Learning to Love the Stranger That is Your Spouse

Written with love, by Pastor Dave Page

I said “I do” when I married my wife, but truth be told, I really didn’t know what I was doing.  Did I love her with all my heart? I did.  Did we have a memorable honeymoon? Superb.  Did I know her very well? I thought I did but I really didn’t.  When you first fall in love you think you love the person but you don’t really. You can’t know the person right away. That is a process that takes years. You actually love the idea of the person, which at first is one-dimensional and much mistaken. You quickly learn that marriage brings you into more intense proximity to another human being than any other relationship can. This can be exhilarating while at the same time unnerving. 

marriage advice - Learning to Love the Stranger That is Your Spouse

Over the years you will go through seasons in which you have to learn to love a person you didn’t marry who is something of a stranger. You will need to make changes that you don’t want to make and so will your spouse. 

Duke University Ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas said:

“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.”

Marriage profoundly changes us.  Marriage brings out and reveals traits in you that were there all along but were hidden from everyone including you, but now they are seen by your spouse. In marriage you are exposed. Your mask is removed.  Pastor Tim Keller said, “Marriage does not so much bring you into confrontation with your spouse as confront you with yourself.” That certainly is my experience.

At some point you realize it’s time to grow up, time to change, time to forgive.  Ruth Graham said, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”  The fact is, both spouses come into the marriage as broken people.  Pastor Bill Hybels said, “Consider the math of marriage: One sinner plus another sinner equals two sinners. Double trouble under one roof. Add a couple sinnerlings and we’re talking quadruple trouble under that same single roof.” 

As a person of faith I believe in a God of grace. As I receive his grace in my life I am able to extend that grace to my wife.  The key is to hang in there long enough, through the seasons of marriage, to become compatible with the stranger that is your spouse.  Incompatibility in marriage is really immaturity and selfishness. Mature couples value differences and grow, learning what real love really is.