What Do You Want Out Of Marriage?

Writing in the July 20th edition of the New York Times, columnist Frank Bruni describes his relationship with his partner Tom as “Living Apart Together.” This phenomena isn’t new but it is on the rise evidenced by the fact that it has it’s own acronym (LAT) and its own Wikipedia page. Bruni, whose writing I really enjoy even if I find myself largely in disagreement with the substance of it, mentions some predictable, if superficial, advantages to this arrangement including independent budgets, personal space, the right to watch what you want when you want, and not having to care about one’s appearance.

But Bruni’s more substantial point is that living together makes the relationship grow familiar, boring, and stale. Since no one wants that to be true of their relationship (marriage), Bruni hints that perhaps more couples with financial means should consider “living a part together” instead of “together together”.

Christians should note that this idea fails because it misses a huge part of God’s intention for marriage.

One of God’s primary purposes for marriage is to grow each spouse in holiness. That happens when we see our sin, are convicted about it, repent and turn to Jesus for both cleansing and the power to change. Living together in marriage provides a perfect environment for that process to take place as there are ample opportunities to be confronted with your sin and hopefully the grace that allows real change to take place.

You see it’s the very things that Bruni is trying to avoid by living apart: conflicts over money, having to share the television and bathroom, caring about your appearance, etc. that are often the place we see our own selfishness. Instead of avoiding situations where we have to share or compromise or put another’s interests ahead of our own, we should embrace them as one of the primary ways God is correcting and teaching us so that we will become more mature in our character and faith.  

When a couple faces a difference of opinion on how to spend (or save) their money, it’s easy to begin to think that your spouse is you enemy. We think, “If only he/she would see it my way, then we’d be making good decisions and be much happier.” Too many of us know from experience that arguments quickly appear when we try to convince the other person that we are right and that they should listen to us and follow our wisdom.

But what if we changed the question from “Who’s right?” to “What can I learn from this?” What if we changed the framework from “I want to win.” to “I want to be on the same page.”? When you’re disagreeing and feeling the temperature of a conversation rise, maybe it would be best to stop and ask yourself, “Why is this so important to me?” or “Is there anything my spouse is saying that I need to listen to and really hear?” It’s in the middle of these conflicts that God reveals our sin and grows us in Christ.

So I’m sure that Frank Bruni is right in that one can avoid a lot of conflict and hassle by living a part from your spouse. But I think that he’s missing out on something far better–real spiritual growth that leads to genuine love and a sacrificial and selfless relationship.

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