Fine, I'll do you a favor. Will you marry me?

I found a little gem on social media the other day. As I read it, I knew something wasn't quite right. I got a sickly feeling in my heart, not because I was offended by what I read but because I realized how many people hold a slighted and cynical view of marriage. My first instinct was to stamp everything with a bright red "FALSE!" but as I brought my gavel down, I realized I couldn't... because it was all true. Here's what it said:

"A lot of men act like they are doing a woman a favor by asking for their hand in marriage, but let's think about this. She changes her name, changes her home, leaves her family, moves in with you, builds a home with you, gets pregnant for you, bears a child for you. Pregnancy destroys her body, she gets fat, almost gives up in the delivery room due to the extreme amount of pain she is going through. Even the kids she delivers bear your name. Until the day she dies, everything she does benefits you, so really! who is doing who a favor?"

Each little piece, standing alone, is true - she does change her name, she does leave her family, she does move in with you etc. So why did I feel so icky about it? When we stop taking each fact on its own merit and examine the propaganda of the piece, we find that though these individual truths retain their integrity, the overall picture fails to hold water. In court, witnesses are asked to swear to "tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God." In this instance we have a classic case of not telling the whole truth. You see, any truth in partiality can be misconstrued.

For example:

Girl: Do you like me?
Guy: No.
Girl: What?!
Guy: I don't like you, I love you!

Removing the last line and not telling the whole truth paints a drastically bleaker picture than was otherwise intended. I hope to examine the whole truth and in doing so, paint the portrait of marriage with brighter colors.

1. Doing women a favor by asking them to get married...

I can't believe this is even an issue that has to be addressed. Men are naturally independent creatures - we love our autonomy and enjoy the freedom of being single. But along comes a woman who takes our breath away, leaves us starry-eyed, inspires us to greatness, makes us laugh and is a companion that we desperately need by our side. Given our bend toward singularity, you can understand then that men propose because they're in love, not because they're a gracious aristocrat who thinks they'll do this poor peasant woman a favor. Ladies, a proposal is an expression of our need for you that pushes our own selfish individuality aside, symbolized in the getting down on one knee. Imagining it to be anything else is a shot to the groin - it questions his integrity, his humility and, most importantly, his love!

2. She changes her name...

There is a huge debate over whether or not a woman should adopt the surname of her husband. In recent years, fuel has been added to the fire by the feminist groups who claim that it is a symbol of weakness to take on the man's name. To address this issue from a Christian perspective, the tradition is rooted in the biblical union of of the woman and man when it states in Genesis 2:24, 

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Whether or not you believe in this biblical union or not, the point still remains that once two people marry, there should follow, a union of names in order to solidify the family unit, both in a societal context but also - and perhaps more importantly - in a emotional context. A name is a powerful thing. The togetherness that arises from a common last name can have a huge effect on the way the husband and wife see each other. No longer are they simply dating where they each own their own lives and enjoy the other's company. Now, the two are one, in law, flesh and name. When children come along, they take on the family name and so pass it on to their children. The refusal on behalf of the woman to take her husband's last name is an act that symbolically estranges her from the family unit as the rest of the family members retain the husband's last name.

This act is generally met with excitement and anticipation of the union as girls scrawl "The future Mrs. Smith" in the margins of their notebooks.

3. Changes her home, leaves her family, moves in with you, builds a home with you...

I honestly don't get this one. Is it implying that the man doesn't change his home and that the two move in with the man's parents? I suppose with our current culture that wouldn't come as a shock. However, in most cases, both the woman and man leave their home and family to begin a new life with each other.

The union, as described in Genesis 2 that I quoted above, clearly makes the distinction that the man would leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife. This new adventure isn't a piece-of-cake ride for the man while the woman is ripped away from her family. It's a new quest, undertaken by the couple, together, apart from their families. In many cases, leaving home and starting a new family is more difficult for the man as one of his God-ordained roles within the family unit is to provide. And as any middle-class man would tell you, provision is quite a task during the early years of marriage.

4. Gets pregnant for you, bears a child for you. Pregnancy destroys her body, she gets fat, almost gives up in the delivery room due to the extreme amount of pain she is going through.

It's beginning to sound like the person who made this little meme believed that pregnancy and the associated pain that women endure is a task that women are requested to do on behalf of the husband and is begrudgingly performed as a favor to the man. If this is the case, she (or he) evidently has never had a child. Children are often noted by parents as being the source of the most joy in life. If this is the case, a woman who bears a child is not doing so out of sadistic obligation to the husband but out of love and a desire to have a family with her husband. Don't worry ladies, I'm not going to compare the pain of childbearing with any increased burden on the husband, but it is both ignorant and rude to imply that men have it easy when it comes to having a child. Once again, as with #3, this is a shared effort with shared (though admittedly not equal) pain and shared joy.

5. Even the kids she delivers bear your name.

See #2. Also, assuming the woman adopted the husbands name, the name is now hers also. If the wife's attitude is one of hidden regret that she adopted the man's name and that her new name isn't who she actually is, the process was wasted. If, however, the wife sees the process of adopting the name of her husband as a beautiful opportunity to unite their family under one banner and that her identity is now marked with that name, she will see her children bearing that name and be proud.

6. Until the day she dies, everything she does benefits you...

Perhaps in cultures across the world where women are mistreated, given no rights, ordered around as slaves and made to serve their husbands as nothing but house-cleaning, child-bearing machines, this would be true. However, in our culture today, there are many aspects of a woman's life that is done for her, her children or her friends. Her husband would be wrong to stifle her freedom to pursue her interests and dreams, I agree. However, I see few relevant examples of this in our society.

Secondly, this implies that the husband is a selfish narcissist that doesn't allow his wife to do anything for herself yet partakes in all of the life-enriching pleasures that he desires. On an incredibly superficial note, I do believe that 40 hours of his week (often more) is spent working to make money for the family. Not him. Not you. The family. Aside from his workweek (because I realize that many women work as well), the husband's role includes service to his wife.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
— Ephesians 5:25

If we spent the time on this topic alone, we would find that Christ's love toward the Church encompassed such a large number of selfless acts including freedom of choice (Jer. 29:13), forgiveness of wrongs (Rom. 5:8), countless blessings (Eph. 1:3), and humble service (John 13:1-17). I stress again, the reciprocation within a marriage. I would be a fool and a heretic to assume that every man equates with Jesus when it comes to loving their bride, however, if they are actively pursuing Christ as they should, the assumption that nothing the woman does is for her and everything the man does is for him, is shot to pieces.

7. So really, who is doing who a favor?

My question is this: Who said it had to be one or the other?

The quickest way to destroy a marriage before "I do" is by believing that you're doing the other person a favor. Comparison is a deadly poison.

The person who created this media and all who agree and share it have one thing in common: a misunderstanding of the biblical view of the covenant relationship of marriage.

For further reading on the subject, here are a few books that really made an impact on the way that I understand the marital relationship:

Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

This Momentary Marriage by John Piper

This Momentary Marriage by John Piper

Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

 

Image Source: Jason Corey