Monday, August 2, 2010

Weddings are not all Created Equal

Chelsea Clinton got married this week. I really don't know anything about her, nor care to. Apparently she married her long-term boyfriend. When I hear 'long-term boyfriend' I imagine that she was already cohabiting. So the question is: What are you smiling about in those pictures, Chelsea - that after putting in years, you've finally convinced him to marry you? But you can't imagine that any of your guests actually think this is an important day, can you?

My interest in weddings exponentially decreases when:

1) The couple has been cohabiting

2) The couple has been dating for more than a few years

These two are effectively the same thing.

Someone I am very close to was living with his girlfriend before they got married. The night after the wedding night was spent back in their apartment. Even he who had no moral misgivings about the pre-marital arrangement had to admit that it was weird to be back in the apartment after the big fuss the day before. Had anything changed? I guess if you think something has changed, then something has changed.

But this is my word to the whole world out there:

Do your best, yes, always do your best. But if you think that people are as excited about your wedding as you are, and that they fail to absorb the natural principles involved here, that man leaves father and mother and joins with his wife is the way it is supposed to be, you are fooling yourself. Your friends who are doing the same as you are all hoping to land their big fishes too. They admire your success, but secretly you all know that this is not the way you imagined things when you were children. Your honeymoon was a trip to Mexico, rather than the thing it was meant to be: the discovery and experience of the total gift of self.

The fact is you were 90% married when you were cohabiting. Now you are 91% married. You managed one additional percent. That is why you are smiling, Chelsea.

And maybe you'll be divorced a year or two later - but not if your husband has political aspirations. In that case he'll definitely want to hold on to you for the long run.

But you know you can divorce and that is why your 91% marriage will never be a 100% marriage. You have forged a bond that you consider easily dissolved, impermanent of its nature. So, why are you smiling? It's equivalent to having children if and only if you don't tire of them.

I am sure this post will wrinkle a lot of faces.

One last thought. Conversion redeems all.Yes, people's defects can be made up for by grace, but it remains that these are defects that need to be dealt with. People make mistakes, and many of them realize this and make a change for the better.

But if you think that people are very excited about your marriage after you have lived together, they are not.


  1. I think you're being a bit hard on poor old Chelsea and the co-habiting / long dating couples that eventually get married.

    Imagine a kid who grows up in a home where Mom and Dad have split after only 5 or 6 years. Most of their childhood is spent shuttling between two homes and, in all likelihood, getting to know Mom or Dad's new boyfriend or girlfriend. For many of these kids their classmates, too, will have lived a similar reality. However desirable permanence may be, the experience of these kids is that "until death do us part" is little more than a nice ideal.

    In fact, I've heard young couples speak of their own marriages in more or less the following terms: "We'll be together for as long as it works and we hope that it works for a long time." They don't give much indication that it is their intention that the marriage be until death do us part; rather, what they express is a desire, or wish that their relationship endure, not an intention to make it so.

    Lacking a clear intention to live as husband and wife "for richer, for poorer; in good times and in bad, etc...", in other words, even when it's not working, I would question whether such couples are validly married. Yes, they might be married in the eyes of the law, but I seriously doubt whether they have entered into a marriage, sacramental or not, as the Church understands the institution of marriage.

    I think that what a lot of "married" couples are living is very much what you describe: long term dating / co-habiting that one day comes to include the additional feature of a ceremony. They've had their big day, but that's all it was. It did not mark the beginning of a new reality - a reality founded on a definite intention to live as a couple for as long as they both shall live.

    In the public square of today, a correct understanding of marriage has largely died out. This, in my opinion, is one of the major features of the culture of death. To some degree the language of marriage persists, as does its form; but, most young people are left with inchoate ideas and longings that, naturally enough, tend toward marriage, but have little or no opportunity to properly mature either within the home, or the wider community.

    I don't doubt the sincerity of the Chelseas and Marcs when they finally have their big day; what I doubt is their understanding of it. And for that I can't fault them.

  2. Well said. But we have to be hard on Chelsea, though, because Chelsea Jr. has a difficult life ahead of her. Half humorously here. Half.

    But you are right: it is a global problem. I hate to blame Protestantism, but I will. Luther's was the most significant attack on the sacrament of marriage. It's been down hill since then. After turning marriage into a civil contract, it's not that big a stretch to begin talking about divorce on moral grounds and then ultimately divorce without grounds, to "homosexual marriage." Society has been wrong since the 16th century.

  3. Really good points.
    But let's not just focus on Chelsea. Her now-husband is the one with whom she cohabitated. Surely he is just as responsible as she is.

  4. I only mention Chelsea because everyone knows who she is.
    She is just a product of her world. We all are, unless we seek to know God's will for marriage and family.

  5. Total agreement, Colin. I am always sad to see a couple co-habiting. (I guess that I spend a lot of time sad!) I am supposed to write a short little talk for marriage prep on the subject i.e. "We know that all of you are doing it; we're not out of it; but we want you to understand why you have made the wrong choice by co-habiting." We'll see if I get this done. I would add that once these couples get married they haven't added just a percent - if they've done it without impediment - the have added the 10%. Actually, I wouldn't even grace the co-habiting state with the 90% married title. They ain't - they are 0% married no matter what they are doing. And, to Michael, mental reservations and back doors are definitely legitimate impediments to marriage.

  6. To say it is a 90% marriage is not, of course, to dismiss the truth about marriage, to thereby cheapen it. Rather, it is to underline the responsibilities these people have taken on - perhaps without realizing it. Sex is a covenant, so to speak, because it is a sharing in intimacy; it connotes duty to the other. It is bond forged in nature that cannot be ignored.