You Never Marry the Right Person

How our culture misunderstands compatibility.

In generations past, there was far less talk about “compatibility” and finding the ideal soul-mate. Today we are looking for someone who accepts us as we are and fulfills our desires, and this creates an unrealistic set of expectations that frustrates both the searchers and the searched for.

In John Tierney’s classic humor article “Picky, Picky, Picky” he tries nobly to get us to laugh at the impossible situation our culture has put us in. He recounts many of the reasons his single friends told him they had given up on their recent relationships:

“She mispronounced ‘Goethe.’”
“How could I take him seriously after seeing The Road Less Traveled on his bookshelf?”
“If she would just lose seven pounds.”
“Sure, he’s a partner, but it’s not a big firm. And he wears those short black socks.”
“Well, it started out great ... beautiful face, great body, nice smile. Everything was going fine—until she turned around.” He paused ominously and shook his head. ”... She had dirty elbows.”

In other words, some people in our culture want too much out of a marriage partner. They do not see marriage as two flawed people coming together to create a space of stability, love and consolation, a “haven in a heartless world,” as Christopher Lasch describes it. Rather, they are looking for someone who will accept them as they are, complement their abilities and fulfill their sexual and emotional desires. This will indeed require a woman who is “a novelist/astronaut with a background in fashion modeling,” and the equivalent in a man. A marriage based not on self-denial but on self-fulfillment will require a low- or no-maintenance partner who meets your needs while making almost no claims on you. Simply put—today people are asking far too much in the marriage partner.

You never marry the right person

The Bible explains why the quest for compatibility seems to be so impossible. As a pastor I have spoken to thousands of couples, some working on marriage-seeking, some working on marriage-sustaining and some working on marriage-saving. I’ve heard them say over and over, “Love shouldn’t be this hard, it should come naturally.” In response I always say something like: “Why believe that? Would someone who wants to play professional baseball say, ‘It shouldn’t be so hard to hit a fastball’? Would someone who wants to write the greatest American novel of her generation say, ‘It shouldn’t be hard to create believable characters and compelling narrative’?” The understandable retort is: “But this is not baseball or literature. This is love. Love should just come naturally if two people are compatible, if they are truly soul-mates. “

The Christian answer to this is that no two people are compatible. Duke University Ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas has famously made this point:

Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become "whole" and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person.

We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.

Hauerwas gives us the first reason that no two people are compatible for marriage, namely, that marriage profoundly changes us. But there is another reason. Any two people who enter into marriage are spiritually broken by sin, which among other things means to be self-centered—living life incurvatus in se. As author Denis de Rougemont said, “Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love ... ?” That is why a good marriage is more painfully hard to achieve than athletic or artistic prowess. Raw, natural talent does not enable you to play baseball as a pro or write great literature without enduring discipline and enormous work. Why would it be easy to live lovingly and well with another human being in light of what is profoundly wrong within our human nature? Indeed, many people who have mastered athletics and art have failed miserably at marriage. So the biblical doctrine of sin explains why marriage—more than anything else that is good and important in this fallen world—is so painful and hard.

No false choices

You Might Also Like

The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the Gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The Gospel is—we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared to believe, and at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.

The hard times of marriage drive us to experience more of this transforming love of God. But a good marriage will also be a place where we experience more of this kind of transforming love at a human level.

Excerpt from THE MEANING OF MARRIAGE © 2011 by Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller.  Published by Dutton, A Member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Excerpted with permission from the publisher. All Rights Reserved.

Top Comments



J-Co commented…

I've never been married nor am I on the path towards marriage. BUT, I will say that I don't think the author was being negative or hopeless. I think he was just saying the perception that the person you end up marrying is the perfect match for you is inaccurate. The best we can hope for is someone who understands our faults, is accepting of them, and is willing to move past it. Everyone deserves to be with someone patient enough to make them better. I agree with the writer as a single person because it actually gives me hope. I hate to be that person, but Hollywood and our society have completely damaged us in terms of our willingness to try. "We grew apart" and "We just don't fit anymore" seems like a bunch of nonsense. It sounds like two people saying, I'm not having fun, I want to try something else. Movies make it seem like marriage consists of a lot of googly eyes, the occasional fight that usually results in "make-up sex" where everything is ok again. From what I've witnessed, that's not the case.

But, this is coming from a single person so take it as you will!


Violet commented…

Have you ever witnessed what happens when someone puts in HARD WORK in an effort to maintain a relationship with a POOR FIND? It can tear you apart.


