The Sweet Christian Bride

Living a Satisfying and Sustainable Marriage

by admin on November 15, 2012 in Faith, Relationship with No Comments

“A lasting marriage does not always signal a happy marriage. Plenty of miserable couples have stayed together for children, religion or other practical reasons” (Pope, Tara, “Sustainable Love: The Happy Marriage is the ‘Me’ Marriage,” The New York Times, 2010 Dec 31)

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

I came across this article hoping for good teaching on marriage, something that America desperately needs.  Instead, I had to complete partial truths and correct perverted truths in order to make any good sense of what Tara Pope is preaching.  That’s a lot of mental work for someone who might be needing a quick validation for putting himself or herself first in the marriage.

Pope is accurate in saying that a lot of couples have stayed together and have failed to find satisfaction in their marriage, but she sets up her argument poised from a different world view.  Our world view is centered on Christ as our savior Whose example of love and of righteous living is the best way for us to live.

Religion might be a factor for why people stay miserably together, but Jesus Christ is not.  Religion might lack the power to keep our love tanks full (to borrow a phrase from Gary Chapman), but Jesus Christ does not.

Pope is accurate in saying that couples want satisfaction in their marriages.  She is also right in quoting Psychology Professor Arthur Aron regarding “communication skills, mental health, social support, [and] stress” as factors that contribute to whether a couple can sustain their relationship or not, as well as that those factors do not determine whether that relationship will be meaningful.

Then comes the tragic error.

“[…] individuals use a relationship to accumulate knowledge and experiences, a process called ‘self-expansion.’  Research shows that the more self-expansion people experience from their partner, the more committed and satisfied they are in the relationship.”

In other words, these studies are showing that when people feel like they are gaining something from their spouse, they then find that relationship satisfying and will be more likely to stay in it.

Christ tells us to die to ourselves.  He tells us, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:34b-35, NRSV), and that wasn’t even directed towards spouses.  That command was directed towards any believer.

In marriage, our commitment to serving each other is even greater.  We are to “be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21), not out of our own need for satisfaction.

God is gracious in that He allows the benefit of “gaining” from our spouse as part of a healthy Spirit-filled relationship, but that is not our goal.  Christ alone is our goal.  He loved us to His death, which means that if we are to love our spouse as Jesus loved us, our love is to be sacrificial, not self-serving.

Professor Lewandowski of Monmouth University is quoted in Pope’s article: “People have a fundamental motivation to improve the self and add to who they are as a person […] If your partner is helping you become a better person, you become happier and more satisfied in the relationship.”

Again, his conclusion is correct, but his rationale is not.  We do want to be improved people, and we do find satisfaction in relationships that offer that to us, but the transformation does not come from the spouse. The transformation comes from the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit in us.  The spouse is merely the vessel for God’s handiwork.

Tara Pope is answering a viral felt-need in our culture that is rife with empty hearts and broken marriages.  Advice and opinions without Christ, however, are never complete wisdom.

Though there is some truth in this article, please heed marriage advice from people and resources who are pursuing God’s Truth.  Marriage is tough precisely because God does use it make each spouse a better person.  It’s tough because Christ’s love is sacrificial, and that is the model we are called to in marriage.  But it is infinitely worth it, not just because of what we gain, but even more so because of what our spouses gain and because of what the Kingdom of Christ gains through our obedience to Him.


Article was originally published on January 12, 2011.

By Lindsay

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