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The illusion of the perfect marriage

Over the years, I’ve had lots of conversations with students about love, relationships, and marriage. Here’s my observation:

Young people want a perfect marriage and they won’t settle for anything less.

That may sound like a good thing. We could all do with a little more ‘perfection’ in our marriages, at least in the sense that we could all work a little harder to make our marriages better. But that’s not what young people mean and do. For them, the perfect marriage means this:

The perfect partner

The perfect wedding day

The perfect life

The perfect partner

I had a conversation a while ago with one of my former students. He’s in his twenties now, still single and somewhat worried about that. I asked him about another girl (or woman I should say) we both knew, who was a Christian, close to his age, smart and incredibly nice. He dismissed my suggestion that she might be a good ‘fit’ for him, because she wasn’t pretty.

I’ve thought a lot about that conversation. To me, it’s illustrative of the goal for a ‘perfect partner’. Students want a partner who is ‘hot’, who has the same interests and above all: who makes them happy. The search for a perfect partner is very egocentrically in that sense. Young people want someone who will go out of his or her way to make them happy, without thinking about the question if they themselves can and will make the other happy.

I’ve seen students reject and break off relationships because they were convinced they ‘could do better’. In my humble opinion, that’s the influence of the ‘because you’re worth it’ culture. Whereas some people could absolutely do with a little more self-esteem, some could do with a little less.


The perfect wedding day

I got married when I was 21 and my husband was 20. If I tell that to students now, their eyes go big. “How did you afford your wedding day?” is a question I get asked often. Well, we worked our butts off in various jobs to save money for the wedding, that’s one, and also, we didn’t want to spend tons of money on it.

We didn’t have that perfect wedding day where everything is just as you dreamed. We had our wedding dinner at a Chinese restaurant, my wedding dress was second hand and our wedding car was from my sister’s boss. But the things that mattered were perfect. I looked beautiful, my husband was incredibly handsome in his tux, our personal vows were God inspired and we had a great reception and party with friends and family. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good and we look back on it with warm memories.

For many couples, this wish for the perfect wedding day results in them postponing the wedding till they can afford it. It’s a reason for living together and definitely for having sex before marriage. I mean, who could stay pure for five years in a relationship, that’s kind of near impossible.

The perfect life

I don’t need to bore you with statistics about divorce, we all know the staggering numbers. I think that the desire or even the expectation of a perfect life may be a reason for our young people to get divorced later. They expect everything to work out just as they have planned: get married, buy a house, get good jobs, get a baby, live happily ever after.

But then life happens and it is never perfect. People lose their job, or can’t even find one. That means buying a house is out of the question and you may even end up moving in with you in-laws. You discover you can’t have a baby or you do have a child and it’s not as picture perfect as you had imagined. Your partner turns out to have weaknesses, you both make mistakes and your marriage isn’t so perfect anymore, let alone your life. Then what?

I think that we need to give our students a more realistic view of marriage. Too often, our teachings on marriage are aimed at ‘promoting marriage’, especially as opposed to living together. But in all that, are we equipping students to deal with the realities of marriage, of being married?

I want to delve into that topic a little deeper in a next post, but in the meantime I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you recognize this ‘perfect view on marriage’ in your students?

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2 thoughts on “The illusion of the perfect marriage

  1. We at Crosspointe Christian church in Yorba Linda believe that “Life is Uncertain”. Life is not as rosy as we expect it to be or dreamt of. It is is like a hill or a mountain where in there will always be ups and down. You have to be strong enough to combat the difficulties or face situations that you never expected.

  2. […] the previous post I explained how many young people are expecting the perfect marriage, meaning the perfect partner, the perfect wedding day and a perfect life. My conclusion was that we […]

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