Challenges, For Women, Love

Divorcing Society’s Ideals for Marriage

Ideals wreak havoc on our marriage.

What do I mean by ideals? I mean, those perfect or “ideal” images of married couples we see everywhere we look.

Scrolling through social media feeds are the “brag-bookers” (you know who I’m talking about). We have all been guilty of it; taking that picture that happens to show off all our latest “brands” we’re wearing. For you parents out there, that short-lived moment your kid is being smiley, perfect and cute.

A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.Color me guilty…

I’m mad

It’s frustrating to sit there and see other people’s lives, let alone marriage seemingly perfect right?

Awe! Look at the flowers he bought her? Or, I wish he would surprise me with dinner like that… 

The comparison game sets in…the unspoken pressure to be a better spouse because “Look at the Jones’. They have it all together.”

Ideals are tricky. In one sense they show us a true image of beauty and love. But in another sense, they can impose a standard, a code that if we don’t live up to then our seemingly good becomes less than desirable.

Thoughts from Mr. Knightley

I’m reminded of a scene from one of my guilty pleasure movies Emma with Gwenyth Paltrow. Emma is talking with Mr. Knightley about her friend, Harriet Smith – a young  girl from an obscure background. Harriet rejected a proposal from a “respectable farmer” (Emma, Ch. 8) Mr. Robert Martin – someone whom Emma could not associate with as Mr. Martin was below her in the hierarchy of society.

Stay with me my friends because Emma actually brings the point home, well, Mr. Knightley does thanks to Emma’s lack of sense.Perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18)

Enter Mr. Knightley, a wealthy gentleman who is an older-brother type character to Emma with whom she later develops feelings for and (spoiler alert) marries. Mr. Knightley could not understand why Emma would influence her friend Harriet to reject Mr. Martin’s offer of marriage.

Mr. Knightley says it perfectly, (Chapter 8)

“You (Emma) will puff her (Harriet) up with such ideas of her own beauty, and of what she has a claim to, that, in a  little while nobody within her reach will be good enough for her. She (Harriet) thought he (Robert Martin) was good enough too until you started to puff her up. Vanity working on a weak mind produces all kind of mischief.”

Hmm…it seems Jane Austen isn’t that far off?

“Let her marry Robert Martin, and she is safe, respectable and happy for ever; but if you encourage her to expect to marry greatly, and teach her to be satisfied with nothing less than a man of consequence and large fortune, she may be a parlour boarder at Mrs. Goddard’s all the rest of her life…”

Translated, “Let her marry the man who is in love with her and whom she adores. If you impose your ideals on her, then she will begin to think less of what she has and more of herself, leaving her marriage and situation status: single and undesirable as time goes on.”

Society’s ideals are similar to the voice of Emma. Although they may have good intentions, they do not fully understand our marriage/situation.

It’s vanity working on our weak minds so-to-speak.

Who we let and who we should let determine our ideals

All too often we allow our ideals to be defined by everyone and everything except the One whose opinion matters most.Our story is far from perfect, but it's ours.

I’d encourage us all to take a few steps back, look at our lives and the ideals in which we live by.

Are we truly seeking God’s Word – His opinion about our marriage? What does He say about our spouse? About us, as a wife/husband?

God’s ideals aren’t the world’s ideals, and His ideals aren’t a secret. They are written in the bible, right there for us to discover daily.

Ideals determine our perspective

Knowing and understanding our Heavenly Father brings Godly perspective.

When our spouse hurts our feelings, how should we respond? What would be God’s ideal response from us?

Look at how He responds to us: forgiveness, grace, mercy, love.

Are there areas in our marriage where we’re imposing the world’s ideals when really, we should be allowing God’s way to be the light that guides and leads us?

Transparency and praise

I know for Ryan and I, we aren’t perfect. For me personally, I often feel insecure about where I came from (lower-income, divorced home). It causes me to feel unworthy of Ryan who is brilliantly smart, handsome and from a two-parent home (I’m bias of course).

Sometimes I feel like he would be better off with a different wife, someone more worthy.

But when I look at what God has done in my life; where I might be if He hadn’t intervened…I’m sure we can all relate.I do... still.

He is my ideal

He brought me out of the miry clay (Psalm 40:2) and all I can do is praise and thank Him! By His grace I have my dream husband. Everyday of health, life and moments of joy in our marriage, and with our little family; they are all from Him.

He, my God, my Savior – HE is my ideal.

When God is the one who determines our ideals, nothing else matters. Our priorities begin to fall into place, our values are rightly determined and most importantly, God is honored and glorified.

Question: Is there an ideal “box” that you’re trying to make your marriage fit into? What does God’s Word say about it?

Share an Encouraging Marriage Image

Sharing with friends is a great way to encourage your spouse and others. Just click an image and select where to share it – the quote will be pre-populated. There are many more images to share available here.

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  • Jerry Dugan

    Love this post! Olivia and I both came from divorced homes. In a sense, we learned from our parents’ mistakes…so we could make all of our own, of course. Communication and forgiveness have been the two greatest tools that bring us closer together with every day of our marriage. Going on thirteen years now! Woo hoo!

  • Anna

    I am so glad to see this! I just saw a pin today that bothered me that said “If you loved the wrong person this much, imagine what loving the right person will feel like.” The person who posted it divorced recently, and it seems more and more like they just idealized what love and marriage is so much that anyone would eventually become the “wrong person.” Staying married isn’t about finding the perfect human being to be married to, it’s about making it work and deciding to love each other through the struggles.

  • Lmayo

    I feel so Blessed with tears running down my face to read this. Thank you~ God Bless

  • Szofia

    But what if the reason you’re unhappy is because he doesn’t fit the biblical image? I’m all sorts of happy until I start thinking about how he doesn’t fit the image of a biblical husband. We arent married yet, but I want to be, until I start thinking biblically. His only problem is that he isn’t a strong spiritual influence in our house.

    • Meg

      The answer to that is prayer. Cover him in prayer. I didn’t see my husband start leading our home until I started praying that God would put a fire in him to lead. He still has room for improvement, but I’ve seen such a great change in his heart over the last year. It’s nothing that wife or a girlfriend can do. God has to awaken that desire in him, and when he does, you need to let him lead.

  • Paulette Elizondo

    So typing this cuz I found ur site through an image from a friends FB page. I am recently separated from my husband of 14 yrs. I caught him cheating. It has only been 2 months that we are sepRated and divorce papers have been filed. I’m not sure if I want a divorce now. I hated him for the first couple of weeks and I didn’t like that feeling of myself and the hatred. I forgave him for what he did because I needed the peace for me. To move on and try and clear my head and think not with anger. We have a 11yr old son and I have a daughter 22 yr old non verbal autistic. He has raised her since she was 7 and helped me through hard and difficult times with her. I miss my husband so very much and I am not ready to give up on him or our marriage. Despite his mistakes I realized I made mistakes also. We believe in god and would go to church occasionally but now I feel since we separated we need god now more than ever. Any advise or help I would be greatly appreciated. We’re taking small steps to reconcil but I think I am more ready than he is. How can I help him (my husband)?