The paradox is that I have a job back home (two states away) that would be able to support a wife, but she’s set on grad school here for the next three years. What should I do?
Thanks for writing. Your question is obviously a very practical one, but before you can get to a wise, practical answer, it seems you and your girlfriend have a few big questions to think through.
The first is whether the two of you believe the same things about what the Bible teaches on marriage and the roles of husbands and wives within marriage. The two basic views of marriage within evangelicalism are “complementarianism” and “egalitarianism.” I wrote about this more fully in a column back in April that might also be helpful to you, but I will summarize here.
Essentially, complementarianism is the theological position that God created men and women equal in worth, value, dignity and the extent to which they reflect God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), and then, within that equality, assigned and equipped them for different roles in the church and family, such that they “complement” one another to God’s glory.
The opposing position to complementarianism is called egalitarianism. Egalitarianism accepts that men and women are created by God with equal value and worth, but rejects any notion that God assigned and equipped men and women for differing roles within the family and church, such that every role in both contexts (for instance, “head” or “leader” in the family context and “elder” or “pastor” in the church context) is equally open to either men or women.
These competing views arrive at some pretty different visions of what priorities in marriage look like practically. Complementarians believe that in the biblical model for marriage, the husband’s work and ministry outside the home is primary, and the wife’s work and ministry is primarily to be oriented toward her husband as his helper or “helpmate” (see, for example, Genesis 2:15-23; Proverbs 31:11-12; Ephesians 5:22-33). This is not to say that a wife cannot have her own independent pursuits and ministry (see Proverbs 31; Titus 2:3-5), but that she should understand her primary ministry to be that of “helper” to her husband and all that entails regarding the home and family — including in the care of children.
In an egalitarian marriage, on the other hand, there is no theological basis for prioritizing the husband’s career over the wife’s or for assuming that the husband will be the primary breadwinner over the long term or that the wife would be the primary caregiver of any children that come along.
I’m sure you can see how this issue affects your current dilemma. You haven’t given a lot of details in your question, and every situation is different. But taking the information I have, it would not seem to make a lot of sense at first glance for a complementarian couple to decide that the husband will put his career on hold and follow his wife to grad school so that she can spend three years and (most likely) take on significant debt to get a degree she is unlikely to use in the pursuit of a long-term, full-time career.
On the other hand, if you’re both egalitarian, you have no theological reason to prioritize your first job over her graduate degree/career, so your analysis will be very different. If one of you is complementarian and the other egalitarian in your beliefs, that probably doesn’t bode well for your prospects of marrying one another (or for the wisdom of doing so). Either way, you’ll need to have that discussion if you haven’t already.
That brings me to the second big issue to consider: How serious are you about marrying one another? Regular readers of Boundless will know I believe the complementarian view to be the correct one, but even as a complementarian, I would not normally encourage a woman to radically alter her plans, leave her church and move two states away to be near a guy unless marriage in the near future was very likely.
You called it a “fairly new but serious relationship” and said you both are “desiring marriage in the near future.” I would probably suggest a more concrete discussion — preferably in consultation with the elders at your church or other wise, mature believers that know you well — before you start making serious professional and geographical changes to be with each other.
I will pray for the Lord to give you both wisdom as you think through these decisions.
For His glory,
Copyright 2014 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.