In People Stuff

I can’t remember the venue or the speaker. Given I wrote it down on the title page of my Bible, it was probably in a church.

“Every human relationship in your life will either disappoint you or die.”

When we hear it, we know it’s true. We just don’t like thinking about it. In the same way we don’t like acknowledging the fancy new Acura we’re driving will gradually deteriorate into a pile of rusty junk we will one day turn over to the salvage yard for $250.

“Every human relationship in your life will either disappoint you or die.”

“…disappoint you OR die”. I wonder about the “or”.

“Or” indicates it’s possible you’ll have a relationship in which you won’t ever be disappointed. In a fallen world full of fallen people, that’s impossible.

The real truth is “every human relationship in your life will disappoint you AND die.” Because, save Jesus coming back before we breathe our last, disappointment and death are both inevitable.

It’s true, of course. Because every human has a sin nature. Put two people together and you put two sin natures together. Marriage, like no other relationship, spotlights this truth.

Our Western-American culture does all it can to promote happily ever after. The fairy tale. The brave knight and the beautiful damsel, jumping on the back of the white horse and riding away into a storybook ending.

Except that in addition to holding onto him, she’s holding on to unresolved issues. And his shiny armor is only a cover for his deep insecurities.

It’s only a matter of time before their respective problems introduce themselves.

The fairy tale of happily ever after puts pressure on the other person in the form of unrealistic expectations. If I look to my spouse for fulfillment, I’ll be disappointed every time. Not because she isn’t a wonderful human being. Rather because my fulfillment isn’t her job. Nor is her fulfillment mine.

Yet isn’t that where the battles are fought?

“You’re not meeting my needs!”

“Oh yeah? Well you’re not meeting my needs, either!”

It becomes a contest as to whose pain is more validated. Your hang ups about communication aren’t nearly as important as my struggles with worth. And so it goes.

When we forget or ignore the fact that every human relationship will disappoint and die, we live in a fairy tale world of our own creation. We become characters bound by rules prescribing how brave knights and damsels should act and be. As if there are certain mistakes we are incapable of making.

The “should” list becomes a club with which we beat one another.

“A real knight would have this figured out by now.”

“A real princess would understand this.”

In the movie of our dreams, the knight kills the dragon and frees the beautiful damsel from her prison cell. Together they ride into a rosy pink future. Reality is they are both unaware it’s just a matter of time before she puts him in a prison of her own unrealistic expectations. A matter of time before he disappoints her with his inadequacies.

In the movie, the damsel holds onto her brave knight, her hair blowing in the wind as they gallop toward happily ever after. Reality is she is completely unaware of all the chinks in his armor. Vulnerabilities and weaknesses that will in time madden her.

“Why aren’t you…?”

“You should be…”

In the confusion and anger we fail to realize our frustration flows from our desire to be married to what “should be” instead of “what is”.

A wife can look at her husband and give a long list (a really, really, long list) of what he “should be”. Things that he’s not. Things he wished he could be or would be.

He wants to be these for her. He’s painfully aware of his deficiencies. He sees all too well the many areas in which he needs to grow.

He can look at his wife and give a list of what she “should be”. Things that she’s not. Things he wishes she would be. His list may a Post-It Note compared to the laundry list of shortcomings he possesses, but it’s a list just the same.

Unlikely and unromantic as it seems, it is in the middle of the mess the magic is to be found. For all he’s not, for everything she wishes he would be, he’s a better person because of her presence in his life. When he takes time to think about life with her, he can see how he’s become a better man because of her presence and influence in his life.

It’s messy and ugly and painful. And all part of God’s process of making him the man God desires him to be. He’s not who he should be. But he’s not who he used to be. That’s due, in large part, to his wife’s presence in his life.

When we continue to focus on what we should be instead of who we are today we are absolutely blind to the progress we’ve made. When we continue to cling to selfish, unrealistic expectations instead of appreciating the growth He has caused we are in a real sense sinning against God.

God causes growth in marriage by uniting two imperfect people who will inevitably disappoint one another.

Jesus didn’t say, “your spouse has come that you might have life and have it more abundantly”. He said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Expecting an abundant life from our spouse is an unrealistic fairy tale. An unfair, impossible request. Because our spouse doesn’t possess the resources to fulfill the expectation.

Expecting an abundant life from Jesus is not unrealistic. It’s not a fairy tale. Jesus is our source. He alone can meet and exceed our expectations.

In our marriages…

Are we expecting too much from our spouse?

Are we not expecting enough from Jesus?

Todd A. Thompson – One Eye Out

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Showing 7 comments
  • Katie

    So good & so true,Todd. Thanks for the wonderful reminder for our marriages.

    • Todd Thompson

      Thanks, Katie! I appreciate your taking time to read. Blessings to you! – tat

  • Andy

    Perfect, Todd. We’re heading out to teach at a marriage retreat this weekend – every couple will get a copy of this. Keep writing, brother.

    • Todd Thompson

      Thanks, Andy, for the encouragement. Prayers for a successful weekend. Blessings to you! – tat

  • Robin

    Great read as always Todd. Thank you…will pass it on. ☺

    • Todd Thompson

      Thanks, Robin, for taking time to read and pass along. I appreciate it! Blessings to you and yours! – tat

  • Carol

    Yes. Thank you!

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