Relationships begin in many different ways. Ours began with a prank phone call. Yes, that’s right! While attending the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, I (Patrick) called Ruth pretending to be a local radio station DJ offering an opportunity to win cash.
The goal was simple: call an unsuspecting student and pretend to be giving away money to the individual who could “dash for the cash” at a particular intersection in downtown Chicago. What poor college student wouldn’t jump at such a generous offer? From our tenth-floor dorm window, the view was perfectly entertaining. This, along with other radio contest scenarios, provided much-needed stress relief from our studies.
Ruth didn’t fall for the prank, but she did fall for me. I’ll be forever grateful to my roommate who suggested we call this unsuspecting classmate of his. That failed prank phone call led to a double date, then another, until finally I had the courage to ask her to be my valentine.
That’s how our relationship began! But it’s not how a relationship starts, it’s how it continues to grow and flourish in grace. When it came time for marriage, we were thoroughly unprepared for what was ahead. Like a lot of couples, we were juiced up on the idea of marriage without fully understanding the reality of marriage!
All of us enter marriage with expectations. Many of our misconceptions about marriage get shattered early on, and others, take some time to break. While there are certainly plenty of misconceptions about marriage (some positive and some negative), here are our top five:
1. Your spouse will complete you– It’s true that in the creation account (Genesis 2:18), there was something incomplete about Adam by himself. And so God graciously blesses him with a wife, friend, companion, and partner in ministry. But it is probably more accurate to say that our spouse compliments us and not completes us. Our heart is meant to be complete in a loving relationship with our Father, through faith in Jesus. This is the relationship that we truly hunger for and are always satisfied by (John 6:35). Even in the best and healthiest marriage, we will still experience disappointment, loneliness, and the absence of perfect love. Whatever you do, don’t look to your spouse to do what only God was meant to do! Your spouse will compliment you in amazing ways, but they can never complete you the way God can.
2. Your relationship will get easier–Doing life together, instead of alone is good, but it is not always easy. God compliments us, protects us, and strengthens us by gifting us with a spouse. But marriage is not a cure-all! In reality, rarely does marriage take away conflict or difficulty; marriage usually magnifies it! In marriage, there is no hiding. We are two sinners trying to grow into selfless lovers. This is messy and takes time. It is the work of God’s Spirit, changing us from the inside-out. The answer isn’t to quit when marriage gets hard; the answer is to grow. Marriage won’t always be easy but it is good – God is using it to make us more like Jesus.
3. Our marriage is all about us– When we first got married, we tended to just think about our relationship, and our future family. But isn’t marriage meant for more? We would soon discover that marriage was never meant to be an end in itself. Marriage has a far greater mission – a bigger picture. Our marriages are ultimately meant to point to the person and work of Jesus (Ephesians 5:31-32). The love we have and show to one another, is a picture of the love Christ has for us. We are putting on display the love of Christ for all to see and know.
4. Sex will come natural– Ok, it’s time to get personal. While sexual desires may come natural, figuring out what to do with those desires takes a little more skill. We had to learn how to cook, learn how to drive a car, learn how to manage finances – so learning how to have a good sex life should not be a surprise! But it often is. Many couples before marriage, mistakenly believe that physical intimacy will always come naturally or easy. Sex is God’s good gift to a husband and wife in the context of marriage. Physical intimacy is the culmination of complete oneness. But don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t always come naturally. Just like everything else in life, a good sex life requires communication, honesty, humility, and lots of grace!
5. You are giving up your life– Let’s end on a more positive note! We’ve probably all heard this misconception – “Once you get married your life is over! So long freedom!” It is true that marriage changes your life. Whenever two lives are joined as one, there is a giving up. But what is gained is far better! As we think about our marriage over the past 18 years, we realize how much our life has been enriched by one another. There are countless ways God has used one another to encourage, equip, refine, and protect. We would gladly do it all again for what has been gained in the giving up of our individual lives to become one!
Marriage will not always be what we expected or dreamed of, but marriage by God’s design and for God’s purposes is good—very good! This sacred bond with intimate companionship and divine purpose is worth every ounce of energy required to hope for and work toward.
Patrick Schwenk is a husband, father, and pastor. Ruth Schwenk is a wife, mom, and blogger. They are the co-authors of the brand new book, For Better or For Kids: A Vow to Love Your Spouse With Kids in the House and Ruth is the co-author (with Karen Ehman) of Hoodwinked: Ten Myths Moms Believe & Why We All Need to Knock It Off and Pressing Pause: 100 Quiet Moments for Moms to Meet With Jesus. Patrick and Ruth are the founders of ForTheFamily.org and TheBetterMom.com. They have been married for more than seventeen years, have four children, and have been in full-time ministry for over fifteen years. They live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Publication date: July 25, 2016
Read more about what the Bible says about marriage in our Marriage Guide that walks through many hot topics surrounding marriage today in light of God's Word.