Love and Fairytales

What can marriage do for YOU?

It seems like a funny question when phrased this way, but it’s exactly the way that most of us have been trained to think about marriage (and spouses).  Too often our marriage daydreams go something like this:

Once upon a time there was a nice girl who married a nice boy and he was “the one.”  He complemented her perfectly, he knew and accepted all her flaws, he always made her feel safe, happy and fulfilled, and he never ever made her sad.

Because it was “true love,” he knew exactly what she needed and always gave it to her.  

Because it was “true love,” she never minded doing things for him, not that he expected much.

And because it was “true love,” marriage was never hard. Love always came naturally and easily and together they lived happily ever after…

(dreamy sigh)

It sounds like a fairy tale because it is.  And it’s a dangerous one, because it puts “true love” (with or without marriage) in the role of God.  If you are married or want to be someday, here’s a truth you must embrace:

Only your Savior is your Savior.

There are lots of great things you can say about marriage, but make no mistake, no matter how “true” your love is or how “right” your guy is, marriage cannot fulfill you, and it will not always be easy.

Tim Keller tackled this topic beautifully last week in an essay for Relevant magazine entitled, You Never Marry The Right Person. Keller argues that too many people approach marriage as a sort of ultimate vehicle for self-fulfillment. Instead, he says, you should see marriage as “two flawed people coming together to create a space of stability, love and consolation.”

You won’t find it described that way in any fairy tale, but to me, marriage is even more beautiful  and wonderful when viewed with clear eyes as a collaborative effort between two broken people. Seeing it as anything else can lead to some serious disappointment.

I’ve written before about some of the practical steps you can take to evaluate a potential partner, and those steps are definitely worth consideration, but what I’m talking about here is more about attitude than anything else.

The first time I got married, I had a sort of dreamy vision of marriage, much like the fairy tale story above.  I expected that with the right guy, everything would just kind of work out. That expectation shaped my view of who I wanted. I was looking for a prince, not a partner.

When I married for the second time, I had a much clearer view of what marriage meant, and as a result I was looking for more than a compelling Christian man; I wanted a committed, trustworthy teammate (who also makes my head spin on occasion!).  Chris and I love each other, and we love the partnership that we have built (and continue to build), but we don’t expect our marriage to fill our every need – because we know it can’t.

If I could give you one piece of advice about marriage, it would be this: understand who your partner can be and who God really is. Marriage is a wonderful gift from the only person who truly is our prince and savior!