Thursday, February 5, 2009

One Perfect Lie

The only person who ends up happy in Cinderella is the fat mouse Gus. And that's just because he's too stupid to know better. The rest of it is crap.

Now I'm not a Cinderella hater but what if Cinderella was a true story? Wouldn't you like to sit in on couple's therapy with them? Abandoned by the death of her father and made to scrub toilets with her hairbrush, she'll have trust and personal hygiene issues that'll shatter that glass slipper. And the prince? Full of himself with an overbearing father who throws chicks at him like knickers at an Elvis concert... Oh yeah. Happily never after.

Yet so many of us are delusional about Fairy Tale endings. Whether you're a man or woman no one says "I do" thinking, "I can't wait till we're both jaded and in a sexless marriage. That will be spectacular!" But it happens doesn't it?

Our society constantly bombards us with images that counterfeit romance, perfection, sex and infatuation for genuine love. This thinking sets up marriage for failure: we want much, but are willing to give very little.

Try this on for size. You've seen it before but humor me.

This movie coined the phrases, "You complete me" and "You had me at hello". When that scene was first aired in movie theaters two things happened:

Women teared up and wondered why the guy next to them never said anything remotely as romantic and if he hadn't, shouldn't she demand it of him? She's worth it, isn't she?

Men shifted in their seats and wondered if this sopping, Velveeta-logged chick flick would ever end.

Though at the time I did the chick thing, I have to side with the guys now. If you break Jerry McGuire apart you have a widowed single mom, a recently dumped fiancee with career and commitment issues, haphazard sex between two people who barely know each other, marriage on a whim and a preschooler who drops the f-bomb and wants to go to the zoo. (Now that sounds awesome, somebody sign me up. Wait. I'm already married and monogamous. Danggit! I always miss out on the good stuff.)

The underlying message here is "My life sucks. What can you do for me to come in and clean it up and make it slightly less massacureish?" But those lines don't sell movies.

Yes, Jerry McGuire is just a movie. It's entertainment. We all know entertainment is that one part of life that doesn't have to support our convictions, right?

The idea that another person - a spouse or someone you're living with because marriage isn't convenient - can complete you is one perfect lie. It's a premeditated deception that gives Satan the jollies like none other. Why? Because God is about relationships. He uses marriage to make us more like Him and to show His love for us.

Marriage isn't about making us happy, though there are happy times to be had for sure. Marriage is a relationship that brings sin to the surface. It's our choice whether or not we will turn to God to redeem us, our spouse to fix us, or our own faulty judgment to excuse us when we bail. The last two will chip away at you, your spouse, and your relationship with Christ every time.

In every relationship we've got to remember that each person is steeped in sin. In marriage, your spouse's sin and your sin will play off each other until you: A) don't recognize each other anymore, B) doubt that this person is "the one" (which could somehow justify divorce) or C) you surrender yourself to Christ and let him work on you regardless of whether or not your spouse changes. It's a narrow road to be sure.

I believe all couples - Christian or not - will deal with all these scenarios at some point. It's my hunch that the Christian couples who have marriages that thrive, practice #3 before ever saying "I do". And they keep practicing it whether they feel like it or not; they know love isn't a feeling, it's a choice.

How do I know this stuff? A few years ago Dan and I were on the brink of disaster. Kids, it was bad. Really. Why did we stay with it? Because no matter how imperfect our situation we could not justify jumping ship on a commitment to Christ. There was hell to pay and we anted up. Turns out we believed a lot of lies. These days we know more about Biblical love. We're not perfect, we're not even close. But we're in Him and we're together, always.

I don't know where you are in your life now. Maybe you're single or dating. Maybe you're married, happily or otherwise. I'd love to hear from you: What lies have tried to derail your marriage, or your idea of marriage? What truth are you basing your relationship on now? Let's get some conversation going.


Jen said...

Awesome Post and really true. I'm I guess still a "newly" wed only being married for almost three years now. I've talked about this with some other girls my age and there is always a fairytale perception when you get married. Like, now that I'm married I can now really start living my life, and this is much easier than being single, very much a false perception.

Candace Jean July 16 said...

After 35 years, I can attest to everything you say. It's a journey, one you thought you wanted to take but you didn't know where it was really going to lead you. It takes work - lots of it. It takes humility. It takes him telling you when you have bedhead and are lounging in yesterdays yoga pants and thermal shirt that you slept in that you are beautiful. And it takes God's glue to hold it together when the world tries to shake it apart. We should be on our knees every day telling Christ "You complete me."

