There is no one who brings as much meaning, joy and laughter to my life as my wife does. She makes me feel more blessed, happy, silly, challenged, frustrated, angry, excited, solemn, guilty, repentant, heroic, confident, and a slew of other things, than anyone else in my life. I absolutely love being married. In particular, I love being married to my wife. She is the perfect fit for me, and I constantly find myself grateful to God that He knew exactly the kind of person I needed.
That said, marriage is hard. Sometimes it’s really hard. And at some point the difficulty of marriage, no matter how prepared we may have been for it, begins to set in for all of us. There are two words that lead to an expectation that can ruin a marriage, and they are commonly heard in society.
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve heard it. It’s well beyond cliché by now, but our culture still obsesses over it. We’ve been lied to. We haven’t just theoretically believed in an idea. We have ardently trusted in an ideal. That is, an ideal person. “The One.” If you bought into this idea, these two words might have put your marriage on a trajectory for failure before it started. “The One” is a concept that says there is one person, and only one person, who is absolutely perfect for me in every way. But what happens five years and two kids later when your spouse no longer seems to fit the bill?
These two words lead to unreasonable expectations.
Words are powerful. We can phrase things in a way that makes the most righteous of actions seem fatal, or the worst of sins justifiable. I think it is the same with “The One” rhetoric. Many of us used this term to cover up our real motives. I don’t mean that we lied to others. I mean that we didn’t realize that we were lying to ourselves. It sounds far more romantic to describe someone as my perfect match—the one—than to honestly admit that what I really mean is, “The person I think I have so much in common with, that she will never inconvenience me, test my patience or require me to change.”
When I was about twelve, a lady tried to describe “the one” to me. “When you meet a girl, and you love her so much that you wouldn’t change anything about her, you’ve found the person you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with.” My wife is my very best friend who loves me more than anything. But she could easily list fifteen things that she would love to change about me in under thirty seconds. The first two would be my abominable sense of direction and my apparent short-term memory loss. But that’s another story for another time.
There is not an individual on this planet who could ever meet all of our expectations. We naturally have sinful expectations. We are all married to sinners who let us down. Your spouse will disappoint you (and probably already has).
The Gospel of Disappointment
The Christian life is one marked by daily deaths and resurrections. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). We bought into the ideal of “The One” because we wanted to avoid the disappointment of unmet expectations. But disappointment is designed by God to be a gracious resuscitator to our cold hearts. Like a much needed surgery, there are few things more painful or more healing to our souls than disappointment.
Be “The One.”
No, you didn’t marry the wrong person. While I completely reject the culture’s lie of “The One,” I fully trust in the sovereignty of God and how he orchestrates the events of our lives. If you have begun to feel the weight of unmet expectations that comes with marriage, I want to challenge you to do two things.
- Remind yourself of the man or women you said “I do” to, three or five or ten plus years ago, and the way you felt that day. Thank God for all of the ways that he or she is a clear sign of God’s favor in your life.
- Be “the one” that your spouse dreamed of. Instead of burdening your spouse with your unreasonable expectations, strive to become a humble servant who cares more about your spouse’s expectations and desires than your own.
While marrying “the one” sounds amazing, it isn’t the reality of a faith based marriage. We should continue to pray for strength and understanding in our own marriages. Becoming a better spouse each day will lead us closer to God.