Did we really get married?

Question:

Hello,

I have an issue that has been weighing on my mind. Like many of your questions, it has to do with sexual activity.

Six months ago, I met an amazing, wonderful girl whom I fell in love with. We have spent so much time with each other (after we began our relationship in the summer), and even though I moved to college, I still am able to see her every weekend. We are very young, and we are both Christians. I just started college, and she is still in high school. As time progressed, we kept getting more sexual in our relationship.

One day, she and I decided we would marry ourselves, without going to to a courthouse or having an official ceremony. We had sex, and we have continued to engage in sexual activity. I am not sure if this marriage ceremony is valid in the church's eyes, and most people would not look upon it as valid, but I know I meant every word of my commitment to her and God, and she says the same. I feel that this was rushed, as we decided to do this in one day, and that does make me feel like lust was a factor. To add to this, I do feel like the first time was more selfish on my part, not very romantic, and possibly motivated by lust, although I would like to think of this being due to the fact that it was just our first time.

We really do love each other, but I feel that sexual activity has not made us closer, but more distant at times. I am confident that she is the one, but I feel like we may not have been ready to become sexually involved with each other. I feel that sexual activity has caused us pain, not helped us. I have thought long and hard about this and discussed it with her, and she thinks that it has not made us closer, too.

There is nothing more I want in this world than for our relationship to be loving and to prosper, and I just want the best for us. I do not know what to do. Is it okay for us to engage in sexual activity if we are married? Are we really married in God's eyes if we have committed our relationship to God and to each other? Should we wait longer? Were we not ready? Has this irreparably damaged any future relationship we may have?

She and I are both still very much in love. We care about each other so much, and I am also confident that we are still not blinded by the "honeymoon" phase. I just am concerned about this looming issue, and I really need advice. What is right in God's eyes, and what is best for my wife's and my relationship? The biggest thing I think of is timing. We have only known each other for six months, and when I read stories of other people who had known each other for much longer before getting married and becoming sexually involved, yet still get divorced, it makes me really worry. I really love her, and she loves me, and we do not like feeling not as close to each other.

I probably sound repetitive, but I want to spend the rest of my life with her, and I want what is best. What should we do?

Thank you, and God Bless


Answer:

One aspect of sin is that it is deceptive. It promises things that it cannot deliver. You wanted to have sex with your girlfriend, so you thought you could shortcut the whole marriage deal by privately exchanging vows. Yet, you are avoiding the responsibility of marriage. I suspect that neither your family or hers knows that you believe you are married. The government clearly won't accept a claim on your part that you are married. You don't live together. You haven't created your own household. Instead, you only see each other weekly and most of that time is occupied by sex. Is it any wonder your relationship is decaying?

You are in college and she is still in high school, so I'm guessing she is below the legal age to marry without her parents' consent and you didn't want to be bothered trying to convince her parents to allow the two of you get married.

There are a number of aspects to a marriage covenant. It is an exchange of vows before God, but it also requires witnesses who can testify that those vows took place. It requires a record of the vows that serves as proof that the marriage exists. See: Marriage Covenants.

Hence, you need to face the fact that because of your lust, you tried to avoid following both God and man's laws. The two of you have been committing fornication. Therefore, until this is solved, you must stop sinning and gain forgiveness from God.

I would recommend that you talk to her parents and with their consent arrange for a marriage -- the sooner, the better. With that marriage, the two of you are going to move in with each other to live as husband and wife. You're going to figure out how she can finish her high school degree while you work on your college degree, and I'm assuming she will want to continue her education through college. That will mean that you'll both be working while attending school because you are now your own family, so your parents are no longer financially responsible for you. Life is going to be rough, but both of you will grow as you learn to solve problems together. Then the two of you will do as God desires and become one flesh.

Along with this, I strongly recommend that both of you go through marriage counseling to learn what you need to do to become family.

The following was a comment left on Facebook regarding this answer. It makes a good launching point for discussing how to solve issues.

Wow, good article, bad advice. There is clearly a level of immaturity and unpreparedness to the situation. Repentance is the remedy, not a marriage. A marriage may only exacerbate the situation, ending in divorce leaving both parties in a place where to be righteous, they'd have to remain unmarried. Fornication was committed, repent of that, not commit to a marriage.

Repentance requires two things: a change in attitude toward sin and a change in behavior (Proverbs 14:16).

I noted the following sins: Promises exchanged to marry but no real marriage that took place, which then led to fornication. These then led to deception as they tried to cover up their sex and claim to be married.

The claim is that they are in love and want the relationship to work, but it is falling apart due to the sinful start that they made.

You are correct that repentance of the sins is required. Therefore, I pointed out that his assumption that they were married was false and provided information to back up that point. Hopefully that will lead to a change in attitude toward what they have done.

The second half is a change in behavior. The sexual activity would have to stop while they remain unmarried; you and I both agree on that point, and it was mentioned in the answer.

But where do they go from there? The problems they face do not end with just an ending of sex. In fact, it could lead to temptation to return to the sin they left. They could split up, or they can work to correct the mistakes they have made.

Splitting up makes the vows they made, though not a marriage, an empty promise. It would become yet another sin to be repented of. It also goes against what the couple stated as their desire, so it would lead to both of them being miserable. I would agree that in some situations misery as an aftermath of sin may be deserved. However, here the situation is repairable.

Marriage might not be able to take place immediately due to the need for parental consent. But if they are working toward the goal and know there is an endpoint, then it will be easier for them to stay out of fornication. In the meantime they have a chance to grow and mature in their relationship.

If marriage can take place, then they are going to face a lot of hardships because they will be on their own. Those hardships will make them grow up, if they overcome them (James 1:2-4). Unlike you, I don't see divorce as an option or even a consideration before a marriage takes place. Marriage is a lifetime commitment. "And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matthew 19:4-6). Therefore, what is taught is that they are going to have to work hard at making this marriage successful. They have a lot of growing to do, but they can help each other and grow together.

It may seem strange to people today, but this is what used to happen a hundred years and more ago. Young, immature people often married, but they knew that the marriage was for life. Divorce was rare and stigmatized by society. Thus, they could either become miserable in their marriage, or what happened most of the time is that they grew together and learned how to get along with each other and make their marriage work.

You don't give advice based on your fears of what might happen. There is nothing in the Scriptures teaching that young marriages fail -- the opposite case can actually be made. Yes, problems are likely to arise, so we help solve the problems as the issues appear. What this couple has said is that they want to make the relationship work; thus, I propose for them to work on the relationship in an environment where they don't need to work about sexual temptation and whether they have made solemn vows before God to remain together "for better or worse."