of our lives with one person. But a wise person once told me, “People say life is short, but life is long. You have to be able to live with the worst thing about your spouse, because you’ll deal with it for the rest of your lives.”

This is reality.

We’re all broken, messed-up individuals who have unique problems. I’ve only been married for 6 months, and my husband and I have already both been guilty of hurtful words, unreasonable arguments, and selfishness. But on our wedding day, we made a covenant promise to God and to each other to stay in it and fight for one big truth: our marriage exists to further the kingdom of God. We’re better together than we are apart.

At the moment, I’m not equipped to give advice beyond the first 6 months of marriage. However, I’m passionate about the limited advice I can give to engaged or almost-engaged couples:

Ask the hard questions now.

If you’re engaged (or soon to be), you should be able to identify the areas where you’ll struggle as a married couple. We took the Prepare/Enrich assessment in premarital counseling, and it showed us what we already knew our problem areas would be. Talk through these questions:

Can you deal with the problem areas now and years into the future? How will you handle them?

Throughout our dating relationship, Derek and I both had to give serious consideration to problem areas we’d identified before committing to marriage. Guess what? We’ve already had to deal with some of those areas in our married life. Your dating problems become your marriage problems, because really, as Andy Stanley says in his Love, Sex, & Dating sermon series, they’re “people problems.” If you aren’t okay with your significant other’s “people problems,” it’s probably not wise to get married. 

Because we asked the hard questions while we were dating, we’re equipped to handle issues as a team. We work together to tackle problems rather than treating the other person as the problem. The problem is your enemy, not your spouse.

You’ve signed on the dotted line, and the expiration date is ‘til death do us part. It won’t always be passion and romance, but that's an added bonus in good times. Deep, abiding love is born from commitment - for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer.