Three Views Of Marriage. Do You Have The Right One?

This week David Brooks, columnist for the New York Times, outlined three very different views of marriage and suggested that the view you subscribe to will go a long way in determining what kind of marriage you have as well as how satisfied you are with it.

The first view of marriage is what Brooks labels as the psychological approach which encourages you to look for a person who is compatible and agreeable with your personality. This view doesn’t hold out much hope that people change much, especially after 30, so don’t let appearance or other factors persuade you into marrying someone under the illusion that he/she will get better.

The romantic approach is Brooks’ second view of marriage. Perpetuated in movies and music, this view says that your marriage should be characterized by passionate love…and if it’s not, something is wrong. One book cited in the article says that only 15% of couples are able to maintain a lifelong romantic relationship.

Of course the expectation of a romantic marriage is a relatively recent phenomenon given that historically most marriages were arranged by one’s family or community. That’s not to say that none of those unions were characterized by romance. But the belief then was that romance came after commitment not before as we demand today.

For his third view of marriage, labeled the moral approach, Brooks turns to The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller, the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC.

In “The Meaning of Marriage,” Tim Keller argued that marriage introduces you to yourself; you realize you’re not as noble and easy to live with as you thought when alone. In many marriages there’s an unspoken agreement not to talk about what you don’t admire in the other, because the truth from a loved one can be so painful. But in a good marriage you identify your own selfishness and see it as the fundamental problem. You treat it more seriously than your spouse’s selfishness.

The everyday tasks of marriage are opportunities to cultivate a more selfless love. Everyday there’s a chance to inspire and encourage your partner to become his or her best self. In this lens, marriage isn’t about two individuals trying to satisfy their own needs; it’s a partnership of mutual self-giving for the purpose of moral growth and to make their corner of the world a little better.

In my opinion, this third view is misnamed. It isn’t the “moral view” but the “Christian view” for this is what is taught by Jesus and the apostles and a marriage the secular world has a difficult time producing. The joy of marriage comes through being a servant, dying to self, and considering your spouse’s interests as more important than your own. Marriage is the means that God often always uses to expose your sin and teach you to love, forgive, and show grace to another imperfect person.

There’s nothing wrong with martial compatibility or romance and if you have them be thankful. But those aren’t necessary for a joyful, Christ honoring marriage.

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