The Romantic Deception
by Dr. Gary Thomas
When my wife and I recently purchased a new home, we talked about calling the phone company to establish a new land line; after all, that’s what we had done after every move for over 25 years of marriage. Our 20 something kids asked us why? As they pointed out, “You’ve got your cell phones—who needs to call the house?”
We decided they were right, and we really haven’t missed the landline at all.
Even so, millions of older people who own cell phones still pay thirty dollars a month for a land line, often just because they always have.
People in our 20-something kids’ generation have their own generational blinders, however, such as the belief that they should seek romantic excitement and sexual chemistry above everything else when it comes to choosing someone to marry. This is true inside and outside the church.
The vast majority of Christians get married for roughly the same reasons that non-Christians get married: romantic feelings, sexual chemistry, and perceived compatibility. In spite of living in a generation surrounded by divorce (which their generation is now contributing to), young singles continue to follow the same prescription for what supposedly makes a successful matching. It’s what they see celebrated in movies; it’s what they hear being sung about by musical stars; it’s what they read about in novels, and so they’ve come to expect that marriage is all about finding someone with whom you can share an over-the-top romantic infatuation, your “soul mate,” if you will.
This remains true in spite of the fact that research shows sexual chemistry can actually lead us astray. For example, psychologically speaking, women are more likely to experience romantic love with dominant men, even though dominant men typically demonstrate less ability to express the kind of companionship, relational skills, and emotional attachment that women ultimately desire in a lifelong mate. In other words, if women simply follow their feelings, they are more likely to choose a guy who will thrill them for twelve to eighteen months as a boyfriend and then frustrate them for five to six decades as a husband.
In The Sacred Search, I ask, “what if being in love with someone isn’t a good enough reason to marry them?” Most young people begin the marital search by seeking the “who”—trying to discover that missing “soul mate.” I want them to begin the search by asking “why”—“why do I even want to be married in the first place?”
It’s not that the “who” isn’t important, it’s just that asking “why” first sets them up to make a better choice about the who. Jesus suggests that a Christian’s agenda should be to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). If marriage is a mutual pursuit of God’s Kingdom and growth in righteousness, that’s going to have a huge impact on who I choose to marry. Who, indeed, is the best person I can find with whom I can fulfill that call?
All of this needs to be considered well before infatuation hits. The brain is so taken over during an infatuation with getting and keeping the object of our desire that there’s little energy left over to consider whether this person is even worth getting and keeping.
If we want to marry well and if we want our children to marry well, we have to begin by extolling the practice of marrying for the right reasons. I believe Matthew 6:33 points us in the best direction, fortifying us against the fog of infatuation. If couples will ask “why” before they ask “who,” they will experience more profitable and even more fulfilling relationships as they align themselves with God’s purposes. That’s always a wise thing to do, isn’t it? And how much more important that is when it comes to such a crucial choice as the person with whom we want to spend the rest of our lives.
Gary Thomas is the author of the recently released The Sacred Search: What if It’s Not About Who You Marry, but Why? from which this article is adapted.