An Amateur Dissertation on Marriage and Pop Culture

I wrote this in response to an episode of The Popcast, run by my friends Jamie and Knox. No one asked me to write a 1200 word essay and beam it into their inbox, but I did it anyway. Bless their hearts. I don't know why they tolerate me. Anyway, what follows is what I am calling a dissertation, which I wrote in an attempt to sort out my whirlwind of thoughts slinging around in my head while I listened to the podcast episode. It's one of those things I wrote quickly -- you know in that way when your fingers can't move as fast as the words that are pouring out of your brain -- so if there are loopholes, there are loopholes. Hence the word "amateur" in the title. But I kind of like talking about this, so if you have any additional thoughts or "but wait--"s, bring it on.

Okay, enough disclaimers. Here are my thoughts regarding marriage and whether it can be accurately represented in pop culture -- TV, movies, celebrities or otherwise -- and whether or not age makes a difference in readiness for marriage.


So here’s the thing about marriage: it makes no sense whatsoever.

Seriously. If you think about it, binding two human beings together with different feelings and preferences and dreams and fears together for their entire lives seems kind of insane. I mean yes, weddings and fairytales are great and all that but really, the institution of marriage itself—it’s crazy.

I’m not really sure why anyone would stay married, or get married at all, unless they had a greater reason to do so. For me, there’s a greater reason. Whether I realized it or not when I said “I do,” (I was having a moderate panic attack at the time so I’m fairly certain I nothing but “please don’t let me pass out in these red high heels” was running through my mind but that’s neither here nor there), there is something bigger than my husband or me holding this thing together. There’s something bigger than us giving us a reason to keep fighting, to not just up and leave rooms when having discussions, to not walk away, to dig through the conversations and all the emotions until we arrive at a place where, even if there is no solution, we at least SEE each other.

That doesn’t happen on T.V.

It’s hard to try to find a marriage reflected on T.V. that reflects what I think marriage should strive to look like, because most of them are not based on the same grid as mine. I see my marriage and marriage in general through a frame of Jesus. So all my views are colored by that.

If you’re not a Christian, honestly, to go back to my first point, I have no idea why you would get married. Again: the institution itself makes. no. sense. I guess if you just want someone to load the dishwasher the wrong way and snore too loudly and sit next to you watching TV shows you may or may not agree on for the rest of your life, which I suppose isn’t bad, but you can do that without getting up in front of people, (potentially even at a church, which again doesn’t make sense to me if you’re not a believer) filling out paperwork and vowing to live with the same person forever.

But if you are a Christian, 1) marriage is meant to refine you, sanctify you, make you more like Jesus (TRUST ME you find out real quick you’re not the saint you thought you were) and 2) marriage is meant to be a picture of Christ and the church to the rest of the world. Marriage is meant to show the world what grace and sacrificial love look like. To make people wonder what is different about us.

I don’t know why you wouldn’t just throw in the towel and say ‘eff this noise, this junk is hard’ if you weren’t a Christian. But if you are, you can say, ‘ok, self, this person is God’s perfect provision for me — not a perfect person, but the person I (and God — in a mystery I don’t quite understand — free will vs sovereignty and all that) chose and made a commitment to in front of God and all our loved ones. We promised God we would stick this out. That we would be partners. That we would love one another wholly — not in a 50/50 compromise kind of way (which most T.V. shows seem to tout as a healthy relationship), but 100% sacrificially. So I’m going to go back in that room and we’re going to talk about our feelings, DANG IT.’ And you can do that because you know the other person isn’t going to walk out the door at the first sign of trouble or discord because they made the same promise as you did — to stay.

This is why an example-worthy marriage is not represented on T.V. It’s barely even represented in real life — if there is no basis of Jesus, I don’t know how you could even begin to represent what marriage should look like. Marriage was invented by God, after all, and a wedding is a religious ceremony but LET’S NOT GO THERE, shall we?

The closest we get on T.V. is Tami and Eric Taylor (Friday Night Lights if you've been living under a rock--and if so stop reading this immediately and go start the pilot on Netflix), and Kristina and Adam Braverman (Parenthood). And the main reason why is simply because their marriages are full of grace. They mess up and they forgive one another. Over and over. They’re a team, no matter what. Their marriage is the priority, even over their children when it comes down to it, and they fight for it. That’s not the norm for our culture. Or celebrities, which is why I also don’t include celebrity marriages in my list of role models. Like, you guys go ahead and get married in Italy and have your kids’ ugly drawings sewn on your veil by blind nuns or whatever but don’t expect me to act like this is something I’m supposed to believe is the pinnacle of commitment and unconditional love.

ABOUT THE AGE THING: I think even though I was young when I got married (22), I at least understood that I was making a commitment. A choice. The whole reason I decided I was okay with getting married after all my “but how do I KNOW if he’s THE ONE?”-ing was that I was taught by a wiser person that it’s not about “The One,” it’s about making a commitment. They are “The One” simply due to the fact that you are marrying them. That makes them The One. You chose them. You said, 'yes, I am going to commit to this person for life and fight for our relationship no matter what.' I think I at least understood that on some level. Plus, I’m a commitment type of gal. I like consistency and I tend to pick people and stick with them in all areas of life.

So I think age doesn’t matter as long as you understand that you’re not just "taking the next step” — you’re making a commitment. You’re vowing to God and to the other person to stick with them, be on their team, have grace for them and love them unconditionally to the best of your ability, despite any difficult circumstance, for the rest of your life.

Again, I don’t think that would truly resonate with you unless you are a believer. Otherwise you just kind of take a leap based on your feelings and hope for the best. Fingers crossed, hoping you won’t “end up divorced.” Of course there are always extenuating circumstances. I’m not saying Christians should never ever get divorced. I’m just saying we should fight for marriage rather than give up on it.

And, in my opinion, couples on T.V. give up too easily. I have watched Joel Graham walk out of a room in a huff on Julia Braverman about 800 times this season of Parenthood (5)* and that’s not an option after only 3 minutes of talking. I’m sorry. It’s just not.

TL; DR: 1) You can’t separate a healthy marriage from Christianity and the ideals it represents, in my opinion, and this is why it is not represented in pop culture generally. and 2) I got married young but I understood the whole commitment thing so I think as long as you understand that, age doesn’t matter.

What do you think? Can a healthy marriage be truthfully represented in pop culture? Do you think age matters when it comes to getting married?

*I was still on season 5 when I wrote this.


P.S. Subscribe to The Popcast. You'll laugh, you'll yell at your car stereo, you'll sigh exasperated sighs. It's great.