Margaret Kim Peterson has written extensively and taught repeatedly that Christian marriage bears little resemblance to what she terms the “modern American fantasy of romance.” Personally, I’m all for a little romance along the way but I get her emphasis and think she makes some good points. She explores some of the differences between marriage and fantasy. Here are five of those differences along with a my running commentary:
1. Perfect Partner Vs. Fellow Pilgrim. While it’s very important to choose wisely when we marry, the one thing that’s certain about your future is that it is uncertain. What’s predictable about tomorrow is that it’s unpredictable. When you choose a mate and they choose you, you are not choosing a guaranteed future; rather you are choosing a fellow pilgrim and partner with whom you will walk into your future.
2. Falling In Love Vs. Discerning Whom One Can Love. “Falling in love” is a passive experience but “choosing to love” is the only force that sustains a marriage over the long haul. My advice: marry someone with beautiful soul qualities, some physical chemistry, and then you stay a thousand miles away from the kind of passive behaviors and attitudes that erode relationships. Plants, and relationships, wither from a lack of nurture.
3. Self-Reliance Vs. Leaning On A Community. It is unreasonable, and actually unfair, to depend only on our spouses to provide the true community that we need. One person, even one as amazing as your spouse, cannot be expected to serve as the total relational outlet and nurturer of your life. Get involved in your church, learn to be a friend, and allow a healthy network of friendships to become an ally for your marriage.
4. Grand Plans Vs. Small Blessings. Romance is big business and there is something very good about special occasions. That’s what they are: special. But strong marriages grow from the little, routine, consistent, ordinary moments —sharing everyday blessings and overcoming small challenges. “We are always looking over one another’s shoulders at whatever it is we want and haven’t got yet, rather than… putting down roots ever more deeply into the soil of a truly common life.”
5. Living Happily Ever After Vs. Cherishing The Moment. Peterson’s husband was facing a terminal illness. She said, “I…couldn’t expect to live ‘happily ever after … What we could do was…be husband and wife together, accompanying one another on the Christian pilgrimage, depending together on God, on one another, on the many people who cared for us and cared about us…. It was profoundly healing and transformative and, yes, joyful.” If you are married, God has given you this day with your spouse, so treasure both the day and the mate as gifts from God.