In This Series:

1. When Expectations Meet Reality
2. Why Isn’t Marriage the Way I Thought It Would Be?
3. Why Isn’t My Wife the Person I Thought She Was?
4. Viewing Your Wife in a New Light
5. Why Isn’t My Husband the Person I Thought He Was?
6. Viewing Your Husband in a New Light

  1. Did I Marry the Wrong Person?
    8. How Can I Change My Spouse?

Movie star Mickey Rooney said, "Marriage is like batting in baseball; when the right one comes along, you don’t want to let it go by." It sounds good, until you realise that Mickey was married eight times. He must have had a lot of "good pitches" to swing at!

Not to be outdone, Glynn DeMoss Wolfe, the world record holder of 26 marriages at the time, made a similar comparison. "Marriage is like stamp collecting," he said. "You keep looking to find that rare one."

Both men held what might be called the "needle in a haystack" view of picking a mate. According to this perspective, there’s only one spouse with whom you could be happy. That person needs to be found even if it means discarding a spouse who no longer looks right for you.

Significant emotional pain lies in the wake of such a view. You won’t find a "wrong needle" clause in the Bible that gives you an "out" if you conclude that your spouse isn’t right for you. Instead you’ll find in Malachi 2:15, "Do not break faith with the wife of your youth."

Marriage is not primarily about finding the right spouse. It’s about being the right person.

When you’re single, you experience a range of contentment from low to high. When you marry, that range has the potential to become even wider in both directions. Greater contentment—or discontentment—can take place than in your single years.

If you and your loved one were unhappy as singles and expected marriage to fulfill your lives, you probably were greatly disappointed as your level of contentment dropped even lower. But if you sensed meaning and purpose in your lives individually and wanted to share them in a lifetime commitment, you likely experienced an increase in contentment. You might call this the Mine Theory of Mate Selection. You either find the "land mine" or the "gold mine" in marriage.

If you entered marriage hoping to finally find happiness in your mate, you probably didn’t find it. Like a carpenter who may first have to remove the floorboards in order to shore up the joists underneath, you may first need to find contentment individually.

During courtship, people are often sure they’ve found the "gold mine." Both spouses-to-be tend to get excited about this wonderful, new relationship. The fireworks of romance help them act kinder, more selflessly, and more empathetically than they might when the fire fades.

We tend to fill in the gaps regarding the person we love. We assume during courtship that since he’s willing to sit and listen to our feelings about life, he’ll show the same concern after marriage when we want to talk about our frustrations. When he doesn’t, we assume we married the wrong person.

In reality, he probably was not as wonderful as you thought he was before you married. On the other hand, he’s probably not as terrible as you might now be thinking.

In his classic work, The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm declares, "To love somebody is not just a strong feeling—it is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were just a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever."

Dr. James Dobson conveys a similar message in his book Romantic Love: "You see, [a couple’s] love is not defined by the highs and lows, but is dependent on a commitment of their will. Stability comes from this irrepressible determination to make a success of marriage and to keep the flame aglow regardless of the circumstances."

When the two of you walked down the aisle, each of you became the right person for the other. Yes, you may look back and second-guess your reasons. But you entered an arena in which learning to truly love someone takes a lifetime.

Is your spouse perfect? Not a chance. Welcome to the human race.

That’s what Larry and Linda learned.

Larry no longer felt the excitement he had when he and Linda were dating. She didn’t speak to him as sweetly as in the old days. And if her spending habits continued, the two of them would end up in the poorhouse. Larry concluded that he’d made a mistake by marrying Linda.

When they entered counselling, Larry assumed Linda was not the woman for him. But he came to understand that even though Linda wasn’t perfect, learning to love her was helping him grow as a spouse and become more loveable.

Larry might not have married Linda, knowing what he now knows about her. Yet he recognises that beyond human decisions, God somehow works His purposes into the equation.

Larry no longer views marriage with a "needle in a haystack" mentality. He considers Linda as the one he’s promised to love both in sickness and in health.

© 2006 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Adapted from Focus on the Family’s Complete Guide to the First Five Years of Marriage a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers. Article originally appears at

Next in the series: How Can I Change My Spouse?

Glenn Lutjens

Glenn Lutjens, a licensed marriage and family therapist, is a Focus on the Family counsellor, helping people address life’s challenges and marital opportunities in a balanced manner. He also maintains a private practice in Colorado Springs. Glenn and his wife, Elizabeth, have been married 26 years and have three children.

Tell your friends