When you chase yourself, which one of your selves catches the other? The enemy is us, but we have barely met him.
In the fallen world, there are negative consequences to settling for a more-or-less ambiguous ‘natural’ process (i.e., ‘dating’) toward the establishment of vibrant and lifelong couples (i.e., marriage). The natural is good, but the ambiguity is what gets things mixed up, because disharmony is already in the mix. That’s what the fallen world is: disharmony. Even the disharmony which is the conflict between different genuine needs. And, while some preachers have angrily asserted that marriage is not a need nor a right, even those preachers have allowed to themselves the right to pursue that very thing for themselves.
So, everyone but the truly righteous take for granted that they have a right to simply pursue whatever they want for themselves. Hence the popularity of an ambiguous process of finding the right mate. Every selfish mistake of the merely natural good is seen as justifying cheapening the process of finding the good, rather than as understanding that the merely natural lacks the wisdom to preserve its own goodness.
To believe that the negative consequences from settling for an ambiguous are an inherent part of the process by which vibrant lifelong couples are formed is to believe as if the world has always been a fallen one; It is to accept the fallen world on its own terms; It is to deny, in effect, that the Biblical story of the creation of Adam and Eve―and of their subsequent fall to an imperfectly harmonious existence—can help us understand our lives.
Contrary to some impressions, God did not create lifelong couple-hood distinct from the existence of an actual couple. In other words, marriage vows do not cause a marriage to come into existence, marriage vows merely hope to help preserve the marriage therewith entered into. When you get a pilot’s license, you are not creating a pilot, you are merely being granted by an oversight entity the competence which you have demonstrated that you have attained. Normally, prior to having earned that grant, you were learning to pilot an aircraft. But, within this analogy, a human is not like a basic t-frame kite. A human is like a huge 747 jet airplane. You don’t fly a 747 over other people’s houses, or transport other people in a 747, unless you really know how to pilot that huge airplane. In other words, a human is powerful in relation to the well-being of other humans, so that when the deepest parts of that power are unleashed, there ought to be a lot of competence behind that unleashing.
But, to return to the impression that ‘marriage’ is distinct from an actual couple. In one episode of the Happy Days TV sitcom, Fonze and a girl play act getting married, only to find that they might actually have thereby become married. It was a funny episode, but the impression of many young viewers was that it was possible to get married by such an accident. In fact, that episode was inspired by just such an impression on the part of many young people in the decades in which that TV show first aired.
The question is how anyone can end up thinking of marriage that way. Because that idea of marriage is a fiction. A binding couple-hood is not an idea, it either is a practical and psychological reality, or it is a fiction. It’s like a corporation: it’s either made of actual people, or it is a fictional person. One way of coming to think of marriage as a legal fiction is by accepting as at once natural and wise an ambiguous process toward the establishment of life-long couple-hood. How can something be both natural and wise?
A better analogy to marriage is making music. The heart and mind and body are the music which marriage is. When you play a musical instrument, you hear and enjoy the music regardless of whether an audience is there to clap upon its completion, and regardless of whether an award ceremony is held in honor of your musicianship—even regardless of whether you can read musical notation and had a music instructor. Music does not exist unless someone makes it. But, unlike music, marriage is its own private society, and which is not truly enjoyed except by the couple themselves. Music can be essentially as well enjoyed in the same way by anyone who hears it. But no one can truly hear the music of love which is being played between two people. In fact, any sense of cacophony from outside their two-person ‘band of love’ is a genuine disturbance to their special mutual ‘music’ of love. Mutual exclusivity is the ideal. And, that ideal often requires a measure of practical privacy, if even only that afforded by a single tree.
But, it is the force of the natural positives of socio-sexual bonding that maintains the popular acceptance of an ambiguous process toward the establishment of life-long couples. In fact, no matter how negative are the negative consequences in particular cases, and no matter how widespread or common are the negatives, it is the force of those natural positives which maintain the popularity of that ambiguous process. The heart which consistently fails to see what world it is in is a heart which, upon being broken and then ‘healed’, says, ‘It happened to me before, but it can’t happen to me again’, or ‘I’ll just try harder to avoid causing a mid-air collision despite getting just as drunk.’ I think Captain Sullenberger would appreciate this analogy.
So, the ambiguity of a natural means toward a legally bound couple-hood implies a failure to recognize that a couple-hood is not a creature of a god called ‘law’. A couple which is still only at the secularly defined ‘dating stage’ (kissing, heavy petting, and even sex) is just as naturally-and-inherently a couple as is that same couple when they finally have their couple-hood bound upon them in the wider society despite their disharmonies. The only difference is how much value those two persons place on each other despite those disharmonies.