For the record, my favorite line in that movie is "Did you know the human head weighs 8 pounds??"

Emily said...

Wow, Stacy. Was God speaking through you today?

Right now I'm in a dark day in my marriage. My husband and I are struggling through small business failure and an up-and-coming bankruptcy. We had a misunderstanding a week ago that caused some very hurtful language to spew from his mouth. And I've been nursing a grudge. My friends commiserate, saying how nice it would be if the men actually TALKED about issues, rather than just expected them to evaporate over time.

And, prayer life in this past week has hit the toilet.

You're being used by God today, do you know that?

Donna said...


Beth said...

I LOVE it when you get all serious....I pretty much want to hand this out to everyone getting married.

I've been married 7 plus years. I tried my best to go into marriage with my eyes wide open and still there are/were some dark times, even though my husband is a smokin' hot man of God. Turns out he's an imperfect man of God as well! But one thing I've seen from us in the last year is that we are starting to be honest with each other even when it's not easy...and that usually includes saying things like...I messed up...I'm sorry...I'm struggling. You get the idea. It's a pretty rough road when you refuse to tell your husband and God that you mess up.

wv: gapplot
That empty corner where the dude sells generic Gap rip off clothes for $5.

LeLe said...

Thanks for this Stacy. Last night, as we were walking into Walmart, my husband said, "I don't think you like me anymore." I was like, "Huh?" I've had a horrible week, been really crabby (and I don't have PMS as an excuse), and I just feel like satan (lowercase--the middle finger of grammar) is all up in my face because I'm teaching Sunday School, doing Experiencing God study, and doing an awesome Romans study on Wednesday nights. I should be like God's teacher's pet right now. But I'm so not because I'm not perfect. And apparently, my husband has been on the receiving end of my frustrations, unfortunately. We don't have kids, but we do have everyday stressors that affect us (truck won't start, budget is having to tighten up, husband is in school full-time, etc.). And we've only been married (almost) three years. I can't imagine what it will be like when the kids come along...sheesh. I've got to get my prayer life in order, stat!

And for the record, I never believed Tom Cruise's genuineness in that bull he fed Renee Zellweger. He treated her like a piece of crap, his rebound, and then all of a sudden declares his undying love for her. B.S.

Marni said...

I truly believe if more people shared their stories of how they refused to give up when their marriages went south, we could get more people to persevere instead of heading to divorce court. THANK YOU for your willingness to talk about your struggles.

We've been together for almost 20 years and married for 18. A few years back, a disaster came at my family and I instantly saw it for what it was--an assasination attempt on our marriage at the hands of satan. I completely steeled my resolve to not let him take us down. My husband did the same and we triumphed. But then, another and greater tragedy came at us 15 months later and our guards were down. We took a MAJOR hit on our loving, communicative and committed marriage. All we did was bicker and blame. And I felt myself slipping quickly into that "you aren't completing me, you aren't loving me enough, you aren't meeting every need I have". And I tell you, I flat didn't see the damage of letting myself go there. I just concentrated on how "right" I was and how "wrong" my husband was.

In one moment of clarity, I cried out to God. And He got right in my face instantly. He said "You promised him 'for better or for worse'. Don't fail Me or him". And it all came back to me...this was about a covenant I entered into with my husband and with God. Giving up wasn't an option.

We began to get back on track that very day as I confessed to my husband my failures to do my part and as he did the same. Today (3 years later and after counseling) we are stronger, more in love and have a much higher awareness of how serious God is about marriage and how He intends it to be.

Last week, we watched Fireproof and held hands and cried all the way through it together. We are grateful God invests so heavily in marriages if you just let Him.

bub said...

Ditto what Marni said about watching "Fireproof". You can say it's cheesy or whatever but to me it really showed how far you may have to go to keep a marriage alive. It's amazing how God can change things around if you just give Him a chance. I loved once sentence in your post, and I think I heard something similar in Fireproof. Love is a decision, not a feeling. So true.


I'm not touching this, literally or figuratively.

Alida said...

Interesting... I just wrote a long, prayed-through post on my own blog about submission in marriage, and it dovetails into this really nicely. I'm not married yet, but we're getting very close, and we're spending the time and prayer now to build that foundation for the future. We're not under the delusion that we'll have a perfect marriage, but we also believe that by working hard at our relationship now, we'll save ourselves some grief in the long run.

sara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erica said...

