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Monday, July 3, 2017

I Know We'll Have a Good Marriage, BECAUSE We're Not Pure

A man and woman kissing. Image source.
Youuuuuuuuuuuuuuu guyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyys the wedding is just a few weeks away! Oh my goodness I am so ready to be married to Hendrix. (I'm not ready to have a wedding, there are still a ton of details to figure out. Oh my.) Really really excited about being married to him.

It's overwhelming to think how different this all feels than what I expected when I was in purity culture.

Back when I was in purity culture, the one thing I was always trying to figure out was this: How are you supposed to actually get to know a person well enough to decide if it's a good idea to marry them, if every bit of romantic or emotional closeness- even the very simple act of going on a first date- erodes part of your purity you can never restore and makes you less worthy of a good marriage?

How do you go from single and pure, completely inexperienced and therefore a perfect, undamaged potential partner, to actually married to a real live person? Doesn't it seem like in between there must be some period of time where you're dating someone without being 100% confident you're going to marry them, and that's taking a HUGE risk with your priceless purity... how is this supposed to work?

Some purity-culture proponents address this problem by having the parents control the "courting" process. The boy has to ask the girl's dad for permission to date her, and the dad judges if he's worthy or not. And then when they go on dates, they're never alone, they always have a "chaperone." The Duggar family does it like this (and it's CREEPY AS HELL). Basically, in this form of purity culture, the couple isn't actually making the decision to get married- it's the parents making the decision. And therefore there's no need for the couple to risk their purity by really getting to know each other.

But that wasn't the version of purity culture I believed in. Instead, I believed God would tell me which guy I should marry. I believed the decision would be made based on prayer and extensive analysis of a guy's characteristics- rather than by, you know, dating and getting to know him in a relationship setting. Yes, I believed I would have to date "my future husband" for 2 years, just to be sure, but the real decision-making would be happening before even agreeing to the first date.

I believed that, while it would be ideal to never ever date anyone unless he's "my future husband", in reality there's no way to actually be sure about that, and dating is a big risk no matter what. Even if God tells me I should date a certain guy, that's still not a guarantee he's the one I'll marry- it doesn't mean I'm allowed to quit "guarding my heart" and actually love said guy.

It would be a difficult balancing act between purity and information. I need to be as pure and inexperienced as possible in order to have a good marriage. But I need to get enough information about the guy in order to know marrying him is a good idea. Basically, my purity would be the currency used to buy information. And I need to make sure I spend as little as possible on guys I don't end up marrying. Every single action I take with a hypothetical boyfriend must first be carefully weighed to decide if the purity cost is worth the amount of information I would gain.

So whenever I had a crush on a good Christian boy, I would go to my room, kneel on the floor, and pray and pray and pray about it. I would try to find little signs that perhaps God was indicating that this guy was "my future husband." Maybe there was a certain song I kept hearing in my head over and over, and the lyrics reminded me of this guy- was God trying to tell me "yes" by putting that song in my head? I would analyze things that the guy said, try to judge whether he was mature enough, try to determine if he had the correct beliefs and worldview.

One of my friends, let's call her Claire, was asked out by a good Christian guy. She spent weeks praying about it, and finally decided no. Because, she said, she doesn't feel like she can submit to his leadership, because occasionally he seems to make decisions she sees as a bit irresponsible- and if she were his wife, she'd have to just go along with that. And because she's never been on a date before and her first date is a really really big deal and she's not willing to give it to a guy that she's not sure about. That was the kind of purity culture I was in. I saw Claire as a role model in purity. (I, on the other hand, had kissed a boy in the past so I was not pure like Claire was.) She and I talked a lot about how dating was supposed to work. How to always put God first and not lose our purity.

This is all so incredibly different from my decision to marry Hendrix. See, we're not "pure." I don't "guard my heart"- and I haven't "guarded my heart" for a LONG time. Our whole relationship has always been about loving each other, supporting each other, having fun with each other- not about carefully trying to stay as far apart as possible while discreetly gathering intel on whether or not he would be a good husband.

(If you're wondering, NONE of this is a euphemism for sex. [Though for the record, I'm not the least bit ashamed to say that YES, we do have sex.] I'm talking about how purity culture says it's "emotionally impure" to be in love. I'm talking about how the purity-culture version of Perfect Number would have stopped herself after laughing and laughing at some cute little thing Hendrix did, and she would have felt a stab of panic- "oh, I let my guard down, I let myself laugh and just enjoy this moment, he is working his way into my heart and this is DANGEROUS.")

I used to think I couldn't date a guy unless I was pretty sure I was going to marry him- and I worried about how to make a decision like that with so little information. I could investigate what his personality is like and try to imagine whether he and I would be compatible. It would be a lot of guesswork and hypotheticals. It would be a lot of prayer and searching everywhere for little signs that God was saying "yes" or "no." And... that's all. In purity land, breaking up is The Worst Thing Ever, so you pretty much have to decide to marry someone without even dating them at all. Just hypotheticals. Just prayer. (And even after you decide to date them, you still can't fully love- you have to "guard your heart" until you get engaged.)

And it's astonishing how my relationship with Hendrix isn't like that at all. This decision isn't about hypotheticals; it's about years of actual real-world experience being a couple. We haven't been cautious. We haven't held back. We haven't been "pure." We aren't jumpy and scared of being "too attached" and "emotionally impure" and so we've been free to just love each other. Free to just be a couple and support each other through the good and bad that life throws at us. And because of that experience, I have the information I need to make this decision. (And not just information, but a lot of fun and happiness along the way.) I know it's a good decision.

They always said that purity was the #1 most important factor in ensuring a successful marriage. But I've discovered it's not like that at all. It's our experience- the opposite of purity- which tells me we will have a good marriage.

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Makes me want to say "I do"~

"I Do" Colbie Caillat


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