Jessie Bender


Jessie Bender commented…

I want the world to know a great man that is well known as Dr Miracle,he has the perfect solution to relationship issues and marriage problems. The main reason why i went to Dr Miracle was for solution on how i can get my husband back because in recent times i have read some testimonies on the internet which some people has written about Dr Miracle and i was so pleased and i decided to seek for assistance from him on his email (MIRACLESPELLHOME@YAHOO.COM) which he did a perfect job by casting a spell on my husband which made him to come back to me and beg for forgiveness.I will not stop publishing his name on the net because of the good work he is doing. I will drop his contact for the usefulness of those that needs his help.His Email Dr miracles"CONTACT via EMAIL:MIRACLESPELLHOME@YAHOO.COM You can contact him today and get your problem solved.Call +2348071398555.." or you can also contact him through his website



ayeshaye commented…

we should have to fully understand the character of our partner before deciding to get married, because after there is no problem in living together after marriage.

Jessie Bender


Jessie Bender commented…

my name is Rumessa Sharif My Ex-husband dumped me for a new woman 3 years after our marriage. And i was totally devastated and cried all day and night for aid. My Love life completely turned out to be a mess, because i couldn't just carry on with it anymore.. I was at the point of doing whatever thing that will save my Marriage and make him mine again, because i knew he was my soul mate and i fell deeply in love with him. We were both head over heels and over the moon for one another, and his feelings for me was so strong and he promised me love eternal. Life and pressure got in the way about two weeks before my birthday, And was pressured by his Mother to divorce me, and forced me to sign the divorce papers after seeing the attorney.. For weeks after our divorce he still remained in contacts with me, and after some times he no longer (calls nor texts) anymore. So i had no other choice than to cry out for help to Dr OGALA the spell caster i found online, and to my best of luck, he was right presently here in united states.. so he did cast a spell for me and he assured me positive result after 24 hours.. For the first time in 14 months my ex husband did called me for apologies, and he felt so sorry and remorseful for ever leaving me, and he told me how much he love and miss me. And his spells made me so unique in the Sight of my husband, and did open his eyes and made him remember why and how we fell in love in the first place..Thank you for your help! From the depth of my heart of hearts I know we are meant to be. your website truly helped me and brought joy to my life once again. Telephone: TELEPHONE:+2348039456308.WEBSITE:

Cecilia Mercy


Cecilia Mercy commented…

HOW I GET MY RELATIONSHIP BACK WITH MY LOVER AGAIN through DR OGUMEN of , my mount is full of testimonies but here is a little i can say out of the whole wondrous things DR OGUMEN has done for me i was in a great and the sweetest relationship with my man JONES SAMMY for two years and we were both in good terms and even planning of getting married this September 2015 so when he traveled for on the a business trip to Australia he melt a lady there whom he dated for two months and when he returned back to home he began to behave strange and with not long he said he is tired of this relationship looking for ways to break our love life and he finally push me out and bring in the Australia lady with him .this time i was frustrated and devastated about my love life so i vow not to rest until i am able to get back the only man i have ever loved so i began to look for a solution to restore my love life . one day my friend Jessica Sanchez came to me telling me about this man DR OGUMEN saying this man has helped he restore his life so i said let me also try as i have no other choice in getting back Jones . at first when i contacted he i thought nothing will work but it was like a dream and surprise when he told me go my child i have and wait for Jones can within the next 3 days and to my greatest surprise Jones actually called me and was pleading on the phone saying he was under a spell from the other lady so with all this great things DR OGUMEN of has done for me i want you all to join me to say thank you to this man .or call +2348112060028


Jasmine Gomez


Jasmine Gomez commented…

This is a very joyful day of my life because of the help Dr.Okika has rendered to me , I am out here to spreed this good news to the entire world on how I got my ex love back.I was going crazy when my love left me for another girl last month, But when i met the Email address of Dr okika the great messenger to the oracle that he serve,I narrated my problem to Dr okika about how my ex love left me and also how i needed to get a job in a very big company. He only said to me that i have come to the right place were i will be getting my heart desire without any side effect .He told me what i need to do After it was been done,In the next 24 hours,My love called me on the phone and was saying sorry for living me before now and also in the next one week after my love called me to be pleading for forgiveness,I was called for an interview in my desired company were i needed to work .I am so happy. Contact this great man too for help, his contact: (OKIKASPELLTEMPLE@GMAIL.COM or OKIKASPELLTEMPLE@YAHOO.COM). Call his cell phone +2348134367919,

Please log in or register to comment

Log In