Pondering love and marriage with a healthy dash of pessimism

Sometimes a line in a movie, song or article hits you with such profound truth that you can’t help but listen to or read the line over and over again, feeling it reveal a notion to you that you know will be important in your life. My old college roommate Alanna (whose awesome blog is here) recently posted an article that did just that to me.

The article, “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person,” appeared in the New York Times last week. Obviously, the title is used for shock value, and a good portion of the article discussed what I would consider common sense (such as how there is no perfect person, and we can’t expect the happy feeling of newness with someone to be permanent). But here are two portions that struck me hard enough that I copied and pasted them into an email I sent to myself and sent the link to the article to Cory:

We need to swap the Romantic view for a tragic (and at points comedic) awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them. There can be no end to our sense of emptiness and incompleteness. But none of this is unusual or grounds for divorce. Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for(emphasis mine)

Romanticism has been unhelpful to us; it is a harsh philosophy. It has made a lot of what we go through in marriage seem exceptional and appalling. We end up lonely and convinced that our union, with its imperfections, is not “normal.” We should learn to accommodate ourselves to “wrongness,” striving always to adopt a more forgiving, humorous and kindly perspective on its multiple examples in ourselves and in our partners.

Or, as my mom’s mom put it to her back in the 1970s: “Find the person with the least amount of things that bother you, because even those little things that kind of bother you now will turn into big annoyances that you will want to scream about later.”

Well said, Gra-ma.

This whole marriage thing is becoming more real by the day. Cory and I have set a date, we might be looking at a potential reception venue this weekend, my mom has ordered some lights and some plates for the reception and my to-do list includes checking prices on wedding cakes and getting my dress ordered.

With all those tasks comes the knowledge that that’s all just the day that marks what the real important thing is here: the marriage. What comes after the white gown and the music and the bouquet and the kiss is also weighing on my mind.

After accepting Christ and becoming a Christian, this is the biggest decision I have made up to this point in my life. I’ve seen good examples of marriage and I’ve seen bad examples of marriage, and I’ve seen marriages recover from emotional squalor and I’ve seen picturesque marriages disintegrate. The scariest thought I have is that I don’t have any way of reading the future and seeing into which category my marriage will fall.

As the article pointed out, there will be no end to my and Cory’s “emptiness and incompleteness.” I know some of you, Jerry Maguire included, will disagree with that. I might disagree with it totally also if I didn’t pair it with the second quote that married couples are often convinced that their marriage’s imperfections are not “normal,” and that couples should instead meet the “wrongness” with the understanding that both individuals are screwed up in at least one way.

It doesn’t matter if they’re retail workers or country club socialites; it doesn’t matter if they’re Christians or atheists; it doesn’t matter if they’re swimsuit models or couch potatoes. Every person and, therefore, every couple is going to encounter a time when they’ll say, “Did I marry the right person?”

Not long ago, I attended a Tim Hawkins stand-up comedy show. When talking about marriage, he said, “There will be days when you’ll wake up in the morning, look at your spouse and think, ‘Was this really the best you could do, God? Can I get a do-over?'”

Is that humorous and scary to me? Certainly. Am I comforted knowing that that is what’s actually “normal”? Sure. Oddly enough, it makes me feel a little better that I’ve already heard that warning/fact from multiple sources. That may sound pessimistic, but I’ll close with another novel quote from the NYT article:

…pessimism relieves the excessive imaginative pressure that our romantic culture places upon marriage. The failure of one particular partner to save us from our grief and melancholy is not an argument against that person and no sign that a union deserves to fail or be upgraded.

I truly believe that, with God at the center of our marriage, Cory and I will not “trade up” for another model, but I know we won’t be afraid to “tune up” each other as time passes and our relationship grows and evolves.


4 Replies to “Pondering love and marriage with a healthy dash of pessimism”

  1. You are definitely on the right track by making God the center of your marriage. God is a triune being and similarly we become triune beings when we marry; you, your husband, and God. He becomes part of the marriage. God hates divorce for this reason. You are not only breaking up your relationship, you are breaking up His relationship with both of you. If you and your husband can love each other as Christ loved the church, that is to say sacrificially, then you will have a long joyful marriage. Notice I didn’t say happy? It won’t always be happy, but it can be full of joy.

    My wife Cristy and I have been married 29 years and it wasn’t always happy. There were times neither of us particularly wanted to love the other. But we always prayed for each other and God slowly sanctified us and our marriage. God loved us the most when we deserved it the least and we have to do the same thing in a marriage. It’s hard to let go of self and put the other first. But that’s what makes strong and lasting marriages. God bless you both.

    Soli Deo gloria!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love your Gra-ma advice. My parents always say relationships a 80/20 thing you get 80% of what you love and the other 20% is tolerable and makes for a interesting marriage. Thanks for a great post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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