Editor's note: This post by Tyler McKenzie originally appeared on his blog, Cross-Shaped Stuff. It has been shared here with the author's permission. Find McKenzie on Facebook or on Twitter via the handle @wtmckenzie.
Today my wife Lindsay and I celebrate our two-year anniversary. Two years ago, we tied the knot and took the plunge. Two years ago, the cutest girl in Indiana was taken off the market! Two years ago, we launched the beginning of the rest of our lives. Two years ago ...
And after two years, there's no hiding behind the dinner-and-a-movie facade of dating life any longer. I can't buy enough flowers to conceal it. I can't open enough doors. I can't say enough "I love you's." She knows (and painfully, so do I) that she married the wrong person.
Allow me to humbly explain (before she reads this). For quite some time now, there has been a myth floating around our idealistic individualistic society. A myth that claims that marriage will only work when you find your "smoking-hot, high-class, filthy rich, love-at-first-sight, sexually compatible, accept-me-as-I-am, Titanic-Notebook-Sweet-Home-Alabama-Twilight-esque, soul mate."
Don't believe me? Look at the message Hollywood communicates; look at the empirical evidence pointing to later and fewer marriages; research studies suggest this is a primary factor that holds men and women back from marital commitment — they just haven't found their soul mate. They believe in their heart of hearts that their match-made-in-heaven is still out there, somewhere.
Much could be said about where this mindset came from, but let's just leave it at this: Singles today (and most married couples too) are searching for super-spouses that simply don't exist. People expect far too much from their spouse in all the wrong areas.
That's why I know beyond doubt, at least by society's standards, that Lindsay married the wrong person. I'll never be quite as smart as a New York Times best-seller. I'll never make a six-digit paycheck. I'll never electrify the bedroom in the way our pornographic media culture broadcasts as the norm. I'll never understand her quite as well as we both wish I would. I'll continue to make mistakes. I'll get angry over silly stuff. I'll forget to do the dishes. I'll raise my voice when I shouldn't. I'll let pride get the best of me. And I'll probably think of myself far more often than I should ... Oh yeah, and my younger days as a part-time body-builder, part-time male-model, full-time Matthew McConaughey stunt double are over. I retired this January. (Are you drowning in my self-pity yet? I am.) Look, I'm not an astrophysicist. I'm not a movie star. I'm not a billionaire. I'm just Tyler. And Tyler does not meet the standards of the "Real Housewives of Louisville."
So what then is the solution? What do you do when you find yourself in a relationship with the "wrong person"? Well here are a few things you could try:
(1) Every time your significant other falls short, find another. On to the next one. Then when they fall short, and they will, do it again. And again. And then again. Forgiveness is futile. Reconciliation, pointless. If they were your soul mate they'd never make those kind of mistakes. If they really loved you, they would've thought before they acted. Of course, there will be significant emotional baggage to carry with each new sexual partner. Or there will be financial fallout from dividing your wealth over and over. Or your kids may grow up with a distorted view of parenting or marriage. But sooner or later you're bound to find Mr. or Mrs. Right, right? And they'll be perfect, right?
(2) Try it before you buy it. Test drive it. See if the chemistry is there and the sparks fly. Cohabitate. Allow someone into your life at the highest degree of vulnerability, and give them this priceless delicate gift without asking them to commit to you past tomorrow morning. Maybe in the process you'll find your soul mate. Let's just hope they agree.
(3) Avoid it all. Make it girls' night out every weekend. Feed your appetite for sex when it's hungry, for community with drinking buddies, but don't let anyone too close. Marriage is old news anyway. Commitment is so Generation X. No strings attached. Lock your heart up in an "iron-clad dungeon" where no one can reach it, and allow it to grow "motionless, unbreakable, and impenetrable." Then no one will ever break it ... or capture it.
(4) Or, whether you buy the biblical view of marriage or not, realize that love takes hard work. And that, as long as you limit the field to human beings, you'll never marry the "right person." Because there are no 100% "right people." Sin's presence in the world guarantees it. There are only wrong people who pretend to be right and wrong people who are becoming right, through Jesus. That's why I like the biblical image of marriage. The fairy-tale image of two soul mates finding love at last is just that, a fairy tale. But the biblical image of marriage provides something so much more beautifully realistic.
It paints a portrait of two sinners, committing to the task of one another, for the sake of one another, until death do them part. It's two imperfect people, committing to the sanctifying work of expressing Jesus' self-sacrificial love, to their lover, so that they might see him or her become the person God has always intended them to be, knowing full well that neither of them have yet to reach this goal.
When you both commit to this, not only will you experience the perks of marital intimacy like you never could imagine, but you both will change. You both will become more forgiving, more sensitive, more loving and more truthful, together.
Or even if just one of you commits to this, I think you'll be surprised how much, still, you both will change. Your forgiveness, your sensitivity, your love, and your truthfulness will enable and compel your spouse to show the same kind of transforming character back. And what could be more satisfying than that?
Not much. Trust me. I know. Because I've been married, two years now, to a girl who has relentlessly committed to this task with me. And because of that, I'm a better person. And so is she, I think. Love you, Lindsay. Here's to fifty more. Can't wait to see the person God is making you to be. And can't believe I get the honor of being a part of it.
See "How I know my wife married the 'wrong' person (Part 2)" on Cross-Shaped Stuff.