Perfect relationships ruin love lives?
“My parents’ happy married life ruined my love life.”
Did you see that headline this week? “My parents’ happy married life ruined my love life.”
Talk about eye-catching. But when you read the Washington Post column it was attached to, you discover that like so much online content, the full article isn’t exactly represented by its click-bait headline.
Yes, writer Tracey Lord does believer her parents’ “perfect marriage” set her up to fail in the game of love. But she freely admits how “ridiculous she sounds” and, even more remarkably, comes up with many rich realisations which point to solutions to her heart problems.
If only she recognised them herself.
“How can two loving people in a good marriage ruin their kid?” asks Lord of herself. “Here’s how: My parents were great together. They were soul mates. I grew up watching their interactions and thinking how cool it was that my parents were still happy together and still held hands. But their strong relationship gave me unrealistic expectations about my own search for a partner.”
Most of us blame all kinds of other stuff for relationship failures — from movies to personality traits, self-help books to religion.
Lord doesn’t do that. Instead of lashing out at society’s values or God’s standards or anything else, she just blames her parents’ “perfect” marriage.
Lord does much confessing in her article, including how she dated a lot of “losers”. But she is savvy enough to know that even if the “right” guy did show up, she has been “so focused on a man being perfect that I’ll likely miss someone who has just what I need”.
All is not lost?
Confusing Lord’s love radar has been the crippling belief that she “can’t live up to the model” of relationship she witnessed in her parents. Perhaps you feel a similar way, in light of a particular relationship you’ve been close to.
I don’t know whether you think there is any hope for your love life but it sounds like Lord has accepted she is done for.
Until, that is, her last few sentences…
“Maybe someday I’ll meet the love of my life and we’ll have a happy marriage,” offers Lord. “I’ll try to focus on what qualities really make the best mate for me. And I’ll stop chasing perfection. Because I don’t need a perfect person. I just need someone whose imperfections work well with mine.”
Hang on. What? Wait. What?
Is it me or has Lord just undermined that eye-catching headline?
Isn’t she admitting her love life doesn’t have to be ruined by her parents’ marriage?
What’s really ruining you
I hope Lord has re-read her own column and seen how it’s not her parents’ marriage that is ruining her.
What’s ruining her love life is how she almost religiously believes her parents’ marriage is the perfect pinnacle of relationships.
NEWS FLASH: No-one’s marriage is the perfect pinnacle of relationships.
And while Lord’s mum and dad did talk themselves up to their daughter, her own column indicates she is old enough, wise enough and insightful enough to realise their example is not the only one she must live by.
I hope Lord seeks guidance and input elsewhere. Particularly as she astutely admits that she should be trying to work out “what qualities really make the best mate for me”.
But how would any of us work that out? Especially, as Lord also observes, we are still talking about imperfect people getting into intimate relationship with another imperfect person.
A great place to start looking is the source of all relationships. God. The author of life, community and intimacy. The One who is Love (1 John 4:8)
As you rightly would expect, God knows what there is to know about exercising love.
Despite our imperfections and failures and doubts and all the other unloving things we can live out, God can still guide us in His perfect love.
But… will we allow Him to do that, or simply continue to believe we are doomed to failure when it comes to love in our lives?
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