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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

In Purity Land, a First Date is a Bigger Decision Than Marriage

Look at this adorable couple! (It is not us, sorry.) Image source.
Ever since Hendrix and I got engaged, I've been realizing more and more how much of a BIG DEAL it is to get married.

Like, we're committing our ENTIRE LIVES to each other. Like, the whole rest of my life. Wow. That is such a huge decision. How is it even possible to make a decision like that? There is so much unknown.

And this is surprising to me because in purity culture, getting married is NOT a huge decision.

No, in purity culture, getting married is right for everyone. God is going to set you up with someone who's perfect for you, if you follow the rules. Marriage is something that happens to pretty much everyone in their 20's, unless God's plan is for you to be single. Or to meet that special person later in life.

Right now, it's very very important to me that I chose him. It's not just like, oh God has led us down this path and here we are at the point where the plan says we get married. No, this is a decision. And that really matters to me.

In purity land, OF COURSE you're going to get married. OF COURSE that's God's plan for you. (I mean, except in rare cases where God's plan is to be single.) I never thought about how being committed to one person for life is a HUGE THING and maybe it's not right for everyone. Maybe it's really serious and you should think about if it's actually something you want to do.

Well, I mean, you're only allowed to have sex if you get married. So yeah you pretty much have to. (See this post: Which is a Bigger Deal: Marriage or Sex?)

Let's say you're a good purity-culture follower, and you're dating someone. After you date for one or two years, the next thing is to get married. That's what you're supposed to do. That's how it works. Sure, it's a decision that people pray about, but really, what's the alternative? Breaking up? Gasp, no, breaking up is the most horrible thing ever.

I remember a few years ago, a lot of Christians on facebook were sharing a video about a couple who were dating, and the one of them was seriously injured and became permanently disabled, requiring a lot of assistance to do daily activities. And the couple decided they still want to marry each other. And the video was all about how it's such a good example of sacrificial Christ-like love, how the one partner was committing to the other, even though they'd have this huge responsibility for taking care of them. And Christians on facebook totally loved it.

And I was like, "............... I don't get it. They're already dating, what's the alternative? Break up just because one of them is disabled? Dude, if I was dating a guy... a long as he has a freakin' pulse, a relationship can exist, and I don't have to face the life-ruining horror that is a break-up."

(So, this is an example of how adult Christians don't actually believe what purity culture teaches- they have a much more realistic view of the huge commitment that marriage is. BUT they never actually present a view of romance that's an alternative to purity culture. At best, they say "that's too extreme.")

Back when I was in purity culture, it was unimaginable that I would choose to break up with someone. I was so confused about why, if somebody cheats on somebody, everyone just assumes they're going to break up. I didn't really understand how cheating would affect the relationship- but I was SURE that it couldn't be worse than- gasp- a breakup.

So no, in purity culture, getting married isn't a huge decision. It's just what happens after you've been dating for a while.

In purity culture, it's the first date that's the huge decision. Other bloggers have said [though I can't seem to find a quote right now] that asking someone out is basically like getting engaged. Back when I was in purity culture, whenever I had a big crush, I would pray and pray and pray and pray, and analyze the guy, and think about whether or not we could get married. Because breaking up is THE WORST THING EVER, you really should decide if you want to marry someone before you ever have a first dateIn some forms of purity culture, the parents have to approve the relationship before the couple is even allowed to have a first date.

I believed that I would have to get an okay from God before taking any kind of small step toward initiating a relationship. So I tried as hard as I possibly could to figure out God's opinion on whether or not I could marry the guy. I thought about the guy's personality, his plans for the future, whether I could submit to him. It was all theoretical- based on if we seemed like we could be a good match.

But now Hendrix and I are engaged, and I'm thinking about why we want to get married. How could we possibly make such a huge decision? How do we know it's a good idea? I'm not saying I'm having doubts because of problems or red flags in the relationship- no, I've confused as to how ANYONE can ever make such a huge important decision.

We don't know what's going to happen in the future. We don't know if maybe I could leave him and meet someone better. We don't know.

Maybe people who get married are supposed to have this magic feeling, like "I know this is THE PERSON for me, I need them, I could never find anyone else" but I don't really believe in that kind of romantic fate stuff. I believe there are many people in the world that I could potentially marry. I don't think Hendrix is literally the best one.

But. Actually, he is literally the best one. Not in a sense of checking boxes about everybody's personality types and goals, but because we already have a relationship with each other. We've spent so much time together, we've gotten to know each other so well- we have made ourselves into the best partner in the world for each other. I don't know about the future, but I know that we've spent 2 years together, 2 years committed to each other, 2 years loving and supporting each other.

2 years loving fully and not holding back. 2 years being honest with each other. 2 years not guarding our hearts.

It's funny that the things that make me sure I want to marry Hendrix are the things that purity culture wants us to avoid at all costs. No, I don't mean anything along the lines of "how far is too far", I mean the "guard your heart" stuff. I mean loving each other and being committed to each other.

In purity culture, it's all about the initial conditions. It's all about choosing the right person. It's about what kind of person they are, before the relationship starts. It's about having no experience, and just imagining if they seem like they could be a good partner. But of course. It has to be this way. Experience is the opposite of purity.

Not for me and Hendrix. Our experience together is what makes me so sure I want to marry him. I don't think "on paper, he seems like the kind of person who could love me", no, I KNOW he loves me. He has proven it, day after day.

Without this experience, I don't think I would be able to make the decision. Because getting married is a HUGE DEAL.

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Note: Okay so I said marriage isn't a huge decision in purity culture, but in a practical sense, I think the purity-culture people in God-approved relationships at the point of getting engaged do think about how much of a big deal it is to get married. I think if you are actually in that situation, you will be overwhelmed by how much of a big deal it is. But my experience in purity culture was that of a single girl who has never been in a God-approved relationship. I put a lot of work into learning the theory of purity culture and all the rules, and those rules never said "think carefully about whether marriage is even something you want, because it's a HUGE commitment." No. (But there was a lot of "marriage is HARD" which is a completely separate thing. Hmm, maybe I'll blog about that sometime.) Making the transition from single to dating (or "courting") was the big deal. When you take that step, you lose a good chunk of your purity, so you better be really really sure that guy is worth it.

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