- What makes a good relationship?
- What do you need to know before you get married?
- Do you even bother to get married?
You can be forgiven for being a little confused when it comes to the big relationship questions. After all, there are so many assumptions floating around about relationships. It’s easy to swing the pendulum from over-the-moon crazy optimism (“Yay! I’m going to be happy forever after!”), to hopeless give-up-before-you-even-think-about-it pessimism (“I’m going to die miserable and alone.”).
What makes a relationship the “right” relationship to be in? In this series, we’re going to shine the light on some of the assumptions people make about relationships that are mistaken, misguided, or just plain wrong. What is the real story, and what does the Bible have to tell us about it? Are our ideas about relationships based on God’s ideas, or are we getting our ideas from movies like Love, Actually?
Myth: You can’t get married until you meet “The One”
Want you to make me feel, like I’m the only girl in the world...
Like I’m the only one who knows your heart... (Rihanna)
Someday my prince will come... (Disney)
It’s the question that is echoed in romantic comedies, books, and music. “How do you know when it’s right? How will I know when I’ve found The One?”
Men and women both seem to be lost in this quest. What makes someone that one-in-a-million, super-special SOMEONE? Is there one person who is the only one just right for you?
Statistics show that over the past few decades, we’ve been getting a little hung up on this question. We’re putting off marriage until we’re older. We’re even putting off big commitments with a special someone because, well, we’re worried that they’re not quite special enough. People are breaking up for really random reasons like, “He didn’t like my favourite movie,” or “I just couldn’t see myself with a brunette.”
What’s wrong with this picture?
1. We’re being too picky - in the wrong ways
On the hunt for “The One”, we walk around carrying invisible checklists - ideas in our minds of what our soulmate will like, do, say and how they’ll treat us. What will they look like? What movies will we see together? What will he/she like doing in their spare time? What are their goals in life?
Sadly, we can be so caught up in the quest for “The One” that our standards become unrealistic. A guy can end up wanting a supermodel who can devastate the enemy in Skyrim and spend the weekends watching football/motorsport/cricket. A girl might want the super-sensitive but totally hot bad boy who can write songs and leap tall buildings in a single bound while making Masterchef-winning romantic dinners.
If we’re waiting for that mystical feeling of “she/he’s the One”, then we end up rejecting people for all the wrong reasons. We end up breaking up relationships with people because they don’t like the same superficial things we like (“He hates fantasy novels!” “She likes the wrong sort of football!”).
Or we fall for someone for all the wrong reasons (“He treats me like rubbish, but his guitar skills are to die for”). We’re not looking for someone who loves Jesus, someone we can love and serve. We’re looking for someone who’s going to be everything and do everything that we want.
2. We’re not expecting enough of ourselves
The flipside of our super-pickiness is that we actually want perfection from another person without expecting them to want the same of us. So we can’t commit to someone because, well, they might want us to change.
Maybe they demand our time or attention. Does that mean they’re not “The One”? After all, your soulmate should just know you and love you for who you are, no matter how selfish you are ... shouldn’t they?
The search for The One is a fantasy in the end, because we want someone else to be perfect, while expecting to do whatever we like. So your girlfriend was a little upset that you ditched her for a marathon online gaming session? That’s a deal-breaker, you think. So your boyfriend thinks you’re a little too addicted to facebook? Well, he’s definitely not The One then, is he?
3. We’re not looking for The One, we’re looking for God
Ultimately, the search for that magical “The One” is really a search for God. We want someone else to love us unconditionally - to love us no matter how selfish and ugly we are on the inside. We want that special someone to fill all our needs and make our lives worthwhile. But only God loves like that. Only God can heal us and make us whole. No human can live up to our godlike expectations. We’re all sinners after all.
As Tim Keller points out in his book, The Meaning of Marriage, the right relationship begins with an understanding of the gospel. Keller says:
The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us.
Busting the Myth
When people are on the hunt for “The One”, they’re usually passively waiting for some kind of magical feeling or sign. This isn’t God’s way of creating relationships, it’s Hollywood’s.
What’s the reality? Marriage is awesome. But marriage is also hard because it involves two sinners. No amount of hunting around for a magical “The One” is going to protect you from that. There is always going to be a moment when you think, “You’re not who I thought you were.” The Gospel, though, is the answer.
How does the Gospel explode our need to find “The One”? It tells us a couple of things:
- Only God is perfect
- We are all sinners, and our world is broken by sin. People don’t love God or each other as they should. So every relationship, no matter how fabulous, is still tainted by our own sin and selfishness.
- Jesus died for our sin.
- If we trust in Jesus and follow him, then we become new creations in Christ. God gives us the Holy Spirit to help transform our lives, and to help us be more like Jesus.
- It’s only with God’s help that we can really love others the way God loves.
Who should you marry?
You see, marriage works best when it fits into God’s plan. God’s plan is for marriage between two people who know they are sinners saved by God’s grace through Jesus, who love God and want to love each other by serving each other first. If you and your spouse are putting each others’ needs first, and are committed to loving Jesus together, then you’re both going to end up feeling loved and honoured, aren’t you?
You don’t need to find “The One” before you get married. But it’s still good to be wise about who you choose to spend the rest of your life with. It’s just that you don’t choose based on whether they like the same movies as you, or whether you get a wobbly feeling in your gut. You choose someone who is seeking to serve Jesus with their whole lives no matter what; someone who you can lovingly serve and honour for the rest of your life together. That’s the One for you.