On the myth of true love

People / Monday, September 16th, 2013

Confession: Sometimes I am tired of hearing about this “true love” bit. I suspect the way we talk about it is all wrong.

We talk about it as the one true path amid a host of bunny trails. We say that it’s waiting, that it’s out there somewhere. We say that we found it, as though after trying many times, we finally hit the nail on the head. This is it—the perfect match for me.

I don’t believe it. I think the perfect match is a myth, a hybrid legend born out of Disney and a poor understanding of predestination.

I used to think it was so—that my true love was a person out there waiting for me, and I was waiting for him. And then I found a very nice boy and he asked me to marry him and I said yes and we promised forever. So I thought okay, this is my true love. He came.

But the very nice boy turned out to have serious issues…


(True love doesn’t have serious issues, does it?)

And, surprisingly enough, I turned out to have serious issues myself… cartloads of them.

(My happy dreams of effortless harmony took a little tumble. Had I got it wrong? What if we weren’t compatible after all?)

News flash: Compatibility is overrated.

Now before you start bridling about where you think I’m going with this: I’m not here to say you can’t make a reckless decision and suffer for it. Obviously there are many people in the world who would be horridly ill-suited to you, people whose values, beliefs, and lifestyles would be nearly impossible to mesh with your own.

But true love is not a reward for those who get it right. It’s not a mystical something that happens to a few, who marry the right boy at the right time for the right reasons and consequently have everything go right. Everything doesn’t go right. Life happens.

And you are not perfect for each other.

So you are a neatnik and had no IDEA what his office was gonna look like.

So you love classical music and he really doesn’t get into that high-falutin stuff, even though he sort of did while you were dating.

So you are a foodie, passionate about flavor and texture, and his favorite dish in the world features ground-up hotdogs.

So your idea of rising at the crack of dawn is 8:30 sharp, and he’s got a game plan starting two hours before that…

Rest assured. It’s okay.

It’s more than okay. It’s infinity to the power of ten okay. Conflict and difficulty do not signal a lack of true love, but an opportunity to grow in it.

The problem with believing you married him because he’s the right one is that at some point, you will encounter an obstacle so nearly insurmountable you’ll wonder if he’s the wrong one. Just don’t even go there. True love isn’t roulette, maybe you got it and maybe you missed it. True love is not about getting the right person, finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. True love is not back there with the old boyfriend or down the road with the next cute guy. (In fact, the idea that true love might be found with someone new is a paradox in itself.)

The thing about true love is, you have to be true. If you married him, he’s the one; there are no dead ends and no blue screens, short of heinous sin that destroys the marriage on its own.

(Him drinking his coffee in richly acoustical slurps does not qualify as heinous sin.)

True love is a continual state of being, like sanctification: you are in it and getting in it and about to get in more of it and not yet fully in it, all at the same time.

That’s why “It wasn’t true love” is such a dumb thing to say. It could have been true love and if it was you wouldn’t be talkin about it in the past tense, honey.

In fact, the only difference that I can think of between true love and not-true-love is that true love wakes up the next morning and loves again. And again. And again. Despite the morning breath and the end of the honeymoon, despite the messy office and the shrieking classical, love just doesn’t give up. And about the time you think you can’t keep dishing it out when he doesn’t deserve it, you’ll find he’s been serving it back to you, most truly. And guess what? You don’t deserve it.

Love begets love begets love begets love and the last love of all is the true.

30 Replies to “On the myth of true love”

  1. Love it; in spite of not being fully awake. (Only one silent sip of coffee has been taken) Now I will go and gulp the rest and get on with my day. May your day be extra sweet.

  2. I love this – in fact I love it so much I want to read it at my daughter’s rehearsal dinner. I was thinking just earlier today that I definitely don’t believe in “love at first sight”. Love has nothing to do with looks and everything to do with the everyday – good, bad, getting through things, and knowing it’s all a package. Nothing wrong with a good looking spouse though! haha “If you married him, he’s the one…” Great words. Bravo.

  3. Just.so.you.know.

    You were described to me as:

    “she’s so comfortable and his eyes are so gentle and knowing and KIND.
    and together they’re more ‘one’ than ‘two’.”

    Maybe your ‘oneness’ feels a bit bipolar at times, but you sure make it look attractive.:)

    These posts warm my heart with their wonderfully raw humanness – thank you!!!

