RomComs Vs. Reality…and Why the Latter is Better

I recently read an article that got me to thinking about the difference between the portrayal of relationships in a typical romantic comedy and what actually occurs in a real marriage, or at least one in which two individuals are attempting to follow Christ.

Now before you label me the Enemy of Romance or otherwise typically biased against these kinds of things, I don’t mind admitting that romcoms can have their moments. Not only can they be entertaining when done well, but they occasionally shine an insightful light on the inherent and sometimes humorous challenges human beings have in developing relationships.

It’s just that those insights tend to focus on the front end of said relationships.

That is, after all, the nature of the beast: we follow our romantic protagonists through their adverse circumstances, misunderstandings, and mistakes until they realize what we’ve suspected all along, that they “belong” together. As the closing credits roll, we’re left to imagine a glowing future for the happy couple. (One that might involve, say, wardrobes ripped from the latest J.Crew catalog, an urban-hip apartment, great sex, and the promise of regular weekend brunches. And maybe a dog.)

In stories like these, marriage is sometimes the closing act. In real life, though, it’s just the beginning of the relationship. Even in wonderful, satisfying marriages, what happens after the wedding is often always very different from the beatific visions mentioned above.

That’s why I appreciate it when someone writes about marriage with honesty and genuine insight. And that certainly applies to the article by Nicole Russell I mentioned at the outset. It’s full of candid, quotable material. For example:

  • If life is a process of becoming less selfish, as my dad has been telling me for years, then marriage is a process of pulling back the curtain on those places where you’ve neglected to become less selfish. The less I think about me, the happier we both are.
  • As a Midwestern girl with an English degree, I grabbed hold of Emily Bronte’s adage, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same” as zealously as Mr. Darcy loved Elizabeth (thank you, Jane Austen). But that maxim has only allowed me, when things have gotten difficult, to teeter on the edge of thinking: “This guy isn’t right for me. Is there someone else better?” The grass isn’t greener, folks. It’s all a dingy shade of yellow because we’re all flawed, selfish people. Just focus on watering when and where you can and take a big drink from the hose yourself—you need the most work, anyway.
  • Some of the best times in my life have been with my husband. …We’ve experienced adventure, fostered trust, nurtured love, and just enjoyed each other’s company—whether watching a movie at home or attending a once-in-a-lifetime show on Broadway. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies, but it isn’t always sleeping alone on the couch, either.
  • For many years—in fact, if I were honest, probably up until five seconds ago—I really wanted to Just Be Happy in my marriage. If he would do all the right stuff and just appreciate all my right stuff we’d be riding unicorns into the sunset. But if happiness is the goal, we’ll always be dissatisfied because, no human being can truly satiate another completely, especially within the imperfect institution of marriage. Focus on God and others, then improving your flaws, and you might land on something that resembles joy.

As Russell suggests, marriage is not the One Key To True Happiness Forever and Ever. It is, however, a wonderful thing. That’s true for any number of reasons, including the fact that God regularly uses it to make each spouse more into the person he wisely, lovingly, and graciously intends us to be. And that, by definition, will result in our good and his glory.

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