I will admit that I am a sucker for a good piece of dystopian literature with a good love story interwoven inside. Yes, I do realize most are teen fiction and I should be reading things more sophisticated, I guess. They are my guilty pleasure, though. There is something so hopeful about “true love” in the midst of everything awful in the world. It seems to ground the characters, keeps them centered. They really do complete one another.
As a wife, I have to be very careful to watch how I get sucked into these books and love stories. They are not realistic, first of all, even though I try to tell myself that they are because the characters experience painful things together. They are still fiction in the end. I always wonder why these types of books draw me in and keep me. After years of reflecting on this, I genuinely think it is because I have always wanted a romance like that. I have always wanted someone to “complete me.” Thanks, Jerry Maguire, for putting that hogwash into my head.
What My Husband Is Not
These books are always about the end of the world or a civilization, the suffering the characters experience, and how a couple’s love gets them through it all. They can’t do it without each other. Though I rely on my husband to help me get through hard times, I have to tell myself one thing all the time: He is not my savior. I cannot expect him to do for me what only Jesus can do. When I start having expectations like that, our marriage suffers. My husband cannot meet those expectations, and therefore I feel disappointed and emotionally pull away from my marriage. He then feels like a failure, like he will never be good enough, so he pulls away, too.
Wife, mother, engaged woman and single woman, let me encourage you to think about your own expectations of marriage. When I am not chasing my little girl around, I am a full-time counselor. I work with couples, families, and individuals to help bring hope into their lives. One of the things I see a lot with single and married women alike is this crazy list of unrealistic expectations on their current or future spouse. You and I know the list. We had one, too. Tall, dark and handsome. Musician, athlete, intellect. Must have a good job making great money. Must love Jesus and “lead” me. Successful. Hopeless romantic. Great communicator. Faithful. Helpful around the house. Doctor. Lawyer. Business Owner. In tune with his emotions. Great in-laws…. Insert your expectations here. Every time I hear these things in a counseling session, I cringe because I know I do it daily, too. I encourage these women to give a little more wiggle room for failure to these men. There is no way one person could check off everything on their lists. The world of literature and Hollywood has fed women this lie that they deserve a man like this. “Don’t settle for anything less than the best.” Let me just say that I am glad my husband didn’t think this way because we wouldn’t be married.
Why do women do this? They dream of this person that will make them feel complete. I did it, and I still get trapped in that same pattern. We long for romance, for a strong man with whom we can walk through life, saving each other from all the bad things. We look for unconditional, perfect love that never disappoints or hurts. We want someone to understand us completely, to always have us on his mind. We want to feel special, set apart. We want a love like the movies, a love that captures us, that makes us lose sight of everything around us and get lost in it.
I believe that it must have all started in Genesis 3 when Eve believed the lie that she needed something she did not have and ate the fruit. Satan tricked her into thinking God and what he had given was not enough, and she fell for it. The consequences of that decision are found in verse 16: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” I always wondered how desiring your husband could be a consequence of a bad decision. Aren’t we supposed to desire our husbands? The more I consider this, the more I realize it is speaking of the very struggle I am talking about now. We literally get so enslaved by our unrealistic notions of what a husband should be that we are constantly insecure, unsatisfied, and therefore, not as loving or submissive as we need to be in marriage.
Looking In the Right Place
My husband and I have one argument every few months. It is the same argument we have had for years. I don’t feel pursued enough, loved enough or special enough to him. I get insecure in our love, and I feel like he must not love me that much. He beats himself up after those conversations, striving to do better to fill a void in me he was never meant to fill. And the endless cycle continues. He works himself too hard, and I never think it is good enough. Why? Because it never gives me that “You complete me” type of feeling.
The problem is that I, along with all women that do this, am looking in the wrong place for this void to be filled. My husband is not my savior. He is not Jesus. Once I started telling myself this, it transformed my view of marriage and healthy relationships. I still find that my expectations are way too high, and I continually have to adjust them. However, I have embraced the fact that Jesus is the only one whose love will never disappoint me. He will never leave or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6). He has called me His own, and that will never change (Song of Solomon 6:3). Nothing will separate me from His love (Romans 8:38-39). He calls me beautiful (Song of Solomon 4:7). He pursues me relentlessly. He cannot sin and will not fail me. His love is absolutely perfect. There is no flaw. He is the one who lifts me up when I am down. He is the one who heals and redeems and restores. It was never man’s job to do this for woman. It was always the job of Jesus. He is the one and only Savior. Never forget this, women of God. It will free you from so much bondage, and it will literally save your marriage from completely failing.
In the meantime, give your husband a break. Remind him of all the wonderful things about him daily instead of putting him down. Expect failure because he is human. Help him in areas in which he struggles instead of sitting back and waiting for him to fix them on his own. Never compare him to someone else’s beau, fictional or real, because he is his own unique person with strengths and weaknesses. Lastly, take a look in the mirror once in a while and remember that you are not perfect, either. You need grace as much as he does, so give it freely.