Marriage is Good
Marriage is Hard
Marriage Requires Love
Sarah met Chris during her last year of college. She remembers the moment very well. She was leafing through her mail in front of the bank of mailboxes near her dorm. He walked up to talk to the person next to her. It was an embarrassing but fateful moment. Sarah was so distracted by Chris that she dropped most of her mail at his feet. They both spontaneously bent down to pick up the mess and bumped heads. Then, laughing at what happened, they said hello and began to talk. Sarah said she was taken by what a beautiful human being Chris was. He was tall and handsome and didn’t seem to take himself too seriously. They decided to get together later that week for coffee. Sarah was blown away when, in that first conversation over coffee, she realized that Chris was a Christian and, like her, had been raised in the Midwest. He was talkative, and she was the type who loved to listen. He was athletic, and she loved the outdoors. He loved good food, and she loved to cook. He loved movies, and so did she. He was from a small town, and so was she. He liked coffee—what else could she ask for?
It seemed so perfect. Their times together were comfortable and easy. This was the man Sarah had been searching for. Chris fit her life like a glove. He was physically attractive, fun to be with, spiritually in tune, and seemed like a guy who was going somewhere. Sarah couldn’t be with Chris enough, and it wasn’t long before she was making mental plans for their future. She knew Chris was the one, and she was going to make sure she would not lose him.
Chris liked the fact that Sarah and he had similar backgrounds. He felt she would have a natural sense of “where he was coming from.” He liked the fact that Sarah was decisive. This was a woman who knew what she wanted. He liked the fact that there weren’t many surprises with Sarah. She said what she thought and what she wanted. With a common background, shared interests, and that all-important spiritual connection, it seemed that Sarah really could be the one. Chris was in no hurry, but he really did like Sarah, and she seemed ready to make a lifelong commitment any time.
So six months later, on a cold winter afternoon, Chris popped the question. Sarah was in a daze with joy and managed to say yes about thirty-four times before Chris gave her the kiss of her life. Immediately Sarah began to make plans. She knew just what their wedding should be like and just the kind of house they would need to live in. She told Chris that he needed to find a job in a small town so that they could experience together the life they had both enjoyed growing up. Chris thought it was funny that Sarah was so focused and driven, and he teased her about planning their entire life in about three days.
They married the day after graduation, moved to small-town Ohio, and began their life together. Children and promotions came quickly, but their relationship quit being comfortable. Chris worked long, hard hours and spent most of his evenings and weekends exhausted. He didn’t have much free time, but he loved hunting, fishing, and golfing with his friends. He also loved blogging and keeping up every day with the blogs that he had become hooked on. Chris wasn’t very domestic. It wasn’t that he refused to help. No, what began to bother Sarah was that he never volunteered to help.
Sarah loved her three children, but it was hard work. She felt that she had less and less time with her friends and that Chris and she had little time together. She also resented the fact that Chris seemed to think that the entire house was her job. She always had a list of projects for him to complete, but he took his good time getting around to them. Sarah felt that she had a house guest instead of a husband, and Chris felt that he had a home superintendent instead of a wife. Chris was growing tired of Sarah’s demands, and Sarah was done with feeling that she lived alone.
Both Sarah and Chris couldn’t help wondering what had happened. It all seemed so easy and so perfect. It had seemed as though their dreams were coming true. How did they end up in such a discouraging mess? There is but one answer to this question. It is hard to accept but vital to face. Sarah and Chris had a major love drought in their marriage because very early in their relationship they had confused faux love with true love.
It was devastatingly hard for Sarah to admit it, but she finally did: she had married Chris not because she loved him but because she loved herself. Physical attraction, emotional connection, and cultural and spiritual unity were what drew her in. She was drawn to Chris because he was everything she had ever wanted for her life. Her attraction to him was powerful and compelling. He could not have fit more perfectly into Sarah’s dream for her life. Sarah’s attraction to Chris was all about what Sarah wanted for Sarah. What masqueraded as love wasn’t love.
It was also hard for Chris to admit that he had been drawn to Sarah because she made things so easy. She seemed to like Chris for who he was, and she made all the plans for him. Chris was able to coast his way into a great relationship; he thought he had hit the jackpot! But he didn’t get married because he loved Sarah in the true sense of what that means. No, Chris loved what Sarah did for him and his life. Faux love wore the mask of true love, and Chris had been completely fooled.
The lack of unity, the constant misunderstandings, the distance and separation between them, the lack of physical intimacy, and the catalog of regular conflicts were screaming loud and clear that what was missing in Chris and Sarah’s marriage was love—real, other-centered, self-sacrificing love.
Things began to go wrong when their relationship quit being self-satisfying and the need for other-serving became dominant. When the hard work, which faithful love requires, began, Chris and Sarah got discouraged and began pointing fingers of blame. The sad reality that they had to face and confess was that their relationship had not been built on a foundation of love. It had been built on the weakest and most impermanent of relational foundations—self-focus and self-love.
They had never really considered the hardship of a flawed person living with a flawed person. They had never considered the daily and costly sacrifices that are necessary to make a long-term marriage work. They didn’t think about what they were being called to give to one another. No, what occupied their minds was what they were being given by the other. So their marriage was doomed to fail, because there is no such thing as a good marriage that is not fueled by love, and there is no such thing as love that does not require personal sacrifice. Selfish ambitions and unrealistic expectations had set them up for the discouraging moment that they were now in.