I’ll Marry You When You’ve Earned It (The true meaning behind a common phrase)
I’ve heard the phrase a few times before from men who have been living with the same woman for several years. « Well, I have to marry her now. After all, she’s earned it, and I want to keep her. »
It blew right past me the last couple times I heard it, but this time it bumped me on the way past like a slap in the face. We could imagine a conversation…
« So you have to marry her now. »
« Yes »
« Because she’s earned it. »
« Yes. »
« How? »
« Oh, you know, putting up with me these years. Staying faithful, doing life together… »
« And sex. »
« Well…yeah. Like I said, doing life together. »
« So she’s earned it now. »
« Yes, that’s what I said. »
« But you didn’t have to marry her four years ago. »
« Well, we just met then. We were going steady but hadn’t moved in together yet. »
« She hadn’t earned it yet? »
« Well, no. »
« So what you’re saying is that if you were perfectly honest, and she was perfectly honest on your first date it could have gone something like this: Her, ‘I want you to marry me someday.’ You, ‘Well, share my bed and my home for a few years. Have unprotected sex with me with absolutely no guarantee that I will take care of your children. Devote three or four precious years of your young life to me. In short, earn it. You work for everything in life, even my love. And I am such a stud, I can speak to you like an employee. Why there are girls just lined up out there… »
« Hey! »
« Just being honest. »
« I never said I was a stud! »
« Well then what gives you the right to speak down to her like that? »
« I’m not speaking down to her! I just said she earned it! »
« Yes. But what you meant to say, all along is: my love is not a gift, it is a wage. I’ll marry you when you’ve earned it. And by the way, if at any point in the future she stops serving you as you demand, then what? Your relationship is a one-way street. It is predicated on her serving your needs adequately. Does that mean if she stops serving you, you are justified to leave her? »
The sexual revolution was pushed in the West in part by the Feminist movement, and marketed as the liberation of women. But that’s an absolute lie!
In relationships, men have all the power. Biologically and emotionally (just speaking of the flesh) a man is far more likely and capable of taking advantage of a woman. The most devastating thing that a man can do to a woman is not to have a one-night-stand and leave her immediately (this can be bad enough!) but to stay with her until children come, and then disappear for greener pastures.
Of course, it doesn’t work the other way around. Biologically/physically, and emotionally the mother is bound to the child. She cannot simply walk away. But the man can. And they do – in huge droves, they do.
But in most sane cultures of the world they do not allow their children to run wild. They cherish and protect their young girls by introducing and protecting the institution of marriage. I am tempted at this point to credit Christianity alone here…but in reality, most cultures have some sense of marriage. Only our insane « progressive » culture has dispensed with marriage, and in so doing has put young women and children in harm’s way.
Marriage is an institution designed to protect women and children.
The moment you remove the need to get married before having a sexual relationship, you liberate the man to do exactly what his sinful flesh inclines him to do: to leave at any time, or (which may be worse) to use the power that he has to abandon her as a weapon or tool to control her.
After four years, the person in this fictional scenario has decided to lay down his tool, his weapon, his threat of abandonment. « After all, she has earned it. » But how has she earned it? And why in the world is she earning something from him? People earn things from people who have more money, power or authority than they do. This couple cannot be thinking of some sort of headship role because they are thoroughly « liberated » from those old-fashioned ideas. (But a Christian version of headship/submission certainly would not look as brutal/crass as this!…For more on Christian Headship/Submission, see post Leadership and Submission in the Home, or my recent sermon, « Heart of the Servant King« )
So then why does he speak of « earning » it? And why is it that this simple phrase seems so accurate and natural that most of us have passed over it without a thought? « Earned it? Of course she’s earned it – she’s been with him for four years! »
That tiny band – that precious gold band that God demands be given to a girl before taking her virginity – he has kept that from her. He has kept it away and up, just out of reach. Invisible, but never quite out of mind.
In the other hand, he held the opposite: nothing. Absolutely nothing. After giving her virginity, her time, her youth, her childbearing years…nothing. Devestatingly, achingly, crushingly nothing. The hand is just empty…and that one lingers too. Which one will she receive? What will be her reward?
It is all at the mercy of the man. This is what the Sexual Revolution has given to the liberated modern man – absolute brutal power over woman. At any moment, at the slightest whim, he can leave her. Leave her. Leave her. With absolutely nothing.
And so she must serve him. Of course he never tells her to. But why would he? He’s too clever for that, and only amateurs manipulate with words. He is so good, sometimes he doesn’t even know what he is doing.
« Well, honey, I always dreamed of being with someone who would perform sexually in this way… » So if she wishes to be his wife, perhaps, someday, she must perform in that way. Otherwise, it’s the dreaded nothing.
« Well, my standard of beauty is thin, tall, well groomed, red hair, nose-ring, etc…. » so she must remain thin, put her makeup on without fail around him, and try to conform to his standard of beauty.
« Well, you know I love a girl that can cook! » so now she must learn to cook, and do it well! Not for the joy of it, but for the fear…what if he decides, after all her long years of candidating for the position of first lady, that he actually has chosen candidate #2? A candidate who can cook?
I used to be able to smile and nod along to the Romeo and Juliet type of movie and song plots. The young passionate man who loves Juliet so much that he just cannot wait, and will not tolerate any sort of family interference. He has to take her now, and they will move in together immediately to passionately begin their life together.
Too much life experience has poisoned this story for me. Despite what is promised in movies such as The Notebook, the strong tree of fidelity, family and covenant love does not grow easily in the soil of fornication and lust. It grows there sometimes – perhaps by accident, or family pattern. But it is not native to that soil.
I used to love this story because passionate love is from God: but what I missed is that by bypassing marriage, this dastardly young man has robbed the woman of all the protections and rights which society has seen right to protect the woman with. She is completely at his mercy now. Will he be fair to her? Or will he toy with her for a few years? Or a few decades? Will he someday decide she has « earned » his covenant? Or will he never decide that? Will he – as many men that I know personally, as well as huge statistics in our society – simply leave her when the kids come, when the going gets rough, or when he gets bored?
If sex is before marriage, marriage becomes a weapon or tool of manipulation. And a kind man who says, « I’ll marry her…after all, she’s earned it! » betrays that all along, he has been using just this weapon to control and manipulate his woman.
And that, I believe, is just not right.
« For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress anddefraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God whogives His Holy Spirit to you. » 1 Thess. 4:3-8