Why aren't we better prepared for the disappointment we’ll experience in our marital partner? It seems to me it should be part of the discussion in premarital counseling. I am certain that I have disappointed my husband in many ways. Some of them he has freely expressed to me, others I strongly suspect. You see, disappointment comes when fantasy meets reality.
As we prepare to marry our beloved, we are caught up in the magic that happens. There is a time warp created when we’re together. How many times did you find yourself on the phone until the sun came? And remember the times you ended up sitting in the car for hours in front of your house because you didn't want the night to end? Then there’s the engagement period; a time of intoxicating thoughts of happily ever after and the excitement of spending the rest of your lives together. But after being married for a while, time and proximity put a microscope on those little things about your spouse that you once overlooked. Now, the idea of being with this person all of the time invokes feelings other than excitement. You quietly ask yourself, "What the heck happened to the wonderful, amazing person I couldn't get enough of?" "How could I have been so wrong?" Fantasy has just met reality and disillusionment has set in.
Believe it or not, this is an important process on the journey to building a lasting marriage. The disillusionment helps us to see our spouse more clearly. I see in my husband where he struggles and where he is strong. He sees in me where I fall short and where I shine. What we have discovered in each other are character flaws and areas in which we need to help each other grow. But here is the incredible part, Jesus uses my husband’s struggles as a crucible in which to shape and mold me into his likeness and does the same for my spouse.
It’s easy to forget that God is the third person in our marriages and we are his workmanship. We were created by and for him. He has predestined us for holiness. God tells us to be holy because he is holy. He is separate from sin, evil intent and darkness. As his people we are to reflect this. So what does it look like? By God’s grace, we have the model of Jesus Christ as our standard. The life of Christ teaches us what a life of holiness looks like.
Our spouses, in all their imperfections, can be used by God as he continues the work of making us into his holy people. In 1 Peter 4:8, we are instructed to love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Theologian Albert Barnes explains, “That true love to another makes us kind to his imperfections, charitable toward his faults, and often blind even to the existence of faults. We would not see the imperfections of those whom we love; and our attachment for what we esteem their real excellencies, makes us insensible to their errors.” In other words, our strong affection for those we deeply love makes their errors barely perceptible. They shine in our eyes.
I love this statement. It reminds me of a conversation my husband and I once had about unconditional love. We promised we would work to love each other more when we least deserved it. It isn't always easy but we know we've made a covenant before God and trust he’ll help us keep it.