THE love struck suitor falls on one knee before his lady love. He whips out the engagement ring and gushes, “Marry me and make me the happiest man on earth!” Wait a minute. Ladies, should the man’s proposal be “Marry me and I will make you the happiest woman on earth?”
This is a simple example of a prevalent malady in many marriages: One spouse expects the other to make him or her happy. Since nobody is perfect, sooner or later one spouse fails to meet the other’s expectations. Disappointment sets in and, when left to fester, devolves into resentment. That’s one reason why you hear feuding couples saying things like “I thought you will…” “I was hoping that you…” “It’s your job to…” “Why should I be always the one to…” At the core, the message is “Because you don’t do this for me, you don’t love me.”
My experience (and I suspect that of many marriage counselors) is that it is not enough to tell spouses to shape up. Pride and self-centeredness die hard. So how do we encourage husbands to serve their wives and vice versa? It is to neutralize what Larry Crabb called the ‘demanding-ness’ that lies in fallen human nature. All of us yearn for something.
For example, some are relentlessly driven by a need to be happy. Thus, they impose unrealistic conditions for the partner to ‘complete’ them. Others desperately seek self-worth and believe they can find it in marriage. If the marriage deteriorates, so does the self-worth. Still others seek control, which may explain cases where one spouse accuses the other to be domineering.
This leads me to share the first of three principles which spare me and my darling wife Lucy from unnecessary heartaches.
First, let God quench your ‘demanding-ness’ so that you can be free to serve your spouse. Many of us look for something from our spouses that only God can fully satisfy. Take happiness, for example. Why do we hear many people longing for ‘soul mates’? Because they want to be happy. They want that elusive someone who will ‘connect’ with them in perfect harmony.
There is nothing wrong in wanting to be happy. But someone once said that if you are unhappy as a single, chances are you will be unhappy as a spouse. Why? Because we are designed to have God as our soul mate. We are meant to enjoy Him. But when we seek to draw that kind of deep joy from a fellow human being, we are making that person take the place of God, which doesn’t work. The problem is doubly compounded when the other person is also thirsty for happiness. Now it’s like two dry wells which ought to be connected to a limitless spring, but aren’t. Worst of all, Tim Keller exposes this as idolatry.
The solution, therefore, is to follow our design, which is to indeed draw our ultimate satisfaction from God. Such a person would not demand satisfaction from his or her partner. In fact, that person’s satisfaction from God will overflow to his / her spouse in the form of grace, patience, tenderness and yes, service.
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