Have you ever known someone who tried to solve all their problems by getting into a relationship?
And oftentimes, it goes something like this: Relationship after relationship after relationship after relationship…but in the end, the problems are still there. Sometimes, they even multiply.
I don’t know how long it will take us to really grasp the truth that relationships won’t solve our problems. But what I do know, is that we’re totally not there yet.
With all the mixed messages our culture offers us about love and relationships, sometimes it’s hard to imagine marriage accurately when you’re single.
As a Professional Counselor specializing in this awesome topic of relationships, I hear from people every day who are looking for love. It makes sense that the topic of love is such a universal obsession. God created love and has placed the desire to be loved unconditionally within each of our hearts. Marriage is a natural overflow of that desire. Yet within this sacred and natural pursuit of marriage, it’s easy to fall into the lie that finding a spouse will start you on the road to happiness and great satisfaction, or that all problems, fears and deficits will fade away in the presence of true love. While this may be true of God’s love, let me remind you it isn’t true in the world of marriage.
There is no doubt marriage is a great blessing and that those who find a good spouse have truly found a great gift (Proverbs 18:22). I could never blame someone for wanting to be married, in fact, it’s a strong desire and ache that I had for most of my young adult life. Having been married now for nearing 8 years, I can wholeheartedly say that marriage has enriched my life in so many ways. There are so many wonderful things about my my husband and our marriage, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that yes, marriage truly does rock.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t expect great things from marriage. We should! Yet for all the things that it has done to enhance my life and stretch my love, there are still some things it will never be able to do.
Marriage doesn’t erase your insecurities. I’m not sure why young singles ever believe that it would. For some reason, the idea of being loved unconditionally by another human being sounds like it would do the trick in helping us feel better about ourselves. We fall into the belief that being married and seeing ourselves loved through the eyes of another will really teach us how to love ourselves. Wrong. So very wrong.
That way of thinking has done more harm than good to many a marriage in our world. No one has the power to deal with our inadequacies and insecurities but us. Putting those types of expectations on a spouse will only cause harm, because there is a 100 percent chance they can’t change how we view ourselves.
No matter how much encouragement, affection, affirmation and validation you receive from your spouse, true security comes when you choose to see yourself through the eyes of God, not through the eyes of your significant other (or anyone else, for that matter). Relying on your spouse to fill those insatiable needs is a recipe for disaster—because no one human being has the capacity to offer you what is needed for true value and self worth. That can only come from within. True security comes from the intimacy of your relationship with God, and whatever praises and encouragement you receive outside of that are simply overflow.
Marriage can’t give you purpose. One thing I noticed while attending a Christian college was the all-consuming search of young adults who were out to fulfill one mission in life: find a godly spouse. Don’t get me wrong. I personally was on the lookout, too. But there was something behind the drive of these young people that really disturbed me. Their sole purpose in life was to catch a mate. Some of the girls even joked they were there to get their “M-R-S” degree.
Something has gone terribly wrong when young Christians believe their sole purpose in life is to find marital love. This belief is dangerous; it robs us of true joy and real purpose in life. True purpose is eternal and can never be taken away. The Bible encourages us to live this life for God’s glory, to love Him and to love others in an attempt to leave His fingerprints all across this world. We are each made for a unique reason and design that may include marriage but goes far beyond its scope. Though marriage can be an incredible gift, it is a means to the end, not the end itself.
When we see relationships as the last step on our road of purpose, we find ourselves facing a wall of disappointment with nowhere left to go when we finally arrive. Marriage may be an avenue in fulfilling our purpose, but it is never the final destination. We need to seek God’s purpose for our lives far beyond finding a spouse, allowing His will and His plans to be the course that guides our lives and influences our direction. Rather than asking what God can do for us, we need to look to Him in seeking what we can do for Him. In this is true purpose. And who knows? We might just run into a spouse along the way—this one I can personally vouch for—but purpose is not dependent on this possibility.
Marriage won’t make you whole. I remember watching a Beth Moore video in which she used the analogy of a cup in assessing the heart of a Christian. It’s a fitting analogy, because our emotional worlds are certainly like cups. We either feel filled or empty throughout our lives.
One thing I observe when working with young adults is that some of them have a tendency to live their lives “half-full,” not really knowing who they are, not really taking time to understand their needs. They neglect the chance to deal with their problems, habits and hang-ups, and instead seek out relationships in hopes that those relationships will fill them up and make them whole. They bring their wounds to relationships for bandaging, not realizing that two broken and wounded people cannot be the source of healing for one another.
Marriage can be a resource of motivation and encouragement, but it can never make you whole. Your spouse cannot bring healing into your life nor renewed thinking into your mind. The road to healing must be seen as your own personal journey, one that you must walk on your own. You will never feel whole in the presence of your mate if you don’t feel whole standing alone.
God’s design for marriage is to bring two whole people together, giving them double the strength and double the resources to reach a lost and dying world. Now, mind you, I didn’t say perfect—I said whole. We are not expected to reach perfection before marriage, because that would make for a lot of single people here on Earth. Yet though we can’t be perfect, we can reach for healing and choose to take control of the things we can change in our lives. God grants wholeness, through Him, to those who are willing.
So before you jump into a relationship with unrealistic expectations, consider where you are as a single man or woman. Are you already in a serious relationship or a marriage? It’s possible that unrealistic expectations are still driving your behavior and crippling the power of that commitment.
Consider how much you have allowed Jesus to bring security, purpose and healing into your life, here and now, as an individual. Rather than seeing a spouse as the missing piece to your puzzle, the road to marriage should be seen as two people figuring out the puzzle together.
Marriage is about finding a comrade, not ultimate contentment. It’s about finding a helpmate, not a healer. And for that, I am so very thankful.
This article was used and adapted from chapter 12 of my book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life (Zondervan, 2013).
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Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life as well as the 21-Days To JumpStart Your Love-Life Program, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. You may also recognize her voice from her 100+ articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com! She’s also the creator of the True Love Dates Blog! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!