Right now my husband & I are dealing with the aftermath of infidelity, severe depression and other addictions. We've been together 20 years and are both Christians! No one is immune to bad choices, satan's pull & his lies or societies lies about what marriage should be or how a woman should be "fulfilled".

We will get through this & we both love each other deeply. There is deep meaning in "for better or for worse" and I no longer take it lightly. But marriage requires daily commitment, not complacency. You can't get too comfortable or let your guard down.

The only thing that has begun to heal both our wounds is the love of Christ and our submission to Him. I can't do it alone, my husband can't do it alone, only walking with God.

thanks for a timely post, and letting me share.

I Whisper to God said...

All I can say with my jaw hanging open is "brilliant". Everyone who has a fairy tale picture of marriage should read this post.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Are both barrels smokin' Stacy?? That was awesome - thank you for posting that and being honest about your own marriage.

My message from God when I'm feeling all righteous and hubby is all wrong: Your relationship with God might not be as close as you think if your relationship with your spouse is struggling.

I know there are different things that play into marriages that we can't help or control (abuse, infidelity,etc...) but for my "normal" marriage, this hits home when I become all high and mighty and complain to God that my husband isn't as spiritual as I am. Ouch - spanking duly noted.

Julianna said...

Great post, Stacy. We are doing the Love & Respect study in our Sunday School class and this goes along with it very well.

My husband and I talked about love being a choice and not just a feeling before we ever even said it to each other. From what we have seen, it makes a huge difference when you base your relationship on conscious choices and not just a whimsical feeling. We certainly aren't living a fairy tale, but we have had a very happy marriage.

Kevin said...

Thanks for sharing Stacy! You tackled some HUGE misconceptions/lies about marriage in this post. For me, the lie I believed about my marriage was: Because I am a guy and talking about feelings and stuff is not natural to me I am excused from sharing what is really going on in my heart. What a load of crap that is! After 14 years of marriage I came to the harsh realization that my wife didn't really know me. In some ways we were nothing more than room mates. It took a crisis in our lives for this to be resolved. I knew what was going on in my heart and the reason I wasn't sharing was because I was afraid of being rejected, hurting my wife or causing conflict. Realizing that these fears were unfounded and false opened the door to more open and honest communication.

Janie said...

So yesterday you had my sides hurting with laughter over the Sarcasm Anonymous video, then today - BAM! You zing us with one of the most realistic viewpoints on marriage I've ever read.

You need to figure out a way to slip a mickey of this wisdom into every teenage girl's Diet Coke.

Thx for lacing your sarcastic wit with sage wisdom.

Rebecca Jo said...

People do give up so easily on marriages - & you are right - Hollywood makes it look so easy - but giving the girly romance & not showing the depth of it. Why I loved "fireproof" so much... Marriage is not easy - its not always fun - its hard work....

Megs said...

Now i've got the Sara Bareilles song Fairytale song running through my head.

Even then, i think i saw that line from ol' Tom as BS.

i just wanted to tag in and throw out a reminder that you can't hold up the commitment by yourself - and that God understands that and loves you through it. My ex gave up first on his job, then on faith and God, then on fidelity, then on the marriage. My relationship with God has never meant so much to me - it was the beauty that God created from the disaster. People may fail us . . . Jesus never will. Never leaves. Never forsakes. Never.
So that's my $.02

wv: prelo - the turning point just before things hit rock bottom

jenn said...

I'm reading The Divine Romance right now and it's opened my eyes to so much. I'm divorced and honestly don't believe our marriage could have been saved (I won't go into all that), but I think most marriages could be. This book has helped me to see that, even though I wasn't the cause of our divorce, I still had some unreal expectations. I think most women look to our husband to fulfill us when that's really God's job.

This is also part of my reason for not being in a hurry to find another relationship. It's so much work and I have more to worry about than just myself now (a daughter).

Oh, and as far as the fairy tale ideas, it makes me want to ban Disney movies from my house. But my daughter is only two and a half and already loves Disney Princesses and the other day she told me, "When I grow up, I gonna get mawwied." Maybe we'll talk reality when she gets older...

fb said...

Wow - what a great post. My hubby and I are on year 36 - yes - we still counts the years that one of us did not want to be married - and there were some. We are survivors - after many hurtful chapters - but we have finally come through to a point where we know we will always be together. Now - I did not say there would not be more hurtful chapters. One of the most blessed things was during one of those hurtful times when we really thought it was over - our grown children were able to speak truth and aid in the healing. Quite a deal - when you see your teaching take hold and hear it spoken back to you.

eastern ky pastor said...

