My friend Louise has asked me to take her and her fiance, Elton, for marriage prepartion classes. They are getting married in September. So I have started to read Tim Keller's The Meaning of Marriage. In it he quotes Stanley Hauerwas, who says, 'we always marry the wrong person ... The primary problem of marriage is ... learning how to love the stranger to whom you find yourself married.' Before Caroline and I were married we were warned that no two people are compatible.
Keller puts it this way: 'Some people are really, really the wrong people to marry. But everyone else is still incompatible.'
Haurerwas bases his understanding of being the wrong person partly on the fact that people change. Indeed entering marriage itself changes people. They are no longer the person you married. Also, how do you know what they will be like in twenty years time? This reminds me of a time in the early years of my marriage. I was struggling to feel really attracted to Caroline. So I spoke to a friend about this. I wanted him to assure me that she was a babe (which of course she is). Instead he took my problem very intelligently and replied that it is a similar problem to that faced by all couples as they age and their spouse may no longer be as radiant as they were at first. Good point! But I still wanted him to assure me that she was a babe! Of course it is not just physically that we change as we grow older.
Keller bases his belief that no two people are compatible on the fact that all of us our sinful. My mum used to say something like, 'one day some girl will see what you are really like and she will really love you.' (That left me really disillusioned when I met a nice Christian girl, we went out for a while and she dumped me. I thought she was supposed to have discovered some great treasure). Of course, by the grace and kindness of God no person is as nasty as they could be, and in both Christian and non-Christian alike there are certain nice characteristics. However, I think the thing that any person discovers as they get to know another in marriage is how sinful and flawed they themselves are. I once saw a book on marriage that had a title that went something like, 'when two sinners tie the knot.'