Minister Eddie Kaufholz, writing for the Christian publication Relevant, just offered some of the silliest relationship advice you’ll ever hear this past week, advising reader “Christina” to ignore her parents’ suggestion to get a prenup with her fiancé.
I am all for making your own decisions and parting ways with your parents when their advice reflects a significant disparity with your personal values. But this article frames marriage in a particularly romantic Christian way: It assumes that marriage is an idyllic state of being that can be achieved by magical thinking and cultivated codependency:
… your friends also have a really valid point. That is, that signing a prenup is essentially preparing for a divorce. Which, it is. Let me explain…
Your marriage has nothing to do with stuff. Contracts have to do with stuff. No, marriages have to do with something that is much more sacred, much more binding, and much less able to be broken via divorce lawyers who are bickering over alimony…
A prenup is nothing compared to a covenant commitment before God. And so to… sign a legal document that says that “Christina keeps XYZ and Mr. Christina keeps ABC” has nothing to do with what’s actually possessed, and it puts value in the wrong worth.
Additionally, a prenup is a bad indicator that not everything is being relinquished for the sake of this marriage. And while some may say that signing it is just a legal formality and it doesn’t take away from the significance of the union. I would object and say that it’s an indicator that the couple, even if they’re a great couple who should totally get married, is keeping a little divorce insurance on the side — and you can’t do that.
I heard the “dating is practicing for divorce” line all throughout my childhood. And even though I married my first boyfriend and waited for sex until my wedding night, I still ended up divorced. There is no way to know how a marriage will work out until you’re in it, and it’s a huge risk to cultivate the sort of enmeshed relationship that the author advises.
It may be wonderful if it works out well, but it leaves little room for emotional autonomy and an independent identity in practice. Much of Christian marriage advice pushes for further emotional tangling as a substitute for true intimacy (which respects and knows the other partner as a fully autonomous and separate individual). This column is more of the same.
I suppose this idea of codependency being a sign of a good relationship is heavily supported by popular cultural assumptions about the nature of romance, but it’s also a particularly Christian fault, since the marriage is so often compared to the relationship between Christ and the church: The church is supposed to be utterly dependent on and centered around Christ and his identity. Therefore, the idea of this woman centering her whole identity around her fiancé is passable as biblical — it isn’t; the metaphor was never meant to stretch that far — and any sort of attempt to preserve a separate identity, even separate bank accounts or lines of credit, is seen as a lack of trust in the relationship and thus a lack of faith in Christ’s plan for your marriage.
This misuse of scriptural metaphor is pretty common in Christian circles. And unfortunately, “Christina” will probably hear the same advice from several other people. I just hope that having all her eggs in one basket works out better for her than it did for me.
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