Dangerous Ideals and the Goodness of Real-Life Love

This month we’re surrounded by hearts and pink and teddy bears. February — and Valentine’s Day — draws our focus to romantic love. So this month we’ll zero in on marriage.

blog.love heartAnd I want to start, not with cutesy or romantic or sexy thoughts (though we’ll get to those!) but instead with what I see (and have experienced!) as a really dangerous threat to marriage pervading Christian culture. What is that danger? Read and pray through this  excerpt from my Flourishing Faith book Enrich Your Marriage:

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Ponder

This book is just one of hundreds, thousands, maybe even bizillions of Christian marriage books out there. Some of the books are amazing and helpful, some are so-so, but I believe some of them are dangerous.

Why?

Because they feed two little monsters that can destroy homes and hearts. The monsters’ names? The Myth-of-the-Ideal-Christian-Marriage and its cute little sidekick the Myth-of-the-Ideal-Christian-Husband.

These little myth-monsters told us that in marriage we’d have an amazing sense of spiritual union with our outstandingly Christ-like husband. We’d have regular, passionate, exciting sex in which he’d always be deeply romantic. We’d be listened to, cared for, treasured, cherished, and prized every moment. Our intimacy with God would fuel our never fading sense of profound intimacy with each other. Our “in-love-ness” would last forever.

(I’m only slightly exaggerating here!)

Hopes, dreams, and excitement about marriage are good things. But when those hopes are built upon completely unrealistic expectations, they can only lead to trouble. The ideal of the perfect Christian marriage is false advertising—and, frankly, it’s not what the Bible tells us to expect.

When unrealistic expectations clash with the reality of married life with a flawed, no-longer-ideal human being, couples start to think their spouse has changed and they begin to “feel cheated,” explains Tim Gardner in a Marriage Partnership article. “What actually happened, though, is that they discovered the real person they married—the one who always lived behind the fantasy. And that unsettling discovery can actually be good for a marriage. . . .[T]he bad news of failed expectations is really good news. By moving from unrealistic ideals to attainable ones, you’re set free from trying to achieve the fantasy of marital bliss. You can replace the fairy tale with something better: a real marriage that cherishes two real people.”

So what about you? Have these dangerous myth-monsters taken a bite out of your marriage? In what ways have you grappled with or shed unrealistic expectations of marriage? What’s actually good about being married to a flawed human being rather than living in an idealized myth?

 

Pray

No human relationship can live up to a super-human ideal.

No human man can fit the “ideal-Christian-husband” bill.

No relationship—and no person—should be subject to such unrealistic standards. They judge, they hurt, they poison the heart.

Come to God and honestly confess to him any wrong attitudes you’ve had toward the gift of marriage God has given to you (including your attitude about marriage’s challenges).

Then confess to God any ways in which you’ve compared your husband with an unrealistic ideal. Reflect with God on harsh, bitter, uncharitable, or un-grace-full attitudes toward your husband these unrealistic expectations have drawn out in you.

Accept God’s grace for you, rest in his peace, and invite him to help you cultivate healthy and balanced hopes and expectations for your marriage.

[Enrich Your Marriage is part of the Flourishing Faith series, published by Wesleyan Publishing House, copyright 2013 Kelli B. Trujillo. All rights reserved.]

* * * * *

Do you feel encouraged or inspired or convicted? I certainly struggle with the myth-of-the-ideal-marriage! But the good news is that God has grace for you and for your marriage and for me and mine! Stay tuned to my blog this month for candid discussion about marriage — both what’s tough and what’s great about it. I’m especially excited about an upcoming interview with marriage blogger Lori Lowe! And, if you want to join me on this journey, pick up a copy of Enrich Your Marriage and take 30-days to change your perspective on what you can do to foster a richer, happier love.

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