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When talking about potential marital partners, something that you will often hear for instance from Christian books or resources, is that “no-one is perfect”. This is true, and something that most people will surely accept, whether or not they are Christians or have any religious faith whatsoever.
And yet absolutely everyone is covered by this maxim of “no-one is perfect”. Within the understanding that “no-one is perfect”, how do you sort out potentially excellent spouses from spouses who would be a lot less appropriate for you?
Firstly, I personally think that many people hide behind the concept that “no-one is perfect” as a kind of excuse for their behaviour, their pet weaknesses. As Christians we should all be striving for excellence, trying our best to be the very best we can be. Some people will do something wrong, then when challenged about it, simply say: “No-one’s perfect”, then just shrug their shoulders and carry on.
I have met people who will cheerfully admit failings in particular areas and almost cherish these failings. I believe that yes, as Christians it is good to be honest that we are not perfect, and yes, it can be refreshing when we admit to particular areas of weaknesses (where it is wise and prudent to make these admissions). However, we are not just supposed to admit the same failings endlessly, year in, year out; we are actually also supposed to deal with them so that we grow and mature into the image of Jesus more and more. Here I am talking about character defects, not things like physical conditions.
This is something I have addressed before on this blog: if you marry someone that is excellent to start off with, how can you tell that they are going to remain excellent – if they are “not perfect” to start with, how do you know that they are not going to grow a lot less perfect over the years, in terms of their character? That is, have you ever heard anyone ask: “What happened to the man I married?” or…. “Where is the girl I fell in love with?” …?
I personally think that life can hit with its stresses and disappointments and failures and temptations, and remaining excellent, and even growing through it all is not an accident, but is rather a matter of determined and prayerful choice.
This is the answer that I have come up with so far – this might yet be refined by future experiences. I think that the safest way to marry is to marry someone who is visibly striving forward with that determination. I realise that here I have merged two questions: “How to pick the best “imperfect” person” and “How to know your spouse is not going to change for the worse”. The reason I have merged these questions is because these issues are both crucial for choosing an excellent spouse and the issues actually merge into one another, because in my opinion they are answered by the same answer.
In a way I realise that it might seem quite presumptuous for me to categorically say: “This is what you must do!” especially as I have never actually been married myself. However this matter is ultimately not actually about marriage itself, but rather about human character, which is openly available for anyone to study.
Something simple that I believe regarding marriage is that beyond the “cosmic” or (as I am a Christian, and this blog does have a Christian basis!) – “mysteriously sacred” interaction of hearts and minds and dreams that occurs within marriage, there are also some solidly practical issues of character, communication, discipline. Looking at these more practical aspects, then, to put it simply, the better the character, and the better the communication between the partners; the higher the maturity of the partners within the marriage; the better the marriage. Simple. I think it is better to base all those lovey-dovey, romantic, “they are my soul-mate” feelings on a solid basis of character, friendship and communication, than to expect character and communication to mysteriously emerge full-grown from that hazy mist of “feelings”.
So then the issue when considering that “no-one is perfect” is that sometimes you will see someone who seems quite good. But then you will notice quite an obvious character flaw. If no-one is perfect, is there any way to tell the difference between character flaws which indicate that an otherwise excellent person is actually human, after all, and the character flaws of people who are less than excellent? That is, I have heard of situations, or sometimes instinctively felt them, where, despite knowing of some prominent character flaws, one spouse marries the other, thinking that “no-one is perfect” – only to find themselves in an increasingly unappealing marriage.
So then, this is the single answer that I believe answers both these questions. As I say, I believe that excellent character is a result of determined and informed personal choice. This is true if you are trying to find that person who is excellent now, and also if you are trying to find someone who will remain excellent and become better and better as your marriage progresses. I believe that a potential spouse has to choose to be excellent now. I also believe that any excellent candidate for marriage has to be aware of the huge potential of life to throw them off the path of holiness, purity, humility etc – and they have to be prepared for it, and determined to overcome it. It is a little like asking how you would know that your spouse will do their best to remain athletically fit throughout your marriage. The answer to this is that you would seek out a spouse that is aware of the challenges that different stages of life might pose in terms of exercise, and has a plan and a resolve to overcome them.
12 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.