A little while ago Stephen Altrogge wrote a small article he titled So You Think You’ve Married the Wrong Person and today I would like to add one thing to the discussion. Stephen’s article addresses an always-pertinent topic. It is a topic that is applicable to married folk who may one day wake up and wonder, Did I marry the wrong person? In fact, I think most married people wonder that at one time or another. It may not be a question filled with true angst and regret, but one that may persist at the back of their mind.
At such times you can find great comfort in this simple reality: I guarantee that you have married the wrong person. We all marry the wrong person. Perhaps I should say it like this: we all marry the “wrong” person. We all marry a person who sins against us, who sometimes exasperates us by helping us worship our idols and at other times irritates us by smashing them to pieces. We all marry a person who has stinky breath and physical blemishes and bad moods. We all marry a person who is apparently incompatible with us on all kinds of levels. To quote Stephen, “The husband is neat, the wife is messy. The wife is talkative, the husband is quiet. The husband is always on time, the wife lives more in the moment. The wife is social, the husband is a homebody.”
The differences can go far deeper than that. The differences may extend from the marriage bed to the church sanctuary, from the way we make love to the way we worship, and everywhere in between.
Stephen turns to Paul David Tripp who offers some valuable and biblical counsel:
God is in control not only of the locations in which you live, but also of the influences that have shaped you as a person. He has not only written the story of you and your spouse and determined that your stories would intersect, but he has controlled all the things that have made you different from one another.
As you struggle, you must not view your marriage as bad luck, or poor planning, or a mess that you have made for yourself. No, God is right smack-dab in the middle of your of your struggle. He is not surprised by what you are facing today. He is up to something. (What Did You Expect?, pgs. 213-214)
This is comfort in the sovereignty of God, that God has ordered all things and that he means to work in and through you. Your marriage to this person at this time falls well within the scope of his sovereign plan. God simply won’t allow you to entertain thoughts of regret or of escape.
But here is what we need to see: The wrongness of our spouse is one of the great formative influences on us. The wrongness and the apparent incompatibilities are the very things God uses to mold and shape us. A few years down the road you will look back on all of that wrongness, all you declared to be wrong about your husband or wife, and find that God was not wrong at all. He knew exactly what you needed.
What I have found is that often times, when someone fears that he has married the wrong person, or when he fears that he is about to marry the wrong person, he is looking at the differences between himself and this other person and lamenting that this other person is not more like him. He may describe her personality or preferences or passions, but what he is really doing is showing that he wants this woman, this potential wife, to be more like him. If only she was…me! Too many men, too many women, truly want to marry an image of themselves. And why not? You tend to like your preferences, to like your idols, to like your likes.
But ask any married person what his life would be like if he had married someone who was just like himself and you’ll see the folly of it. Her talkativeness was just the antidote to your quiet nature, drawing you out, filling your home with godly words. Your sexual freedom was just what she needed to release her fears and teach her how to express love in a whole new way. Her constant lateness taught you to be patient and showed you that she wasn’t late because she was selfish, but because she cared, just like Jesus when he showed up “too late” to save his friend Lazarus. In all these ways and so many more, God uses incompatibilities to produce godliness. These differences are truly glorious, the means by which God helps us put our own sin to death.
So did you marry the wrong person? Yes you did. Embrace it and thank God for it. Her wrongness is just right in God’s eyes.
(Note: Obviously there are some exceptions, such as marriages that are physically abusive. Such cases still fall within the sovereignty of God, of course, but require great care and great wisdom.)