“…we always marry the wrong person.”

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Katie and I are reading The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller with our small group. Here’s an encouraging excerpt from Chapter 1 – The Secret of Marriage – that we found helpful two months into our marital journey.

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As a pastor I have spoken to thousands of couples, some working on marriage-seeking, some working on marriage-sustaining, and some working on marriage-saving. I’ve heard them say over and over, “Love shouldn’t be this hard. . . Love should just come naturally if two people are compatible, if they are truly soul mates.”

The Christian answer to this is that no two people are compatible. Duke University ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas has famously made this point:

“Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become “whole” and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person.

We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary problem is . . . learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.”

Hauerwas shows that the quest for a perfectly compatible soul mate is an impossibility. Marriage brings you into more intense proximity to another human being than any other relationship can. Therefore, the moment you marry someone, you and your spouse begin to change in profound ways, and you can’t know ahead of time what those changes will be. So you don’t know, you can’t know, who your spouse will actually be in the future until you get there.

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→ Keller, Timothy and Kathy. (2011) The Meaning of Marriage (pp. 37-38). Dutton Adult.

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