Anyone who's read this blog knows that I don't think we should be encouraging young people into mixed-orientation marriages. My outspokenness on this issue tends to offend people who are already in mixed-orientation marriages, even though my position on existing MOMs is positive. I support these couples 100%, wherever their paths take them.
I finally came up with an analogy that might make this clearer. Bear with me.
We all know that it's not a good idea for teenagers to get married. Marriages between 17 year olds have a very high rate of failure. Those that don't end in failure are often stormy. The couple often find themselves growing apart by the time they are 30. Etc. We can point to specific reasons why early marriage is an extraordinarily bad idea. There's no need to recite the list here.
Now, let's suppose you and your spouse did marry in your teens, and your teen marriage happens to be one of the exceptions to the rule. You've stayed married for two or three decades and are satisfied with your marriage. Maybe there have been some rough spots along the way but all-in-all you are content with the family structure you have built.
Question: Does the fact that your teen marriage is doing well decades later mean that we should soft-pedal our advice to young people who might be contemplating such a union today? Is the fact that we strongly discourage marriage between teens on practical grounds showing a kind of disrespect for your successful marriage?
I think it's pretty easy to see that the answer to these questions is no. No one is showing intolerance for your marriage by strongly advising young people against marrying when they are 17. That some couples are capable of maintaining their teen marriages into middle age doesn't change the fact that young people considering this step should be alerted to the extreme inadvisability of teenage marriage.
Now, suppose that you are well versed in the many problems of teenage marriage. Maybe you even were in one of these, and it was a spectacular and painful failure. Maybe you are acquainted with a large number of couples who have experienced sorrow as a result of underage marriage. Maybe you've read the statistics and the academic literature on the subject. Then, you happen to meet a happy couple who years earlier married young. What would your feeling be toward this couple? Would you disdain their relationship? The answer is no, of course not. You'd be happy for them.
What if you met a couple who happened to be struggling as a result of problems connected to marrying so young. Would you hope for them to fail as a way of validating your own anti-teen-marriage ideology or would you empathize with their issues and hope for the best? Again, it's not a stretch to imagine that you'd be on their side.
Finally, what if your own teen-aged son or daughter came to you and asked your advice whether they should marry their sweetheart. Would you encourage the pair of enamored 17 year olds to pray about it and ask God if they should marry? Would you pass along anecdotes of couples who married young and beat the odds? I don't think so. You'd tell them in clear terms what the story was, with no ifs, ands or buts.
In my mind, the parallel between these two situations (teenage marriage and marriage between people of unmatched sexual orientations) is strong, yet I end up thoroughly offending people in mixed-orientation marriages on a regular basis. I have yet to offend anyone who married young. My theory about this is that people in mixed-orientation marriages can be a lot touchier about the issue than people who might have married as teenagers. I'm not exactly sure why.
I'd love to hear from any of you in mixed-orientation marriages or from anyone else with an opinion on the topic. Does my analogy make any sense to you? I'm happy to take criticism. If you think I've been smoking something, let me know.