Stacy - thanks for writing on this. i believe the Fairy Tale/You Complete Me Myth destroys more marriages than anything else. From the beginning the FTYCMM marriage is built on a self-centered selfish foundation. How could that possibly be anything but trouble?

Kristel said...

What a GREAT post.
My husband and I have been married for about 8 months now. I guess you could say we're still in the "honeymoon" phase...but we've had our moments, if you know what I mean. Moments where we've wanted to rip each other's heads off. It is because of these moments that we stopped and said, "Wait...why are we married? What does it mean to be married? What does marriage represent? What does the Bible have to say about all of this?"
It also helps that I am currently in seminary earning a master's in biblical counseling.
I don't complete my husband and he doesn't complete me. Christ completes us. We must depend on him to get us through life and through marriage. We must love each other as Christ loves the church. We must respect each other. We must be humble and consider the other as greater than ourselves.
And we have to give each other the benefit of the doubt! I am so thankful that we are learning all of this now and really pray that we can continue to apply these principles in our life and lay our marriage at the feet of Jesus.

daphne said...

one of our daughters is named from this movie. Her name is Avery.

Pam said...

Thanks for a great post Stacy. I do want to say that marriage is no fairy tale, but it can be a better kind of good than that.

It's the kind of good that happens when you find you've married a guy who will hang in with you through all the crud of having breast cancer, and then celebrate the next year with a family vacation you'll all remember. It's being proud of your kids together. And sometimes, it's a flash of that romance that brought you together in the first place. Commitment has its blessings.

Of course, now that I've written this sweet, verging on sappy comment, we'll have a big fight tomorrow - but you all won't see that ;-)

Claire said...

What a fantastic post!


J-Ra said...

There are several lies that some solid men of God have derailed for me regarding marriage. I was distraught when I heard it, but I feel like I've grown from it.

(Warning: I'm a 23 year old virgin male, so you can guess what part of "marital bliss" I'm focusing on.

1-Once you get married, you can have sex and your lust will be gone.

2-Once you get married, you can have sex when ever you want.

3-A marriage is kinda like dating, only you can have sex.

All 3 of these things were not only sex-centered, but very me-centered. I've really come to realize that a marriage is not about what I can get from my wife, but what I can give to her. I think that relationships fail when it becomes about me instead of about the other person.

Helen said...

Stacy, you're my hero.

I'm in the same boat as LeLe, 2.5 years of marriage, and the shine is starting to wear off a bit. It's pretty scary knowing that we (like all people) are going to go through tough times, and even scarier thinking that I will even be the cause of that. It's good to know that people have traveled this road before me and have seen God heal and renew. Thanks.

Cami said...

I have discovered that Chick Flicks are like female porn.
In the same way regular XXX porn changes a man's expectations about his love life. Creates dissatisfaction in his relationship. Sometimes replacing real intimacy. Demeans and objectifies women....
Chick Flicks changes a woman's expectations of how she feels her love life should be and creates dissatisfaction in her relationship. Some use Romance Novels or movies to replace real relationships. This unrealistic expectation causes us them to demean their spouses and objectifies them in such a way that makes the husband a lesser mate whose role is to fill every need in the wife's life.
This revelation hasn't stopped me from watching Chick Flicks, but I am careful to guard my heart against the "fairy tale lie"

Amelia said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I'm getting married next year to my wonderful, awesome fiance...who is nowhere near perfect, and sometimes makes me angry and frustrated (I'm sure he feels the same way - I'm not Cinderella any more than he's Prince Charming). I love him the way he is, and I'm excited to grow with him and have babies together and keep learning about each other for the rest of our lives. I also want him to do the stupid dishes for once in his life.

I am lucky to have watched my parents live out their marriage together honestly. They love each other, a lot, and are sweet and loving to each other (which is sometimes more important), but they are also occasionally jerks or selfish, like any of us. Watching that, knowing that they have a GREAT marriage (my mom says "in the top 10% of marriages" because she's nerdy, and dad says "I don't know what love is, but this is what it looks like" because he's romantic), I feel so grateful to know the secret - that marriage takes work, and it's always worth it.

lisa said...

Just saw your blog and link from Stuff Christians Like. Great article! I am a single Christian woman and sadly I find myself playing into way too many of the stereotypes of what love and marriage are. I truly want to get married but I don't want to go into with a false sense of what it is. Also, I feel like I spend so much time thinking about it, that once it actually happens I don't want to feel, "Ok, now what else can I obsesses about!" But your post was very inspiring.