The Myth Of Compatibility

For whatever reason, my attention has recently been focused on marriage. Most of us are either married, have been married, or hope to become married. And even though it is experienced by so many, it remains a mystery to most. Maintaining a steady marriage, when the parties involved are inconsistent, is hard to do. But there is some helpful wisdom out there that can steady us. Tim Keller, in his book The Meaning of Marriage helps us navigate the sifting sands of marriage. In the excerpt below he confronts the myth of compatibility:

The in-love experience passes when the flaws in the other person come home to us.  Things that seemed small and inconsequential now loom large.  We begin to feel that we did not really know the person after all.  And this presents us with the challenge of loving a person who, at the moment, seems in large part a stranger, not the person you remember marrying.

When this happens, people respond in a number of different ways.  If your purpose in marriage was to acquire a “soul mate” – a person who would not change you and would supportively help you reach your life goals – then this particular reality of marriage will be deeply disorienting.  You wake up to the realization that your marriage will take a huge investment of time just to make it work.  Just as distressing will be the discovery that your spouse finds you a stranger and has begun to confront you with a list of your serious shortcomings. Your first response will be to tell yourself you made a bad choice and failed to find someone truly compatible.

What if, however, you began your marriage understanding its purpose as spiritual friendship for the journey to the new creation?  What if you expected marriage to be about helping each other grow out of your sins and flaws and into the new self that God is creating?  Then you will actually be expecting the “stranger” seasons, and when you come to one you will roll up your sleeves and get to work.

I think Keller is right on. Marriage is almost never a convenience and always a commitment. Why is it that we are so averse to working on our marriages?

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6 thoughts on “The Myth Of Compatibility

  1. Because as a culture, we do not take our vows seriously. The words “Holy Matrimony ” no longer invoke the idea of being set apart and permanent. It is easier to get out and “find the right one”, rather than becoming the “right one.” After close to 25 years, it is clear there are easier times than others, but quitting is not an option.

  2. The idea of soulmate is relatively recent…when I was growing up, its equivalent would be tied in with romantic love- idyllic and emotional. it allowed one to see what one wanted, rather than what was more ‘real’. Honeymoons came without expiration dates!! Tim and I will be celebrating our 40th this year and, looking backward, it has its share of scars. What held us to each other is that we genuinely LIKE each other—we were besr friends who happened to fall in love. It does take an enormous amount of work…but the abiding love we had for the person we married made the work worth it all.
    Why do we not want to invest in all that work? I suspect that in the give and take, we have to allow ourselves the unpleasant task of letting the other be a mirror for how we REALLY are, and that takes courage and vulnerability plus a faith in His ability to change us. If we see the condition of our own hearts, it is very difficulty to judge or blame another. I would not want to have to re-learn the painful lessons we have been through! I am exceedingly blessed, however, to have my best friend (my husband) be a person of love and integrity. He helps me learn with grace and minimum pain!

  3. Why is it that we are so averse to working on our marriages?

    My response might seem bizarre, but I am a strange thinker. Of course, I agree with EVERYTHING my wife, Trish said in the previous response. But I wonder why we don’t do things GOD’s way. Paul in I Corinthians 6:1-8 tells us that we should not go before ungodly civil judges to settle disputes, in this case divorces. The Minister/Pastor proclaims at the wedding, “What GOD has joined together, let not man separate!” or words to that effect. If I buy a new Ford and have problems with it, I don’t take it to Chevy for warrantee work, but back to Ford. Why then, when having marital issues, do we take the case to a civilian judge? Why not back to the church (or at least to the Pastor) as GOD has commanded? Going to a civilian judge makes it too easy. (Not that divorse is ever easy.) It is GOD who created love ‘n marriage. It is GOD who said, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing…” If married couples stopped to think about what a good and holy institution GOD created, and what GOD might think about them ending it, they might be more likely to work things out. Especially if they had to take their issues before the Pastor/elders and the Holy, Creator God they represent.

  4. When asked why I wear my wedding band on the wrong hand my reply is always, “Well, I’ve been married to the wrong woman for 40 years so I’ve worn my wedding band on the wrong hand for 40 years.” My point being, compatibility IS a myth. I have few soul-mates and they are not soul-mates in a romantic way. They are trusted believers who council me spiritually. I lost one this week in Dale Morton. My wife, of course, is a soul-mate. She’s my compass. There’s a lady at my previous church I call a soul-mate. And of course the ultimate compass and soul-mate is my Savior.

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