Love’s Fine Print
by Dr. Greg & Erin Smalley
I’ll never forget a special phone call I made to Erin during our engagement. I was euphoric about a fortuitous turn of events. After she answered the phone, I asked her to sit down and brace herself, then proudly announced that I had received official notification in the mail that I had won the big sweepstakes!
Marketers had done a great job presenting their pitch and I wasn’t able to distinguish between reality and the hope of financial independence. The “winner” notification sounded legitimate with all the right legal jargon. The stationery looked so authentic—the envelope even had a wax seal!
I felt humiliated. Not only had I believed I was a millionaire, I had also told my entire family and bragged to many of my graduate school friends. In one day I learned that without reading and understanding the fine print, I could easily end up sounding like a fool. When it comes to marriage, we are being scammed as well. However, it’s not by some crook peddling a bogus sweepstakes; it’s by the culture that we live in. We are being sold ideas about marriage containing “fine print” that sets up couples—even couples who have been married ten years or longer—to fail.
The Love Lies
See if you recognize some of these popular marriage scams:
- Marriage is easy when you find “the one.”
- Conflict is a sign of a troubled relationship.
- Romance and passion will always be alive in a good marriage.
- Your spouse should automatically know what you need.
- Marriage is about being happy.
- Spouses will naturally grow closer as time goes by.
- Love is self-sustaining.
- Oneness is about losing your identity.
- Differences are the problem in most marriages.
As wonderful as they sound, these faulty beliefs create unrealistic expectations that in general undermine your marriage relationship. But I want to focus on one myth in particular. In my opinion, it’s the most destructive. This concept is best summed up by French novelist Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin (aka George Sand), writing to her future daughter-in-law about the upcoming marriage: “There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.”
This quote contains a kernel of truth. It is good “to love.” The distorted mush is the “be loved” part. Happiness is not dependent on finding someone to love you. The popular notion that we need to be loved by our spouse, or anyone, for that matter, is intellectual swill. The truth is that I don’t need Erin to love me. I know this sounds counterintuitive and crazy—because we’ve all probably been bombarded with this cultural lie through magazine articles, movie scripts, and music lyrics. One song recorded by country music artist Wynonna Judd offers this advice: “You got to find somebody to love you / Someone to be there for you night and day.”
The Bible, however, doesn’t say that you need to find someone to love you.
Let that sink in. You don’t need to find someone to love you. There’s nothing in Scripture that says this. Not. One. Verse. You don’t need your spouse to love you, but you do need love. You need God’s love. God is love (1 John 4:8), and His love is perfect, everlasting, unconditional, sacrificial, steadfast, faithful, genuine, and active.
Your need to be loved has been completely met by God.
The culture doesn’t acknowledge that a personal, loving God exists. So it sells you this lie, and it’s a whopper: If you fail to find your “soul mate,” then a massive “love hole” will remain in your heart, and you will spend the rest of your meaningless life weeping and gnashing your teeth until you find someone else who will give you the love that you so crave.
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