Love is no fairy tale

A Christian dating site, Christian Mingle, claims they can help you “find God’s match” for you and, according to CNN, many members of the site are looking for their “soul mates.”

This is the stuff of romance novels and chick flicks, of course: there is one person for you, and you will know them when you meet them. Unless you don’t.

I understand the impulse. I consider myself a romantic. Candles. Flowers. I get it.

But the search for some harmonic transcendence is nonsense. It is mathematically difficult, of course. If one person marries the wrong person, then two other people have to marry the wrong person—then four, then sixteen—you get the picture.

But it is especially nonsense when your “soul mate” happens to be married to someone else. Or you see your spouse as they really are and you want to start over, searching for someone more perfect. It is also nonsense when young people can make no commitment at all, “hooking up” and waiting as it were for the perfect match.

The perfect match is a fantasy, and I’m speaking as one who has a strong, committed marriage of 38 years. We have a good match. A strong match. We balance each other. We love each other.

We are not soul mates, however, and we both prefer it that way. Our imperfections keep us from being boring.

Other than the fact that we don’t like the same music, we don’t like the same food and we don’t like the same books, we manage to maintain a unity of purpose which is rooted in biblical values and responsibilities.

And did I mention joy? There is a lot of that, and more and more the longer we stay with it.

We have learned so much together, but only because we have been faithful in difficult times, clinging to the grace of God as the world careened around us and forgiving each other as God has forgiven us.

Our differences made it work because our commitment made us stay. You don’t need a soul mate to be happily married. You need a covenant. Then all you have to do is get up in the morning and engage the difficult but rewarding work of loving each other.

On the other hand, take the whole package of Hollywood contrived, Disney reinforced and romance driven never-ending bliss and you have a recipe for disaster. No one can live up to this standard. No one can sustain it. And no one can grow in it.

And theologically, it borders on idolatry. As Harry Blamires has observed, Christian romanticism is ”an acknowledgment that beauty, nature, sex, the passions of youth, are good creations of God and point to an eternity beyond this world.” But we are clearly in trouble when we seek the pointer more than the One pointed to.

Who needs God if you have a soul mate? How do you learn to forgive or to wait when you already know and serve each other perfectly? How can someone be perfect for you when you are clearly not perfect for them?

Honestly, once you find, pick and marry a spouse, you find that being a husband or wife is responsibility enough, without the added burden of being a soul mate. Pick up your socks, take out the trash and lay down your life.

It’s that simple. And it’s that hard.

Certainly the mystery of being “one flesh,” of knowing and being known, is the work of God. He gives us discernment and peace as we find each other.

But if He gave us the fairy tale, He would not give us what we need.

That’s because what we really need is Him.

8 thoughts on “Love is no fairy tale”

  1. thanks, Wally! I love the paragraph that begins: “Our differences made it work…”. Reminds me of all the great (albeit random) Wally Words of Wisdom I used to hear up in your office during classes and late newspaper nights. Miss those times! Love your blogs! -Carianne

  2. “You don’t need a soul mate to be happily married. You need a covenant.”
    Once again Dr. Metts you have managed with an economy of words to blow away cultural pap. If more people embraced this pithy truth our entertainment & greeting card industries would have to radically change their focus (focii?) or go broke.

  3. It’s been quite awhile since I stopped by…so regrettable! This piece is classic, true and so relevant. I read it aloud to my love while eating dinner and can relate to the “perfect” imperfections…That is us. Thank you for writing! I loved this piece!!

      1. Thank you for finding me at my new blog home. It’s been exciting to see it expand and develop far beyond what I could have originally thought. My friends had to push me to start…. and now…. I love it!

  4. Nicely written, Wally, and thanks for stating an all too-often unspoken truth about life and love. I agree with you. Doug and I are ten years behind you and Katie (although 28 years is still a long time) and we, too, have “a good match. A strong match. We balance each other. We love each other.” And we are not soul mates. And that has filled our marriage and life with many interesting conversations, experiences and insights. I’ve grown so much more as a Christian as a result. Thanks for putting this out there!

  5. I really liked this post. I have been surrounded by too many friends- old and young- who buy into the false idea of what a relationship is, and should look like, only to realize it’s false.
    This is also why I really cannot stand movies like “Sleepless in Seattle,” or another popular film “The Notebook.” I understand that they are just happy-ending stories written for primarily women; but I have heard the same ways of thinking in many people: including in my own father’s current adulterous relationship. “The timing is just so right- we’re made to be together!” No: clearly you are not made to be together when he is still married.

    I’ve heard that kind of thought process likened to emotional porn; and I think it works. It’s idolatry, it’s a self centered way of looking at relationships rather than a Christ-and-His-Church way of looking at relationships. God did not design marriage primarily for our happiness, but rather that we could strive continually to “be Holy, as I AM Holy…” That’s the goal; one of the many sources of joy from a true covenantal marriage.

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