A few years back, the TV program Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman was popular, especially among college women. My daughter, Holly, and her friends all watched it. If they had to be out, they would record the show. If they were home, they would ignore the phone. Even moms were not allowed to call during that time. This was serious stuff. And they all sighed over the character Sully, who was strong and sensitive and who, in addition to being good looking, always knew the right thing to say in any critical moment.

Holly was watching it at home one weekend and sighing every time Sully did something wonderful -- which was quite often. After one of Holly's quiet heaves, I glanced at her and decided Sully's character was not good for my daughter's thought life. Then I looked back at the screen just as Sully stood behind Dr. Quinn, with his hands protectively on her shoulders, and realized that man wasn't good for my thought life.

I waited for the commercial before offering my dose of reality:  "Holly, do you think women all over the nation are sighing when they watch this?"

She smiled. "Ohhhhh, yeah."

"Well, that concerns me because Sully isn't real," I said. "He has a scriptwriter! In fact, he probably has twelve of them. And I bet they're all women! That means good husbands all over the country are being compared to a perfect character right now, and they're coming up short in their wives' minds. Remember that when your future husband doesn't do the 'right' thing. He won't have a scriptwriter, either."

Amazingly, she didn't roll her eyes at my impromptu lecture. Good for her. Unfortunately, many young couples have seen more TV sitcoms than real-life examples of godly marriages, so they don't have a clue that a solid relationship requires commitment first and hard work second. Young marrieds shouldn't expect their spouses to have scriptwriters who will ensure that all problems are solved in fifty-one minutes or less.

But it's easy to think others know how to "do" marriage better. Think of this Sunday morning scenario: A young couple are on their way to church -- and for the entire drive, the two of them are complaining to one another. He gripes about everyone not being ready on time and says, "Every Sunday we go through this!"

She responds, "Well, if you'd help instead of sitting out in the driveway and racing the motor..."

Meanwhile, the children are sitting in the back-seat, bug-eyed and collecting information for a future psychologist!

The verbal sniping continues until they pull into the parking lot, get out of the car, and with all sweetness greet fellow worshipers with "Gooooood morning."

The problem is, they've parked next to the blue Chevrolet belonging to John and Mary -- the church's "perfect couple." John gets out and goes around to the other side and opens the car door for Mary.

Now the first couple are walking into church. She may even take his arm, not because she loves the man at that moment, but she has something to say.

And what she says is, "Did you see how John opened the car door for Mary?"

Translated: John treats his wife better than this one treats his.

What she doesn't know is that John had to open the car door because they've had the same type of communication all the way to church. Mary sees the other couple arrive with their smiles wonderfully in place and she says, "I ain't gettin' out!"

John goes around to open her door and says, "Mary, don't be that way! We're already here. Come on."

Soon, they're walking behind the first couple, whose arms are still linked. Mary hisses into John's ear, "Now there's a couple who's still in love!"

The point is obvious: Everyone can be perfect -- for about two seconds a day. The problems come when folks catch each other in those two seconds and think they are always like that. What if spouses stopped heaping tension upon their mates because everything isn't ideal? After all, no one can sprint a marathon, which is what a good marriage is. So take a deep breath, stop expecting perfection and enjoy the view -- and each other -- along the way.



Adapted from Men Read Newspapers, Not Minds -- and other things I wish I'd known when I first married by Sandra P. Aldrich. (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Used by permission.) Author or co-author of 17 books, Sandra is an international speaker who handles serious issues with insight and humor. For information about her speaking availability or to order this book, contact her at BoldWords@aol.com.