Sunday, October 26, 2008

How to Know When to Get Married

Well, I went to a wedding yesterday, and nothing happened that was as interesting as what I offered you last week. Nevertheless, I saw an old friend there whom I haven't seen for perhaps a decade, and we had a great time catching up at Starbuck's afterwards.

Earlier in the week, I was having dinner with a different friend, and the topic of marriage came up. I was reminded of an article I read 15 years ago in Details magazine. It may be the most profound article on marriage I've ever read - surprising, perhaps, considering the marginally sleazy magazine it appeared in and the fact that it was penned by Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes.

Gano's entire essay was brilliant, but I'll limit myself here to what he says about readiness for marriage. How do you know when you're ready? It's simple, really: You should only get married when you're depressed. Read on:

[I]n terms of my opinion and mine only, I will state that it's best to marry when one is depressed. How will one know what one wants - if one wants to marry, if one is ready to commit - if one is buoyed up by a false sense of hope and happiness? To paraphrase a science journal that has since left my grasp: Depression's great benefit is that the depressed subject tends to withdraw attention from wasted enterprises. What a great time to marry!

Which leads to my next question/answer: When does one know that it's time to marry? When one has no hope. When one has given up all hope of ever being able to be happy with someone other than that one special someone, and (now watch this closely) when one also realizes that that happiness isn't even possible with that one special man or woman. Then it's time.

Marriage must be entered into with the proper sense of hopelessness, so that when its own hopelessness arrives it can be welcomed with open arms. Marriage may be a crucifixion of sorts, but after comes the resurrection. Marriage is believing that, despite the cross, there is coming an Easter; the tomb will open.


For my part, I married my best friend. I was motivated by a lot of fear and hopelessness, and I was, of course, depressed. And because I was depressed - not despite it - I don't doubt my decision. I'm glad to take part in continuing to create the mystery of matrimony. It intensifies life. It raises the stakes. It is saying yes to life, to change, challenge, suffering, death. And yes, yes, yes to the open tomb.

- "Balls and Chains," Details, July 1993, p. 62


  1. Dennis asked me to marry him not long after his mom died, so he wasn't quite finished with the grieving process by our wedding day. During our engagement, I got a lot of "counsel" from well-meaning friends that this was not good timing. I knew Den well enough to know that he did not expect marriage to fix his pain. I was right, he never once put the burden on me to make him happy over the last 20 years, but he became happier than he expected to be. I pretty much give God the credit for that.

    About thirty years ago, I asked Mom what were her expectations when she married Dad in 1960. She said that they were kind of low before the wedding. They both had no money, they had a cross-cultural relationship and Dad had just started college. But not long after, she found that things were much better than she thought they would be, even though they both worked long hours and us kids arrived a lot sooner than they thought we would.

    So thanks for sharing the article, it is very encouraging. It's not a perspective you would hear every day.

  2. It's almost unbelievable, considering the source. When you look at the outside persona of an individual, you never know what God is doing on the inside, or what thoughts are brewing. All truth is God's truth, so whatever is true in this advice originates in God. I'm always amazed to see the way He dispenses it, even occasionally using a dirtbag like me! Ha ha, grace reigns and harlots dance for joy in the Kingdom of God! Meanwhile the stuffy hypocrites go outside for some "fresh" air ... but let the name of the King of Love be honored forever!

    As for me, I was happy when I married my wonderful wife, got sad later when I was loaded down with sins and she left me, and now I am blissfully filled with joy because of the miracle God has done. Depression has certainly been part of the process. We were separated for 2 and a half years - but God is a restoring God. He saved us and our marriage for His own glory - and for our good.

    And I'm still dancing ... blessed be His Name!

  3. Thea & Derek -

    Excellent thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Well, this perspective is a hard one for a lot of Americans to accept. Even to tone down the expectations of marriage to medium from high would be an improvement.

    I didn't have any Christians in my family when we married, and they were shocked at what they saw as a lack of nervousness in me before my walk down the aisle. I was peaceful and enjoying the wedding, it was as sentimental as I had hoped for with many small but meaningful moments between me and people I loved.

    During our engagement, though, I had a rough time. I had lots to learn. God brought me through it and gave me a bigger faith in Him than I had before. So, the wedding was a milestone not just in my relationship with Dennis, but also in my walk with the Lord--which was what I focused on the most.

    So, no, I didn't fall into a swimming pool or anything exciting like that. But my deepest joy that day was how God answered many specific prayers and worked in many amazing ways to bring Himself glory in the life of a little nobody like me.