When I first entered the “dating scene,” I had a list of ideals that my future husband would have. I’m not talking about standards, because those are good to have. I’m talking about an idealist image—nothing short of a movie. But, I came to realize that no man made me “feel” a magical way all the time, and I could never imagine a man “completing” me. That’s when I realized I was looking for God in a future spouse, instead of someone who brought me closer to God’s ideal love.
When we expect all these things from one human being, we make our future spouse our idol.
When we look for God in the wrong places, Fr. John Powell pointed out, “in the end we are always left with the same painful emptiness which we were led to believe we could fill.”
Just think about it: God, in His infinite love, is the most powerful and complete love we will ever experience. In our journey of faith with our Lord, are we happy all the time? Do we have a magical feeling of love for God every moment?
No, we don’t. Even in our relationship with God, we don’t experience the perfect and everlasting happiness of heaven here on earth all the time. We don’t experience it all the time because we are fallen humans.
If we don’t have this magical “in love” feeling all the time in our relationship with God, how can we expect to have that with a fallen, imperfect human being? There are limitations of love between two human beings. In the words of Sebastian Moore, “We are limited by our own boundaries, our awareness. We cannot get inside, interior, to another. We cannot meet totally.”
God alone satisfies.
Instead of looking to a human being to “complete” us, we should be looking to God. We make our future spouse our “god” if we look for someone who satisfies in the way only God can. Reuel Howe noted, “Much marriage … unhappiness [is] due to the failure of the partners to accept … their finiteness … Instead, they hold themselves up to ideals … possible only to God.”
While marriage is an ideal, it is also a reality.
The ideal of marriage says that “authentic married love is caught up into divine love.” (CCC 1639). It’s a reflection of Christ’s perfect love for His bride, the Church. But, it only a reflection. If we expect a relationship to measure up to the ideal, it never will. We are all fallen human beings.
Thankfully, husbands and wives don’t have to do it alone, because God grants grace to those who are married, so that they have special assistance in their lifelong partnership. “‘Christ is the source of this grace… through the sacrament of Matrimony.’ Christ dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another’s burdens…’” (CCC 1642).
Let’s be sure we don’t make marriage such an ideal that is no longer a reality.
Let’s keep in mind who truly completes us—God. God’s love for us is the greatest love story of all time. Let’s dwell in His love and be satisfied with the everlasting and perfect love He shows for us every moment of every day. Let’s not look for that perfect love in a human being, but be satisfied with God’s perfect love, and rest in that.
Also, see part 2: “What should I look for in a future spouse?”
Emily Brandenburg is a Catholic Youth and Young Adult leader in the Diocese of Orange, California. She hosts a large Bible study and Praise, Worship, and Adoration evenings. In addition, she is concertmaster of St. Martin’s Orchestra, holds a J.D. from Pepperdine School of Law, and is a full-time attorney. She enjoys spending time outdoors, fellowshipping with family and friends, making new friends, and always having a good laugh. You can connect with her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Emily-Brandenburg/1565280567042667 and Instagram at @emily_brande. She blogs at TheNetofLove.blogspot.com.