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August 24, 2010

Marriage in Real Life

Shaking free from the bonds of expectation

I recently started watching Friday Night Lights, a show about the inner workings of a small Texas town and its obsession with football. The show centers on the high school football coach, Eric Taylor and his wife, Tami, as they—sometimes unknowingly—disciple the inhabitants of this small town in football and in life.

I’m only on the first season, but I’m already struck by Eric and Tami’s marriage. In fact, it might be the healthiest portrayal of marriage I’ve seen on TV . . . ever. In a sitcom world of oblivious, lazy husbands and manipulative wives, it’s refreshing to see a marriage in which husband and wife are equally supportive and kind toward each other.

I also appreciate that this fictional couple isn’t romanticized, but they’re healthy. Eric and Tami grapple through issues together. They unpack these worries at the end of the day, giving each other advice and grace as they go. And even in the thick drama of a television show, their lives aren’t flashy. In fact, sometimes the occasional mundane doldrums of marriage are so realistic that I wonder if I’m watching a real couple.

Sometimes a real, working marriage seems boring to an outsider, or even to us. And so many weeks in my own marriage, I find myself saying, “Wow, this is harder than I expected.” The tedious ins-and-outs and the difficulties of life together can be grating unless we realize this truth: It’s not all about us.

This stark concept, so utterly simple, is one of the hardest for us to grasp as individuals and as a culture. For example, I just finished reading Eat, Pray, Love, in which the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, becomes unhappy in her marriage . . . and leaves her husband. Wait, I must have missed something. When has marriage only been about personal fulfillment?

Marriage is not about the way of happiness, it’s about the Way of the Cross. This really shakes things up for us. Living in the shadow of the Cross, especially in the context of marital love, involves a daily dying to self, a constant sense of living for the other person, even when they’re annoying, thoughtless, or distant.

And this union, which the media fails to capture well, is built on a lifetime of sacrifice for the sake of Christ, for the sake of each other. Sometimes the sacrifice even means loving through the mundane moments, when we’d rather be flitting around Italy, eating copious amounts of pasta, and finding spiritual enlightenment. But marriage certainly isn't joyless, even with its sacrifices. Beauty and laughter also fill the cracks of the day-to-day, where we catch glimpses of heaven.

Real marriage, a far cry from even the best fictional portrayals, is a crucible, a vessel that can stand high stress and ultimately alter its contents, husband and wife. Through its joys and trials we are sanctified in order that we may love more fully.

What have you found to be untrue of our culture's perception or the media's portrayal of marriage? How does a true understanding of marriage combat those false messages?

Related Tags: Marriage


My husband and I are huge fans of FNL. In fact, as I type, we're anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Season 2 DVD so we can watch it in its entirety. We've noticed before how real and raw the Taylor marriage seems. It's part of the charm of this well-written show. So glad to know others are watching, too!

As much as we love FNL and the Taylors, I think the media generally gives no attention to the fact that the marriage relationship is a covenant relationship and is strongest when both parties are willing to commit, sacrifice, and serve... day after day after day. Romance and passion are by-products of a healthy marriage rather than gauges for determining whether or not the relationship is worth the effort.

It seems like our only hope for truly combatting all the false messages our culture throws at us is to be engaged in real-life community with people transparent enough to testify to the challenges... and immense rewards... of pursuing a God-centered marriage. Healthy community is a powerful defense.

We have three upcoming divorces in our small neighborhood, and we are heartbroken. My husband and I fight for our "oneness" not our romance or our wealth. We do whatever it takes to be in each others' worlds. http://www.livewithflair.blogspot.com/

My husband and I are almost to the end of FNL's Season 3. Eric and Tami's relationship continues to be a huge source of encouragement, conviction, and inspiration to us. And as you'll see, the beautiful message sent is "we're in this together". Even though I don't agree w/ everything about FNL, I applaud Peter Berg for portraying a couple who is committed no matter what.

I recently wrote a post about my sincere feeling that "happiness" is the wrong goal for marriage. It was actually prompted by a previous Kyria article. In my post I posed some possible alternative goals, such as selfless surrender, oneness, joy and peace, and as the Kyria article posed, holiness. (You can view my post in full at http://tinyurl.com/3ygj33p.)

I actually don't watch much TV anymore, and one of the very reasons is the negative stereotyping of marriages. Maybe I should check out FNL to at least partially redeem the media.

I've been a long-time reader here, but this is my first comment. Thanks for all the insightful stuff!

