As a teenager, I read my fair share of Christian romance novels. They were full of dramatic plot lines, sexual tension, one-room schoolhouses and Canadian Mounties.
The leading men were imperfect but in a tousled and endearing sort of way. They always knew what to say. All the female characters were beautiful, but distressed, to ensure the reader plenty of drama. Each story ended with a sigh.
Today, women can indulge their romantic side by using Pinterest. They can build relationship shrines out of images of engagement rings and couple shots and create virtual collages of attractive men, romantic dates, perfect playlists and unique wedding favors. They are collecting comparisons.
This magazine says that the right guy will know what his girlfriend wants for Christmas.
This pastor says that saving sex until marriage ensures a satisfying and uncomplicated sex-life.
This film is my favorite because he sweeps her off her feet by showing up at the prom to slow dance with her to her favorite song!
Don’t let yourself off the hook. Replace Christian romance novels and Pinterest with anything else that may have you building up unrealistic expectations. Regardless of their source, the following relationship lies pose a threat to true contentment:
Lie #1: You Will Be Happy Once You are Married.
In other words, tough luck, singles. You’re missing out. Only married people know what true happiness is.
But waiting for happiness, whether you are single waiting for marriage, married waiting for children, or married waiting for your spouse to change, is idolatrous territory. When we hold our joy captive until we get what we want, a vicious cycle of discontentment begins. God calls us to be content right now:
Hebrews 13:5: Be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.
Lie #2: Love Fixes Everything.
In films, love is the answer. Characters’ lives could be falling apart, their planet on the verge of collapse, until they meet “the one.” Suddenly problems vanish. Love is all you need, right?
Real life is different. Love as he might, a husband cannot always comfort his wife out of post-partum depression. A wife cannot simply hand her husband confidence after he loses his job. When we expect our spouse’s love to solve all of our problems, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. Though it sure makes them easier to endure, love can’t make trials disappear. Love is powerful, not omnipotent.
Accepting this leaves less room for disappointment and more room for grace.
Because, you see, love does fix everything—Christ’s love. It fixes our ultimate problem of sin and separation from God. Expecting your spouse to be your Savior ensures discontent. Looking to Christ ensures salvation. He alone can remove our burdens and take our blame; and not just temporarily, but forever.
Lie #3: You Will Always “Get” Each Other.
Men seem to be particularly bad at mind-reading. My husband is thrilled when he can predict my answer to a question. He is thrilled because it is rare. When I try to read his thoughts, I usually get it wrong as well. I read something negative into a sigh or something specific into a general comment. Neither of us are any good at telepathy.
It’s important to confront this lie because believing it discourages real communication. When a woman gives her husband the silent treatment to communicate frustration, she is promoting confusion, not understanding. When a man makes a passive-aggressive comment about his wife leaving her clothes on the floor, he is not giving her a chance to change. He is just venting his anger.
I believe it takes more love to listen well and clearly articulate your thoughts than it does to buy into the myth that true love “always knows.” True love works hard to know.
Talking is the new guessing. Try it.
Lie #4: Love is Always Romantic and Unexpected.
Too many stories end right after the proposal or wedding ceremony. We don’t get to watch the couple go through life together. We don’t get to see their first fight, the way they handle money problems, discipline their kids, or how they deal with illness. As a result, many expect marriage to be just like dating.
Correcting this lie requires not just a shift in expectations, but perspective. Our culture’s definition of “romance” is too narrow. Though marriage does not contain the fluttery nerves, new cologne, and best manners of a first date, there is a great deal of romance in the regular. My 90-year-old grandpa regularly sets his alarm clock for 12 a.m. so that he can wake up my diabetic grandmother for her midnight snack. As a stoic WWII vet and survivor of the Great Depression, he has never been verbally affectionate. But when I watch him faithfully take care of his wife in this way, it is more romantic to me than any movie or book.
If everyday events like sickness and car troubles seem like romance-killers to you, then they will be. But if you expect real-life situations to enter and impact your marriage and view them as opportunities to demonstrate Christ-like love, you have a lot to look forward to.
Lie #5: Love Means Never Having to Change.
The main problem with this lie is that it is self-focused instead of Christ-focused.
Self-love says: I deserve what I want and don’t have to change for anyone.
Christ-like love says: I deserve eternal punishment but have been given eternal grace. I will continue to seek new ways to be more like Christ.
Sinners should enter marriage ready to change. You asked God to mold and refine you before you were married. Don’t stop just because you have a ring on your finger.
Our motivation for changing should always be God’s glory and Christ-likeness. Christ was a servant. He laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:11). He gave of himself when He was exhausted. He cared about people when they were sick, unlovely and unpopular. And He did all of these things for His Father’s glory. Ask God to chip away at your sinfulness and your spouse to forgive you when you sin against them.
But don’t enter marriage with the expectation that you will change your spouse. Though Christ-like love certainly has the power to change people, your job is to love your spouse. Think they need to change? God is one who has the power to change people, so prayer should be our first response.
There will be times when we need to boldly speak the truth in love to our spouse (Ephesians 4:12), especially if they are in sin. But there will be many more times when we are called to show them love when they haven’t changed. We need to remember that marriage, though a powerful symbol of Christ’s love for the Church, is imperfect; a shadow of things to come (Colossians 2:17).
This article was originally posted at thebibleisrelevant.blogspot.com.