Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Lesson from The Princess Bride on Marriage

"Mawwiage. Mawwiage is bwings us togevah today!"

When it comes to the best movie marriage scenes of all time, this one from The Princess Bride (based off of William Goldman's book) takes the cake. It's hilarious, but more importantly the movie has an overall message about "mawwiage" that I think is really important: your fiancĂ©e does not need to be perfect or wealthy, but a person of character.
If you haven't seen this great movie, I would highly recommend you watch it at some point. I'll give you a brief summary of the movie so you get my point in case you haven't seen it. The story of the movie, read from a book by a grandfather to his grandson, tells the tale of Wesley and Buttercup, a young farm couple that is madly in love. Buttercup is stunningly gorgeous and Wesley decides he must go to America to find his fortune so he can provide for Buttercup and their future family. After years of separation while Wesley is trying to earn his fortune, Buttercup eventually comes to believe that Wesley is dead and she is coerced into marrying the evil Prince Humperdinck so he can ascend the throne. Wesley returns from abroad to rescue the princess from the prince, but in the process she is kidnapped by another group of men who Wesley, under the alias of the "Dread Pirate Roberts," follows until he can save her.

After Wesley's true identity is revealed to Buttercup, the prince and his assistant, the "six-fingered man," are able to capture the pair. The prince plans to marry Buttercup and she makes him agree to release Wesley, but the prince and his assistant keep Wesley hostage and torture him to death. Wesley is eventually revived and with the help of two of the outlaws who kidnapped Buttercup the trio is able storm the castle and interrupt the wedding. Wesley saves Buttercup from nearly committing suicide because of the marriage to the prince and the two ride off into the sunset.

Ok... so marriage isn't exactly "riding off into the sunset," but I think some of the messages in this movie are interesting and warrant some attention. Parts of the plot reflect society's expectations and qualifications for marriage, while other parts contradict these qualifications and say that true love, character, and commitment trumps all.

Wesley's sacrifice at the beginning of the story to leave Buttercup behind to make a fortune is admirable and an enormous sacrifice. Sacrifice is key to any marriage's success. This is part of the message that Wesley gives viewers, but I think his choice also reflects societal expectations. Instead of being with the love of his life and making a mediocre living as a farmhand, Wesley wants to pursue and amass a fortune before he can be with Buttercup. This is a BIG problem society has regarding the "qualifications" for a married couple. Married couples should be able to be financially independent of their parents, as commanded in the Bible when it says men and women become one after "cleaving" ties to their parents. That does not mean the couple has to be rich or "well-establihsed" in their career. The biggest objection many parents and many other people have with young marriage is that the couple isn't financially prepared because they don't have the wealth to marry. Buttercup sends a huge message by rejecting the wealth of Prince Humperdinck in favor of pursuing her true love. She is engaged to marry the prince, but knows that despite the fact that she and Wesley are poor, the love that they have is real and not something that she needs to fake. Society, unfortunately, places too much emphasis on the financial ability of potential couples and not their character.

The character of a couple is not assessed as a qualification for marriage by many members of society. Like we discussed, many people think that finances are critical to having a happy marriage. I, however, think character is far more important of a qualification. If a couple has the right character, the finances are unimportant because they will work hard to make ends meat and they will not forsake each other in financial hardship. Whenever I talk with people about the idea of getting married young (for me or for them), they often tell me that they are not ready and not sure when they will be. I am not saying that Wesley and Buttercup are 'great' example of character, but I would still say Wesley's dedication to return and rescue Buttercup after nearly 5 years and Buttercup's dedication to still love Wesley say something for the power of character and commitment. However, true character and commitment is a lot more than what Hollywood portrays.

Ted Cunningham discusses the importance of character in his book, Young and In Love (which I highly recommend you read). Cunningham says that character is the most important trait anyone should consider in their potential mate or in the validity of their child or friend's desire to get married at a young age. Character assessment in pre-marriage reflections should consider these characteristics: the person's relationship with God, the person's maturity, the person's selflessness, and the person's commitment. 

  1. Relationship with God: Is God a priority in the person's life? How long have they been a Christian? Do they have a story of how they came to God? Do they have a testimony? Do they pray? Do they want to raise kids with God's word? Do they attend church regularly and good to additional fellowship groups? These are all important questions you should consider before marrying anyone, young or old. A person's relationship with God can determine how they will act in all aspects of marriage.
  2. Maturity: Is the person working or willing to get a job soon? Do they act responsibly? Do they manage money responsibly and budget? Do they live within their means? Is partying or having fun more important than commitments to God, the church, school, or their family? These are just a few questions you can ask of your potential mate to gage their maturity. Your heart will lead you on what is and is not an appropriate level of maturity. 
  3. Selflessness: Is the person willing to sacrifice for you and your future family? Are they willing to give up some "dreams" to be with you? Do they get angry at you easily or frustrated easily? Are they more concerned with having fun and doing things their way than meeting your needs or doing things that are important to you? Again, these need to be thought about seriously because if your mate is not selfless I do not care how old they are, they ARE NOT ready to marry. 
  4. Commitment: Have they had the opportunity to prove their commitment to you by working through tough circumstances with you? Do they want to get married? Do they think divorce is a valid choice if things "aren't working out?" Will they get help for your marriage if there are issues? Have they been reading and preparing themselves for marriage by reading books on marriage and focusing their life on God? It may sound simple, but commitment is make or break for relationships. If your mate's personal interests trump their commitment to you, you best rethink your choice in marrying this person. 
Summary: The Princess Bride's message to society is clear. Do not let financial circumstances--something society says must be "stable" before marrying--deter you from getting married. Be financially stable, and make a plan to earn money, save, and spend responsibly as needed, but do not let a societal qualification determine when you can and cannot marry. A person's character is more important than their checkbook, and if their character is in the right place and your's is too, odds are you have a lot better of a chance of success in marriage than someone who chooses to marry someone of poor character because the person is "financially stable." 

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