Expectation vs. Reality: Straight Talk on Marital Redemption with Paul David Tripp
- Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Full disclosure… I did not want to conduct this interview. Oh, I was glad to have the opportunity, knew the book dealt with an important topic in a gentle and special way, and was looking forward to meeting Paul Tripp. What I did not want to do was risk exposing the fact that two words from his book's title - "expect" and "realities" were all too close to my heart of late. Several friends had confided their marital struggles to me, and I myself was starting to feel the strain.
What Tripp does, however, both in person and with his writing style in What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage (Crossway, 2010), is put you at ease. His voice soothes, his humility engenders decreased tension. His advice fosters healing. By the time we were finished, I was refreshed by renewed hope. But according to him, it wasn't always this way…
Crosswalk.com: Let me start by asking you, Paul, what did you expect? What personally did you realize was thrown off by the nature of what we do with expectation in marriage?
Paul Tripp: I was totally unprepared for marriage. I did not know that I was unprepared. I thought that Luella and I were in love enough that our romance would be sturdy enough to sustain the stuff that people face in marriage, and I got to a point where I was a very angry man. Part of that is because if you don't understand that it is a flawed person married to a flawed person—and so that person is going to fail, they are going to be weak, they are going to have bad days—then I am not shocked by that if I go in with realistic expectations.
What happens is that I don't personalize things that aren't personal. Often, that is what happens in marriage. It becomes very personal. If Luella has a bad response to me at 7:30 at night, well she did not wake up at 8:00 and say, "At 7:30 tonight, I am going to be mean to Paul and wreck his day." It is not personal. So I was building up this backlog, and I think I wanted more control of my world than you can ever have, and God worked out circumstances where that anger became very clear to me. But part of my reason for wanting to write this book is I just think there are masses of people who just go into marriage with unrealistic expectations.
CW: And that is a great point. Why is expectation such a common frustration in marriage? Have we been unrealistic? Did each spouse oversell themselves going in? What is going on?
PT: Well I do think that modern American dating is just a step above used car sales.
CW: [Laughs]. How come?
PT: Because when you are dating, the last thing you want is for that person to get to know you, because you are trying to sell yourself to that person. So a man who does not like to shop will shop, and a woman who does not like to watch sports will watch sports. Then, six months into marriage, the woman is crying, "This is not the man I married." Well, this is the man you married. The man you dated was a fake. So I think that goes on.
I think there is a second thing. I don't think we have taken the Bible seriously in understanding what it means when a sinner marries a sinner. Second Corinthians 5: 15 says that Jesus came so that those who live would no longer live for themselves. Here is what this means: The DNA of sin is selfishness. That means that sin in its fundamental form is antisocial because I care more about me than I do anyone else. I shrink my world down to my wants, my needs, and my feelings. That means that I will reduce the people in my life to vehicles or obstacles. If you help me get what I want, I love you cards and flowers. If you stand in the way of what I want, I am spontaneously irritated and angry.
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