“Starter” Marriages?

I’m sure you’ve heard of “starter homes” and “starter vehicles.” Well, we now have “starter marriages!” Also described as “learner marriages,” these are marriages that usually take place between people in their early to mid-twenties. These marriages are not intended or expected to last for very many years. They are considered more of a training event than a real marriage.

In an article that I recently read, a researcher described these marriages as typically involving high-school sweethearts or similar situations in which it was simply assumed and understood by family and friends that a certain couple would marry each other. Many of us have witnessed this — some with good and lasting results. Sadly, we have also witnessed the devastating results of some of these marriages in the form of divorce, broken friendships and broken homes. While some things may have been “learned” through the short course of these “learner” marriages, the spiritual, emotional, physical and financial costs are huge.

The problem is not necessarily that a particular couple married too young, or that they married each other before dating other people. The problem is that too many people fail to understand the permanent nature of marriage and the marriage bond. They don’t see marriage as a binding and life-long contract. They see marriage, and particularly their first marriage as an experiment or a trial run. They reason that if the first marriage doesn’t work out, then they will try it again later with someone different. There are two major problems with this concept and practice:

  1. If it is not done for the reason of sexual immorality, divorce is sinful! God binds scripturally married people in a life-long contract. Paul told the saints at Rome, “For a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive…” (Romans 7:2-3). Jesus explained that following marriage, a man and his wife are “no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6). Just three verses later, in answer to the Pharisees’ question of verse 3, Jesus explains that an innocent spouse may divorce his mate only for the cause of sexual immorality (Matthew 19:9).
  2. Divorcing one’s mate NOT for sexual immorality and marrying another results in the sin of adultery (also taught in Matthew 19:9). Adultery is sexual relations between a married person and someone not his spouse. Repentance requires stopping the sinful practice, whatever it is. To repent of adultery, one must stop having the unlawful sexual relations. The sin of adultery is not pardoned merely by divorcing one’s original mate and marrying the new sex partner. Such actions result only in an ongoing adulterous relationship. The remarriage is not approved by God, hence is constitutes an adulterous marriage (see again Romans 7:3).

Modern nations and societies may allow and even recommend the practice of “starter marriages,” but the God of Heaven “hates” such a notion, for He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). Young people must be warned against this notion of “starter marriages.” They must be taught to appreciate the binding nature of the marriage contract. Otherwise, they could end up living out their lives in a sinful sexual relationship, in which repentance becomes extremely difficult to practice.

—Tim Haile

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