I am hooked on Friday Night Lights as well. You are correct, marriage is not about me, but that seems to skip past some couples today. In fact, I was distressed to hear in my nephews vows this past summer a promise to make the other one happy. Can't be done. Happiness is a choice you make for yourself.
A great book on the purpose of marriage and especially a Christian marriage is Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. I highly recommend it.

My understanding about marriage has always been that it's not about me and I believe that is the only thing that will keep two people together for life. Thanks for the article, that is real marriage indeed.

I am so blessed with every insight you are posting. This is my first time to check on this blog. It is true that hapiness is the wrong goal for marriage. But couples are intended to be happy in married life and each should be concern of making our partner happy which entails a selfless sacrifice and only God can help us endure and strengthen us to have it in reality.

I appreciated the article, and I agree with the big idea, but its tone and that of the comments makes it sound as if marriage is a painful, difficult thing which mainly serves to make us holy. A very unattractive image, to the unbeliever as well as to the believer. Let's face it, we all get married because we want to be happy, and because we think it contributes in some ways to our happiness. Otherwise, why do it? Because we think we will grow in sanctification? I would like to meet that person who said "I know I will not be happy by marrying this person, but I am doing it as I think it will mature me in Christ". I think we are meant to enjoy marriage - the way Christ enjoys His bride. Yes, there is work to do, and there are times when it runs on commitment rather than feelings, but marriage is wonderful, and when done right, it does make people happy.

Marie, I couldn't have said it better, exactly my thoughts.

I have been watching this show since it began and have told my husband that if I had to choose just one show to watch on television it would be this one for the very reasons that you have outlined here. No other place in the media are we exposed to a healthy, yet authentic relationship.

Now i believe that to enjoy your marriage you need to be selfless,what a simple truth.God bless you

Marie, I actually do believe that the primary purpose of marriage is sanctification. Yes, I believe there's great joy that comes with it as well (or there should be). But if we see it only as a means to the end of our happiness, we will become bitter when it doesn't fulfill us. Yes, it makes us happy, but that's not why we carry on with this person. We do it because it's a picture of Christ and his church, his bride. We do it because we know it is a powerful testimony of grace--to the church and to the world. I love Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. He talks extensively about how the primary purpose of marriage is to make us holy, not just happy.

I always believed in Destiny and thought it was Destiny that brought and my husband Seshu together.

Even before 2 years of our marrieage, thanks to my in-laws, he chose the road for a divorce on funny reasons. In an attempt to save my marriage, I have been going thru lots on the net, where in I was lucky to come across MP and Kyria.

I've been a ardent reader of the articles ever since. I'm not sure if I can help restore the peace, love and honesty in my marriage, however, I am greatful to God to show me the path to learn what is a relationship and the ways to sustain the rough times in it.

Thanks Kyria and MP...!!

I agree with Marie to the extent that even though we don't get married for a pathway to sanctification so to speak, the requirements of a godly marriage will lead us down that path, but we all look for mutual fulfillment and that feeling of godwill and care in any marriage, in or out of Christ. Indeed as they say love is blind but marriage is an eye opener, and when our eyes are opened we need the grace of God to deal with the surprises that could cause us to lose that sanctification. Marriage is ministry and like Christ in ministry, He moved with compassion, that is He loved with a passion to bring the best out of us as human beings. We should so love in a marriage that we bring out the best in each other!

I have not seen this show yet, but have heard about it. I am happy to hear that it portrays a healthy real marriage. You never see that on tv today. Usually the husband is shown as an uninvolved third party who has no say in what happens. Not the Biblical view of marriage, is it?

The world is definitely all about looking after #!- ourselves, which unfortunately means if I do not get my way I'm out of ere. In truth in our marriage we really do need to be looking out for #1 realizing that how we stand before God is the ultimate isse. My wife often tells other ladies that God is going to keep her accountable for what kind of wife she is not for what kind of husband I am. If we fear Christ first, and our lives conform to His image, then we can be the kind of mate that our spouse needs. Then as Ephesians 5 says we can submit to one another. I really appreciate the article and comments here.

Thank you very much for this helpful post. Unfortunately, many of my friends got married not out of love or respect, but out of fear of being alone and not looking good enough in the eyes of the society. Today some of them are divorced, because they didn't really understand that you have to work on your marriage in order to make it work….so I agree with you – happiness is not the main goal of marriage.

The family that prays together stays together.

Wow amazing insight. Thanks for this!

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