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Inflated Expectations: How Not to Treat Your Spouse

Chuck Colson | BreakPoint | Updated: Oct 07, 2011

Inflated Expectations: How Not to Treat Your Spouse

In a 1999 film titled “Music of the Heart,” a character named Roberta begins a relationship with a man named Brian. At one point, Roberta—whose husband had left her—asked Brian a question: "If you ever met a woman who fulfils your needs better than I can, would you leave me for her?”

Brian’s answer: “Theoretically, yes.”

June is the traditional month for weddings, and in my view, every engaged couple ought to watch this film, and discuss it with marriage advisors in their church. As Robin Phillips notes in a BreakPoint article titled Generous Love, it’s all-too-common today for brides and grooms to seek to have all their needs met in the person they are about to marry.

Certainly, marriage does satisfy many of our needs, Phillips writes, but “at best it does so partially and imperfectly. At some point, our marriage partners will always let us down.”

Are we wrong to seek personal fulfillment in our spouses? Of course not. The problem is that, in expecting our marriage partner to meet all our needs, we are seeking fulfillment in the wrong place. No mere human can possibly meet all our needs. Only God can do that.

Phillips quotes Augustine, who said in his Confessions, “Seek what you seek but not where you seek it.”  Interestingly enough, the Bishop of London made the same point in his outstanding homily during the recent wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

As the bishop noted, “As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This,” the bishop said, “is to load our partner with too great a burden.”

He's right.

And when we do this, it’s not surprising that we are often tempted to move on to someone else whom we think can do a better job of meeting our needs. This is why we must ground both our lives and our marriages in Christ. When we do this, “a deeper type of love can kick in,” Phillips writes -- a “generous love rooted in the other-centeredness of Christ.”

Again, quoting the Bishop of London’s marriage homily: “Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this; the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves...In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.”

Are you on the verge of getting married? What are your expectations of your spouse?

To dig deeper into issues like these, I highly recommend that you undergo the kind of marital preparation recommended by Marriage Savers, a ministry created by my friend Mike McManus.

And stay tuned to BreakPoint throughout June: We’re going to talk a lot about marriage. Whether you’re just about to tie the knot or have been married for decades, we want to provide you with information, resources, and maybe some inspiration to ground your marriage in Christ and to help you do everything you can to lead your bride or groom into a richer spiritual life.

This article published on June 13, 2011. Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. 

Inflated Expectations: How Not to Treat Your Spouse