  4. Aaahemm!!
    I seem to recall many conversations on whether there is only one perfect person for you. It’s nice to know that you still have the capability and humility to learn…even if it is thirteen years coming.

  5. May it never be thought of us that we still hold the same notions on life in general as in the days of idealism at MBS….or perhaps those “perfect person” conversations didn’t take place there? But do you remember the lengthy one on “is beauty relative”? Perhaps someday you could post your new and revised edition of that. Although we might have been arguing that one correctly the first time around, even in our days of ignorance. Likely 13 years from now we will consider these to be our days of ignorance and make no comment at all. And I just broke my policy on comments. Guaranteed, it will be rare.

  6. Good things here…but I still blindly believe “he” is perfect for me…not perfect just the perfect one for me. 😉 Love the “richly acoustical slurps” This post makes me smile…Your last two paragraphs especially, I respond with a hearty, “Amen.”

  7. It’s a refreshing, realistic twist. Alleviates a bit of the pressure of it all, it does. But I still cling a little tenaciously to my idea that God does (really!) have one chosen for me. Isn’t He just as involved as I want Him to be? After all, if a girl finds security in having her father choose one for her, don’t you think he will? I thought of the careful electing of Rebecca… but I admit that is one against the many that do not show evidence of God necessarily having a heavy hand in the choosing.

    We could take this question all over the board. What about a specific location or vocation… does God care where we live or what we do– as long as we are obeying and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

    I really enjoy your blog.


    1. Great thoughts and questions!

      I thought of Rebekah as I wrote. To me, the amazing thing about that story is that they asked her if she wanted to go! This amazingly-complex-plot-with-God’s-fingerprint-on-it stood or fell at the whim of a girl child, who was (to my mind) entirely free to say no.

      We all agree that God allows His children choice. But I take it to mean much more than a yea or nay to His foreordained will. I mean that He offers us actual choices, genuine initiative, active membership. I believe God is big enough to weave real human ideas and enterprises into His plan—otherwise the notion that we can “create” or “imagine” or “invent” has no meaning at all.

      God always cares about what we do–cares deeply, involves Himself fully. But once we have come alongside Him and aligned ourselves with His purposes (conversion), He permits us the glory of having Him come alongside us (Spirit filling)–so that we work in tandem, with a nearly indistinguishable line between whose brain it started in. His mind is in ours, His Spirit mingled with our own. (1 Cor. 2:9-16)

      For His glory!

  8. That is a beautiful picture. The girl child making a decision that weaves right into the tapestry of God’s plan. I don’t remember noticing that before. Also, I liked your last paragraph. It resonated as true, as good sense to me. But sometimes even while working in tandem — or at least under the protective umbrella of serving God, many people run up against crushing disappointment. Later to decide that it was God’s will; He saw that they needed a disappointment more than a certain individual for a husband/wife and, oh, by the way, “I actually have someone in mind I want you to wait on anyway. You will be delighted.”


    1. The vulnerability of choice… we can make good or bad choices. Kinda puts more responsibility in our lap then we care for at times, eh?

      1. That is what always strikes me about the conversations I hear, read or have about true love, so much of the emphasis seems to be on finding the right marriage partner. Or the fear of not finding the exact, God sent, perfect match just for you. I think we cling to some of these ideas because they absolve us of responsibility. My marriage becomes a result of how “perfectly” (or imperfectly) I chose my spouse. Instead of the product of the daily choices which I have made after I got married that have affected my marriage by, “Infinity to the power of ten” (as Shari put it). True love is a choice. But, it is not a choice between eligible marriage partners. True love is a continuing choice, an everyday, again, and again choice to………. LOVE. To completely, totally, impossibly, and without reservation attempt to drown the partner you have chosen, in the love which only God can give. Love is the breath of marriage. It lasts about as long too. So BREATHE!

  9. Good stuff! If I would have known (if young girls could be taught) this idea before marriage, there would be much less disappointment in marriage!

  10. I think there can be pressure either way you think about it. If there is just one right person out there and I miss him/her, I’m miserable for life, or at least miss life’s best. On the other hand, if God is letting me make the choice myself, (which seems to be the opposite view of a lot of people) how in the world can I do a good job choosing? I don’t have a tenth of the wisdom and knowledge of God, and I can’t see the future.

