If my memory serves me correctly, the popular childhood refrain explains it all: First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage. That’s how it works, right? (Well, minus that baby carriage part. These days, babies show up wheneva, but that’s another topic.) It seems most people would agree that love is a prerequisite for marriage, but that hasn’t always been the case.
Historically, love was not that big of a deal. Often times it grew out of marriage, but wasn’t necessarily there before. Why is that? It’s simple, really. Marriage wasn’t about being with the one you love. It was about creating stable families and communities. Marriage was about protecting the collective, safeguarding the whole. They wanted to make sure the two would produce children and raise them to be productive citizens, thereby ensuring the future of society. Was it romantic? Not really. But did it work? Yep.
These days, things work pretty differently. The old, business-like model has given way to a heart-ruled approach that gives love and emotional connection top billing. Suddenly, marriage was exciting. It was more than just a fact of life. It was something we looked forward to, yearned for. The heart was running the show, and along with that came the poorly thought out decisions our hearts sometimes coax us into making.
Does that mean marrying for love is a bad idea? Of course not. I was thoroughly in love with my husband when we married, so I’d be a hypocrite if I said otherwise, but I also knew that love alone (as strong as it is) would not be enough to make our marriage successful. Love can make you better, but it can also make you foolish.
Love can make an honest and faithful person stay with a cheater. Love can make a kind-hearted man stay with a woman who is emotionally unstable. Love can make a woman repeatedly get pregnant by a lazy, jobless man. Love is just love. Like an immature child, it’s self centered and only considers itself. That’s why it feels so good, and that’s also why it can be so unstable.
There has to be something more. Couples have to know that even when they’re trapped in discontent, cut off from the peace and solace love usually provides, the marriage can still survive. There should be a deeper commitment, a bridge that carries you back to ease. Is a healthy bank statement enough to be that bridge? Probably not (rich people break up every day), but it is a huge help to at least know that the bills are paid and your belly is full, especially when you have children.
In regards to the question, “Which is more important?” I can’t give a straight forward answer. You could marry a wealthy jerk and end up divorced just as quickly as anyone else, but I will suggest that women in particular need to pay more attention to finances and not feel guilty because of it. No woman wants to be perceives as a gold digger, but often times this fear prevents us from asking the important questions that need to be addressed. In the same way that our debt and financial history is relevant, so is his. Does he have a savings account? Is there anything in it? Does he have any debt? If so, what kind? Does he have a 5-year financial plan? These are the types of questions a woman should be comfortable asking a man before marriage.
It’s not about finding the richest guy possible. It’s about making a thorough assessment of compatibility, one that does more than simply consider how in love you may be with a person. As women, we must constantly be aware of our wombs – that empty, life-giving space that we could soon find occupied, thanks to the men we let into our lives. And that occupant (God willing) will grow into a small person who will require lots of attention and resources. That’s money. That’s time. That’s attention, energy and love. We owe it to ourselves and our little future occupants to know there’s more to marriage than just love.