Is There Joy in Marriage?
Is the idea of marriage more compelling than the reality?
People get married for a variety of reasons–love, lust, financial security, companionship, societal approval, sex, children–but does anyone get married for joy? Does anyone (except me) wonder whether there's any joy left after all the drama and disappointment and peaks and valleys?
With these questions swirling around my brain, I happened across Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (partial spoiler alert below). The book was an entertaining read mostly because Ms. Flynn is a good writer (though she sometimes hid her way with words behind too many four-letter ones). Her story was comically tragic and exposed marital truths beneath the exaggerated dysfunction. In some ways, Gone Girl tells a common tale. Girl meets boy. They fall in love and marry and life happens. They’re hit with money trouble, job losses, dying parents, and an unwanted move. Then, as if their misery is incomplete, he betrays her and she extracts revenge. Just when I think one of them is going to wind up dead and the other is going to jail, the fictional couple proves their staying power and the author delivers an improbable "happy" ending.
I didn’t plan to write this post as a quasi book review, but I couldn’t ignore the story’s relevance to my musings. Ms. Flynn posits–through this fictitious yarn–that the value in marriage is in being known and tolerated. But isn't spousal tolerance a poor substitute for love?
Unfortunately, I think the answer to my titular question is no. Or maybe. Marriage can be joyful when a husband and wife put in the daily effort to make it so, but how many couples can sustain this exhausting expectation? Perhaps expecting joy in marriage is why the divorce rate is so high.
Of course, even without joy, marriage still has its selling points, including the opportunity to be a better person. The constant need to apologize and forgive, to compromise and sacrifice will either make you miserable or make you your best self.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
Consider this: Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person