    Does this come down to the question, “Does God have a plan for me or is he just letting me blunder along by myself?” I think not… I hadn’t thought about this for a while, but reading this today (and the comments) makes me realize how simplistic that is.

    I like Michelle’s thoughts. (“Isn’t He just as involved as I want Him to be? After all, if a girl finds security in having her father choose one for her, don’t you think he will?” Those questions are an intriguing angle I hadn’t thought of before. If we ASK God to choose for us, will he?) And I like your thoughts in response. One thing I always insisted on, to those who believed the “God doesn’t care who I marry. It’s for us to choose!” theory. God surely cannot be THAT uninvolved! If he is totally uninvolved in helping me find the right person, surely he would be uninvolved in everything else in life too? I don’t think I could deal with the thought of a God who lets us blunder along all alone, not lending us his wisdom at all.

    Thank you for a really good article. There is DEFINITELY a peace and a letting go that happens in marriage when you realize that there is not just one perfect one out there, and you may have missed it. It makes a marriage more beautiful. I know someone who struggled a lot with “maybe I married the wrong one,” at one point, and I wish I had had this article to give her.

  11. Shari, I think this should be required reading for every couple considering marriage. Or for that matter for everyone. So much TRUTH packed in here. I kept nodding and agreeing as I read it. True love is about being faithful and committed even when you don’t feel “in love”. Cause lets face it, we don’t always feel it.

  12. Excellent stuff here.
    And I would say you can die happy, now that you have written this line for the ages: “a hybrid legend born out of Disney and a poor understanding of predestination.”

  13. OK, I appreciate what you’re saying. There are a lot of people who have naive expectations regarding life long commitments. Any marriage requires a LOT of effort and people shouldn’t give up at the first sign of difficulty. Still, what does one do when the “perfect guy” turns out to have been acting throughout the courtship period, only to pull a bait and switch routine once the ring’s on? My lovely, tender, charming man did a complete about-face as soon as we were married, which was 16 years ago now. When we dated he was considerate and warm. He actually TALKED to me and I really felt connected to him. Almost instantly after the wedding he admitted that he’d never really liked any of the things we did together, he just pretended to win me over. He suddenly refused to leave the house except to work and demanded that I do the same. He started spending all his time on the computer playing games and watching porn while I stared at the TV every night alone. We still rarely talk and pretty much live separate lives. He stays in his office with the door shut and only comes out when he wants something. There is zero emotional connection and I feel trapped and dead inside. We have young children and a mortgage, so leaving is not optional right now, but how does one go on living like this? Sure, marriage is work. I never had any illusions about that, but I never though it would be so terribly lonely either. We’ve been to counseling, but I’ve pretty much come to the realization that he simply isn’t interested in changing. This all seems to work just fine for him and he says that HE is happy. What do you do when the fairytale falls completely away and leaves an ugly reality?

    1. I am sorry, Ally! I too would be frustrated in the marriage you are describing. First of all I just want to agree with you that your situation is not “normal” or “okay.” It is totally understandable that you feel deep betrayal and loss.

      You have been given one thing though–a wonderful opportunity to model giving the kind of love you wish to receive. I applaud your willingness to stay in a tough marriage and keep working at it. Ally, you are deeply loved—you can say it to yourself every morning when you wake up and every night when you go to bed—Ally, you are deeply loved, if not by your husband, by the Lord Jesus. He has the power to turn the worst situation into something beautiful, and He will never let you go. Cry out to Him and ask Him to show you what love is like. Pray that He will meet your needs, and the needs of your husband. If you can draw strength from His love to keep on loving [actively loving your husband right in the middle of his whole disappointing undeserving mess], you will have tapped into the power that transforms the world: love that goes on loving and is willing to suffer wrong.

      Don’t be too quick to believe that your husband never enjoyed being with you; sometimes men do not know what to do after the wooing is “over,” and don’t realize the wooing can go on forever, into deeper and more delightful levels of love. He did think you were worth catching! It is tricky to invite a man into relationship without forcing or manipulating him, but your genuine love for him has the potential to win him back.

      Can you find a trusted friend or local pastor with whom to share your story, so that you can gain some healing and hope whether or not your husband is willing to change? If you would like to talk more let me know and I will email you. Praying for you, Shari

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