The Myth of Happily Ever After

Fairy tales, bedtime stories, romance novels and romantic comedies – why are they so popular? It is because they strike a cord in the human heart. We all have the need to be loved, accepted, attached and to belong. For men, it is about being the hero, saving the day and for women it is about having their knight in shining armor rescue them.
Myths often have a basis in reality. So the myth starts like this, “Once upon a time,” and it ends with, “They lived happily ever after.” In between is a villain, challenge or conflict to overcome. The hero wins, goes back to get the girl and they ride off into the sunset and live – well, you know the rest.
This scenario is a myth because the plot alone will not lead to “happily ever after.” The problem with marriage today is that too many couples think it will. They follow this storyline with high expectations, only to end up disappointed, disillusioned and hurt when their story does not end this way. What is missing? A story must have a plot but it also needs characters.

The people in the story are the key to a great story. Likewise, when writing the story of your life and marriage the characters are key to living “happily ever after.” Step back from the romantic idea of marriage. Take a good look at the characters in your story – you and your potential mate.
A foundational truth is that marriage is a covenant relationship. Marriage was invented and designed by God. As the creator of it, He understands both its purpose and how to make it work. A covenant is about vows two people make to one another. In the case of marriage, vows are to last for a lifetime. God is big on being faithful to His Word, and He tells us that marriage is a picture to an unbelieving world of God’s love and faithfulness to His people. Marriage is serious business to God and should be to us. We are not to enter it lightly.

Think of how long a lifetime could be if you both live your complete life expectancy. Many changes can happen over such a long time. Is it really possible to spend the rest of your life with the same person? Well, God thinks it is and many other people could testify that you can do it and be happy. The key is you need to pick the right person. This then brings up the question, “What should I be looking for in a future partner?
There is not space here to answer such a question in the fullness and depth that it deserves, but we can look at a few things that should get you thinking in the right direction. Remember what is at stake is not just your future happiness but also the happiness of future generations that can descend from the two of you. God’s plan is also for your marriage to play a role in His kingdom – do not lose sight of the bigger context of your marriage and family.

First, let’s consider three general characteristics that both people in the relationship should be concerned with. As a believer, you definitely want to look for spiritual compatibility. God makes it clear that a believer should not marry an unbeliever (1 Corinthians 6:14-15). Why have division from the start? Look for true signs of spiritual life, not just a mere profession or nominal Christianity. When dealing with a person who has an intimate relationship with Christ, you will need to talk about their worship tradition. What kind of a church will you two become a part of? Again, the goal is unity and oneness as a family.

Two other important areas to consider are authenticity and your non-negotiables. Authenticity is simply being real and honest about who you are. In dating, a person usually puts their best face forward. There is nothing wrong with wanting to make a good impression. However, in dating to find a life mate, the attitude should be, “Show me the real you, I’ll show you the real me, and we will see if we are compatible for each other.” The real person will eventually come out in time, so why pretend to be someone you are not? To do so will only result in hurting yourself as well as your partner. Closely related to authenticity is knowing your non-negotiables or “deal breakers”. What are the things you positively must have in a mate or absolutely cannot deal with? Here, we are talking about those things that will kill the deal. Know them and have a list of them ahead of time before your emotions have the chance to override your reason.

Let us now turn our attention to three questions you should consider in any potential mate. These will be gender- specific. First, for the women, ask yourself these three questions:

Do I feel safe with him?

Do I respect him?

Do I see the total man clearly?

Now, let us look at these questions in more detail. First, do I feel safe with him? Christ’s command to the husband is to love your wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). By safe, there is the idea of protection. If you heard a noise in the house at night would he send you to check it out or would he go himself? But safety implies more than just physical protection – it is also about emotional, spiritual and relational protection. Can you trust him? Does he tell the truth? Is he a one-woman man? Is he selfish, or do you see signs of an angry core?

Second, do I respect him? Why is this so important? Because respect is his greatest need, and how will you meet that need if you do not truly respect him? Respect is earned; it cannot be commanded nor can it be faked. Respect is about a person’s character. When you find yourself respecting another man more than your husband, your marriage is entering dangerous territory. Remember, to truly respect someone you must know them up close and not simply from a distance.

Lastly, do I see the total man? People are made up of parts. We have good parts and bad parts. The question is how much of each is in this man. Is he 80 percent good and 20 percent bad or vice-versa? The big danger for a woman is to look for potential, for what you want to see, rather than what he is. No one is perfect and hopefully we are all a work in progress, but don’t allow your nurturing nature to get in the way of reality. Do not make excuses for him. Fixer-uppers are houses you buy, not men you marry.
Now for the men – consider your answers to these three questions. They will help you to know if the woman you are considering is marriage potential.

Can I love this woman unconditionally?

Am I looking beyond external beauty?

Do our dreams align?

Why is your ability to love her unconditionally so important? Because love is her greatest need. This means she doesn’t need to change into another person, see things your way, or react and do things the way you would. She is not you; she is a woman. Women are different, which is why you were attracted to her. This will require you to gain some understanding of the female nature (1Peter 3:7).

Men are visual, so it is natural that an attractive woman catches a man’s eye. Obviously you are not going to marry someone that you think is ugly. However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One thing you will want to consider about the girl who catches your eye is whether or not her beauty is only skin deep. What is the inner woman like? An ugly character or disposition will quickly overshadow external beauty, especially when you consider spending a lifetime with her (Proverbs 21:19). God puts the emphasis on internal beauty (1Peter 3:1-4).

Why is it so important for your dreams to align? Many men have lived with regret and resentment, wondering what their life might have been like if only he and his wife had similar dreams. Everyone has a dream – some lose theirs over time and some lose theirs in marriage. Our dream is to come from God as part of our life purpose. God is not so foolish as to give us a dream and then send us a partner who would sabotage that dream. Every marriage needs a dream, and it is the merging of the individual dreams of each husband and wife. This requires you, as a man, to know both yourself and your dream. If you do not know this, how will you pick the right mate?

These may not be the things you normally consider when looking for a future mate. However, if you do, it will increase the chances of “happily ever after” being a reality rather than just a myth for you.

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