Your Spouse Will Not Satisfy Your Deepest Needs
September 6, 2022 | Jeff Patton
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved —and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."—Ephesians 2:4-7
A few years ago, I decided to jog a marathon. After training, I was able to jog 10 miles and not have to take 5 ibuprofen. In my mind, I imagined I looked like an Olympic runner. In reality, I looked like ex-college linebacker. I resembled Tim Conway in his “old man” skits, shuffling along inch by inch.
While jogging one day, I passed an elderly couple at their mailbox and mumbled “hello.” As I took a few more steps, I overheard the man say to his wife, “Big boy ain’t gonna make it honey.” Made me chuckle!
When it comes to marriage, couples who expect their spouse to meet their deepest needs of significance and worth ain’t gonna make it. Their marriage may survive, but they will experience profound disappointment.
Jenna and I learned this truth the hard way. After an 18-month dating whirlwind of bliss, our expectations were at an all time high. She assumed that I would always think she was great, and that I would always pursue her. She envisioned long walks and even longer conversations. Like a knight in shining armor, I was in some way going to rescue her from all her loneliness and insecurities. Yet there was more. She expected that having a spouse would validate her worth and significance. Finally, that deep-rooted need of hers to belong would be found in me.
I, on the other hand, expected her to be Mary Poppins incarnate—excited every time I walked in the door. How could she not be since she was married to me? Truth be known, I expected her to love being my wife, and for our sex life to be like fireworks on the 4th of July, especially since we had waited till marriage to be intimate. Like her, I had a buried but unknown need inside me. I craved validation as a man, as a provider and as a spiritual leader. My value was somehow bound up in what she thought of me.
So how did it go? We both failed miserably! Our first seven years of marriage were like World War III. I was everything she did not expect and vice versa. She went into a tail spin of despair and I flew into a hurricane of rage. In her darkest moments, she secretly prayed that God would kill her because divorce was not an option. Conversely, I was baffled at what to do to please this woman God had given me. I tried hard to be a good husband, but nothing worked. Add to this our sexual struggle and what you get is a hot mess!
It was at about this time that we were at a conference led by Dr. Gary Smalley. We asked to meet with him and explained our marital plight. His words of “failed expectations are a couple’s greatest source of frustration and anger” turned a light on for us. As a result, we began the long climb upward to understand the "why behind our what."
We began to learn that God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy. We’re made holy in the sense that that God uses all our frustrations, struggles and challenges to gradually change us. God graciously began to expose us to us and it wasn’t pretty! Our need-o-meter hit the top, and we leaned hard into Him.
We began to learn that we were believing lies—lies that said romance and sex could give us our significance and worth. We realized we had been focusing horizontally, on each other, in order to meet our deepest needs. We had embraced the flawed idea that we were nobodies unless somebody loved us. Internally, we hoped, we would be healed by each other. We were viewing each other as a savior. But as Tim Keller says, “No human is qualified for that role or can live up to that.”
Every marriage has these challenges because every marriage consists of a sinner married to a sinner. We harm our spouse when we ask too much of him or her. We simply cannot look to each other for ultimate fulfillment.
When Jenna and I began to grasp these truths, we gained real hope in our relationship.
If you know Christ, then God is your ultimate spouse who loves you with an everlasting love. He declares that you were once an orphan, but now an adopted child of the King.
As believers, we are bought back from the slave market of sin with something more precious than silver or gold—the precious blood of God’s son. Our value, worth and significance now come from what He says is true of us in Christ. The New Testament uses the phrase “in Christ” 165 times to declare our worth. Our search for significance is over because of what God has done for us in His Son.
The need for us to get this is crucial! It will save our marriage from the crushing weight of divine expectations laid upon our spouse. Grasping what God thinks of us will meet our deepest needs so we then can give to our spouse what we have been given by God in Christ. We don’t end up loving our spouse less, we actually love God more and in doing so our spouse experiences our love for them more.
God used our unrealistic expectations to point us to Himself!
- Take some individual time apart and write down the different unrealistic expectations you might be putting on one another. Get back together after this time alone and share what you have discovered.
- Take a few minutes and go back in your own story. Talk about the things in your family growing up that could have contributed to you looking horizontally to get your deepest needs met.
- Read the 1st three chapters of Ephesians together and identify the verses that speak of God’s great love for you “In Christ” and then help each other apply these verses to your life and marriage.
Pray: Thank God for His great love for you and ask Him to help you love your spouse like He has loved you.