It’s undeniable, like gravity – I need to be married. I don’t need marriage for its material benefits. As a divorced father, I lived better than most in similar situations. I don’t need marriage to ease domestic responsibilities. Unlike many forty-five-year-old men, I can do my own laundry, make lunches, choose the appropriate thread count bed sheets, cook reasonably healthy, respond to my daughter’s feminine urgencies, decorate – so long as the color is brown – and I dress better than 90% of men. I don’t need marriage to cure bouts of loneliness or relieve lustful urges. Heaven knows, in today’s world, vows aren’t necessary for companionship, which is routinely criticized for getting in the way of such things anyway. I need marriage for a more fundamental reason – I don’t trust myself.
As I’ve written before, I was not an admirable single person. In fact, I was downright awful. Meaning, when I look back to those moments I most regret, times I wish could be whitewashed from my experience, it’s nearly always those occurring when I was not in a committed relationship. Moments when a drop of freedom and ounce of independence fueled me towards dangerous destinations. Without the guardrails of relationship commitment, written or implied, ordering my behavior, helping calibrate my conscience, I was free to act on any impulse or temptation that came my direction. And Lord knows I certainly did, living by that very convenient and completely shortsighted rule, ‘So long as no one gets hurt, what’s the problem?’
To illustrate how off course I had drifted, long before the Queen I was seeing a woman who had told me early on that she was ‘not sexually active’ at that moment. I was dumbfounded. Not by her choice of abstinence but its reflection of my own moral deficiencies. I couldn’t get over how a single person, in the twentieth century, untethered by the expectations of a relationship, could have such self-control, but, more importantly, self-confidence to purposefully make such a decision. She was a shining contradiction to the way I saw the world, but more specifically myself. The light of her moral maturity and restraint cast a long shadow on my own dark weaknesses. I have never completely forgotten that feeling.
Thankfully, inspired by a renewed faith, some lessons learned, children who need moral guidance, and marriage, I now have new encouragements to do things differently in the future than I did in the past. But there’s a problem and it’s the reason I so desperately need marriage. As much as I condemn those old behaviors, regret the decisions, tire of their consequences, castigate the same in others, the sad reality is – I liked them. I enjoyed the shamelessness. I relished in novelty that became a drug. I got a perverse pleasure in acting perverse. Conquest was my adrenaline rush. Perhaps nothing speaks better of the innate sinfulness in all of us than taking immense delight in what we know to be immensely wrong – to know better and do it anyway. And as much as I want to think, and others may imagine, I now walk a higher more divine plane, that old life so far in the rear view mirror is actually closer than may appear.
I suffer from insecurity that has at times been nearly debilitating; fear of failure, rejection, and ridicule to name a few. While most meeting me see someone who appears to know where he’s going, how he’s getting there and is comfortable with who he is, for the most part, that’s all make believe. A game of smoke and mirrors designed to distract you from the scared little boy hiding in the corner.
Insecurity is the root of many, if not most, poor choices. We overspend to buy it off, drink to drown it out, sleep around to keep it under the covers. I hid my insecurity behind women. They were simply means, Band-Aids over my festering sores of self-doubt. A woman on a man’s arm may provide him a sense of pride, but I needed intimacy to be validated, proving that I was something and someone. Convincing her to give away at the bargain price of empty promises something that should be of precious inestimable value, I considered myself a winner, wanted, and worthy. It was the balm I chose to sooth those feelings of inadequacy – an island of certainty in a ocean of uncertainty
We routinely give ourselves credit for admitting weakness. It’s a sign of maturity and humility to acknowledge that we’re imperfect and prone to frailties – that we’re ‘human’. But what we miss, and what still leads us into all kinds of trouble, is the next step of doing something about them. We fail to go further and build the necessary guardrails around our faults. Believing, it seems, that confession is enough to keep us out of harm’s way. Lots of drug addicts confess they’re addicted, but if they frequent places where drugs are found, guess what happens?
My history has proven that I possess two characteristics when combined produce a combustible concoction. A desperate need for acceptance, and the moral back bending to reach for a distorted cure. This is why I need marriage. Without the expectations a spouse rightly deserves, I don’t trust myself to live by a higher standard entirely on my own. Minus commitment I would likely descend back into corruption. If the world ripped asunder tomorrow and I was suddenly single again, even with all I know, I’m nearly certain I would gravitate back to that life I thought was so far in the past. Faced once again with those same old overwhelming insecurities, I can’t be sure I wouldn’t return to that past life I know is wrong.
Perhaps it’s a sign of maturity. Maybe I’ve started to grow up and am now beginning to understand who I am. Because, for perhaps the first time ever, I recognize, as surely as I’m sitting here, that without the boundaries and the expectations of marriage, that little boy with all of his insecurity would surely reveal himself again, and begin reaching once more for the antidote he thinks will most quickly calm his fear, and doing so find himself back in the darkness he hoped he had forever escaped.