When Wanda first walked into my life, we were just teenagers. She was beautiful, godly, intelligent, intuitive, disciplined, compassionate, honest…a girl who was a thousand times more than I ever dreamed would be interested in me. But below the surface, there were deep hurt and insecurities from growing up in an alcoholic home…years of abuse and conditional love and a life of painful emotional scars.
I grew up as an only child in a home where my mother loved me…but served me, babied me, protected me, enabled me, and made me think that the world revolved around me. My father was a typical man of the baby boom in the 50’s and 60’s. A hard working hunter-gatherer who didn’t have a lot of time for talking, feeling, or relating. My mother served him, also…a cup of coffee waiting at the door at the end of the work day, dinner on the table, and no demands. Through that (and many other things), I became, in many ways, a self-centered, people-pleasing, rescuer. I’ve worked against it my whole life.
More importantly (at least for today’s discussion), I became a rescuer…of Wanda.
Our relationship was built, from the very beginning, on meeting each other’s needs. That sounds so good…but it is so deadly. Wanda had huge unmet needs for belonging…for security…for protection…for healing…for self-confidence. I had a huge need to be a knight in shining armor…to rescue and protect…to have my ego fed…to be in control and have someone depend on me.
Sounds like a recipe for a perfect marriage, huh? Wrong. So wrong.
When we look to people to fill needs in our life…the deepest needs of purpose and worth and belonging and security and significance…we are headed for failure. Why? Because people are not perfect. They fail. Eventually. Sooner, usually, than later.
Being the created, there are needs that can only be met by the creator. We cannot look to people…not even our spouses or our parents or our children…to meet them. That’s asking too much.
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19
Once we start understanding this, life…and marriage…can be different.
- Wanda does not meet my need for a purpose in life. I find that in listening to the voice of Jesus.
- I cannot meet Wanda’s need for security…not perfectly. She can only find that in a relationship with the one who can never, ever, fail her.
- Wanda cannot meet my need to have someone depend on me. That comes from a twisted self-centeredness. What I really need is to simply be a servant.
- I cannot meet Wanda’s need for healing. That can only be met by a Healer.
When we look at our spouses to provide the things that only God is designed to provide, we set our spouses…and ourselves…up for failure.
In the earliest years of our marriage, my failures to live up to her expectations led to her jealousy, frustration, loneliness, conflict and withdrawal. Her failures to be what i needed her to be, led to my judgment, anger, emptiness, disappointment and alienation.
(It was at this point in our marriage…around years two and three…that we had the loving, but determined, involvement of others move into our lives for encouragement, teaching, and accountability. Without it, I don’t think we would have figured this out on our own. We were too young and stupid!)
This doesn’t mean we don’t give our spouses our best and continue to grow and develop and deepen. It simply means we have to place responsibility where it belongs.
We have the capacity, by God’s design and presence, to be strong, confident, independent, loving, giving, serving, bold, forgiving, consistent, disciplined, honest, committed, dependable, secure, loving, healed and purposeful…and God may even use your spouse to build those characteristics in your life.
But your spouse was never, ever designed to meet the primary needs of personal worth, security, confidence, significance and purpose in your life. Your marriage was never designed to define you, give you meaning, or fill holes in your life.
Marriage is designed to be the icing on the cake of your life…not the cake, itself!