Sometimes in the battle against the anti-marriage true believers (“Marriage is just a piece of paper.”) we point out that Christian marriage is about dying to self. Christian wives are told ‘Wives, submit yourself unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.’ [Ephesians 5:22] Christian husbands are told ‘Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it.’ [ Ephesians 5: 25]
Since Christ loved the church— composed of unworthy sinners— by dying on the cross for it, Christian wives win. We can see that both husbands and wives are given strict commands where the end result is being very unselfish to the marriage partner— dying to self, or at least putting your more selfish side in second place.
Secular marriage is different from Christian marriage— after all, many ancient cultures allowed for easy divorce and remarriage. But the dying to self part of marriage is not necessarily absent.
Let us take the example of a caveman— or, more technically, a Paleolithic man. His name is Marcus (not all cavemen have to be named Ogg) and he’s just taken a wife named Lucia. Once married (or pair-bonded, since they don’t have ‘a piece of paper’ since paper hasn’t been invented yet), they stop living just for themselves and start thinking more of their partner. When Marcus is out hunting, he anticipates how Lucia will react when he brings down an antelope. When Lucia is out gathering edible plants, she rejoices when she finds things she thinks Marcus will like— even if she doesn’t much like it herself. They try to please the other.
In a more life-and-death situation, the fact that Lucia is a wife and not a virgin enhances her chances of getting pregnant. But pregnancy brings with it a risk of dying in childbirth. Marriage may cost Lucia her life. Staying a virgin would have been safer. But Lucia takes the risk.
In time of crisis— perhaps the tribe is being attacked by the men of a rival human band— it is Marcus who may have to give his life. Males, even in animal herds, tend to fight a threat while the females and young can get away. Marcus may have to fight attackers while Lucia takes the babies and runs away. Marcus might die to save the lives of his wife and offspring. But that’s what even secular marriage is about, and if Marcus has living offspring who survive because of his sacrifice, at least his genes will live on.
What about a same-sex couple? Let us say that in Marcus and Lucia’s tribe there is a pair of males, James and Andrew (yeah, also not named Ogg.) James and Andrew may be sex partners, or may just have a very intense friendship that leaves little room for other social relationships. (‘Being Gay’ in the modern sense has most certainly not been invented yet.)
James and Andrew may care about one another every bit as much as Marcus and Lucia do, but neither James nor Andrew has to worry about dying in childbirth because of it. And if the tribe is attacked, both, being males, will be expected to fight against the enemy to help women and children escape. Since their union cannot produce children, their genes will not live on if they both die in battle. Since James and Andrew have no escaping wives and children to worry about, they may be forgiven if they decide that self-preservation is more of a thing for them.
Because male-female couples can potentially produce children which have a genetic future, ‘dying to self’ in a marriage makes more sense, even in secular contexts. And putting self second makes a marriage last longer that deciding that marriage is a 50/50 proposition and then quarreling over what constitutes 50%. Other relationships— whether same-sex or cohabitation or hookups— just don’t normally generate the whole ‘dying to self’ attitude. Which is why marriage is special, and not necessarily the same thing as a friendship or a casual-sex-partner relationship.
If you think my opinions are politically incorrect, thank you for paying attention. I personally am ‘non-heterosexual’, but I believe in man-woman marriage. I realize a lot of people don’t think I’m allowed to hold such opinions.