January 23, 2019

No Spouse is Everything

Gary Thomas — 

Don’t you think it would be cruel to ask your spouse to hold down five jobs?

Let’s say your wife is a university professor, but you expect her to also serve as a detective in the police department, an investment advisor at a local bank, a case worker for child protective services, and sell new cars on the weekend.

That would be insane, right?

Or say your husband operates a Chick-Fil-A, but you expect him to also coach the high school football team, be a plumber on the weekend, serve as head librarian at the local seminary, and inspect houses during his “free time.”

Hopefully, no one would ask their spouse to hold down five jobs, but many of us ask our spouses to be five different people.

And that’s just as cruel as asking them to hold down five jobs.

Can we accept that given the human condition, no spouse is the “total package?”

Louis of Granada (a sixteenth century Dominican Friar) paints a beautiful portrait of how we must learn to honor God as creator by pointing to the variety we find in nature. God doesn’t use a cookie-cutter to shape his world. Every creature has certain weaknesses and strengths. We honor God when we learn to celebrate the beauty of one creature without asking it to have the strengths of other creatures. Those worship God the most who celebrate the frailty of a hummingbird and the bulk of a rhinoceros.

Here’s how Louis describes it:

“We find beautiful variety in the works of nature, where the Sovereign Creator wisely apportions all gifts or qualities so that the lack of one perfection is compensated by the possession of another. The peacock, which has a harsh and displeasing voice, possesses a beautiful plumage; the nightingale delights the ear, but has no charms for the eye; the horse bears us where we will and is valuable in camp and field, but is rarely used for food; the ox is useful for farm and table, but has scarcely any other qualities to recommend him; fruit trees give us food, but have little value for building; forest trees yield no fruit, but afford us the necessary material for erecting our dwellings. Thus we do not find all qualities or all perfections united in one creature, but that variety among them which constitutes the beauty of nature and binds them to one another by a mutual and necessary dependence.”

So what’s “better”—a nightingale or a peacock? There’s no objective “correct” answer to that question. Should you celebrate fruit trees or forest trees?  That depends. Dogs, of course, are superior to cats in every instance, but other than that comparison, God’s brilliance as Creator is seen in the variety of his creating. There are four seasons, seven continents, and eight planets in our solar system and none of them are exactly the same.

God’s creative variety is perhaps most marked by the vast differences among people, and that means spouses, too. Physically, emotionally, and intellectually, God comes up with countless combinations, and for a spouse you get to choose just one. Is an extrovert “superior” to an introvert? Is IQ more important than EQ (emotional awareness)? Is an engineer a better spouse than an artist? Is a mechanic a better spouse than a poet?

Maybe you married a “peacock:” he or she looks great, but they couldn’t pitch a tent if their life depended on it. Maybe you married an ox; he or she gets a whole lot of work done but can’t carry a conversation. Maybe your spouse couldn’t hit a nail with a hammer but he or she makes a good enough living to pay someone else to swing that hammer.  Rejoice in who they are instead of pining after what they’re not.

Wanting your spouse to be an ox, peacock, horse and nightingale all wrapped up into one amazing person isn’t just cruel, it’s insane and actually a bit freakish.

If you’ve read Cherish then you know that a cherishing marriage is based on viewing your husband and wife as “Adam” or “Eve,” the only man or woman in the world. When we choose to marry someone, we choose to cherish someone (“I promise to love and to cherish until death do us part”) and cherishing necessitates training our minds and hearts to be satisfied and even enthralled with our choice. A $10,000 two carat diamond seems beautiful, but if you’re a castaway on a deserted island, you might prefer a butane lighter that costs $2.99. Value can be relative to the person who holds it, so once the marriage vows are said, we don’t expect our spouse to be anything other than what they are. Who they are must also become what we need.

There is an entirely new satisfaction in marriage when you learn to enjoy your spouse as they are instead of forever plotting to change them into someone else.

This isn’t just about your own satisfaction in marriage, however. It’s also about worshipping the God who created your spouse. If He has given you an ox, thank Him for the ox! If He’s given you a peacock, become the world’s number one fan of peacocks. You’ll be happier, your spouse will feel cherished, and your God will feel worshipped. Everyone wins.

Hopefully, you’d never ask your spouse to hold down five jobs. In the same way, don’t ask him or her to become five different people.

When you subscribe to Gary’s blog, you will receive blog posts directly to your e-mail inbox. You will be one of the first to learn about the latest in Gary’s writing.

25 responses to No Spouse is Everything

  1. I also cannot stand cats for the life of me LOL. Not a dog fan either heehee!

  2. Another excellent post Gary! Thank you…

  3. Wonderful teaching! Thank you, Gary. I guess you’re portraying your strengths and weaknesses to all of us who are reading your post. Dogs better than cats? Must be your peacock voice (or maybe nightingale plumage!). Although i must admit, your comment, although totally erroneous, did make me laugh!

  4. Recovering addict January 24, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    I put my wife through plenty including addiction and infidelity. Then I got clean a few years ago, and we continue to work on having a great marriage. I didn’t ask her to be everything to me, but she is my everything as she immediately points me to God for all aspects of my life.

  5. Ester Lill Johnsen January 24, 2019 at 5:27 am

    Thank you for the sincere and enjoyable post.

    You should check out the system of:
    Dressing Your Truth.
    A system of characterizing the individual “movement”.
    In my experience God has led me to this, and it has helped med learn more about myself and others, both in terms of strength and weaknesses. It helps to define how each person “moves through life”, etc. It’s really a great tool to get to know yourself, and I’m sure it will help in a marriage as well!

    It’s funny, because the founder of this; Carol Tuttle, actually uses images of animals to describe people’s energy/movement. And peacock is one of the animals she’s uses as an example.
    I just have found it a blessing in my life!

    Have a great day, and God bless you.

    Link to recommended system:

  6. Gary,
    This message is truly a blessing! Not only did I gain a new perspective of my spouse, but I also gained a new perspective on our children as well as other people. God is so faithful! Thanks for allowing God to use you for His AWESOME service!

  7. Thank you for this post, Gary. In my first marriage I was constantly compared with every single other woman my husband saw or knew. He literally expected me to have every single strength of each and every woman, as if I could be the best of HUNDREDS of people! And just when I had worked hard to accomplish what he wanted…. there was a new list of necessary traits, strengths, etc. It was exhausting and a battle I could never win.

    I thank God every single day that He not only led me OUT of that marriage, but then in His grace He brought a wonderful man into my life who strives to love me like Christ loves the church. It’s WONDERFUL to cherish and be cherished!

    A text from him this morning: Baby, I am enamored with you! You are my most precious jewel.

    (( sigh!!!! )) He is going to be one happy husband tonight. WIN/WIN! 🙂

  8. CASSANDRA A BENEFIELD January 23, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    This was beautiful Mr. Thomas. You are a blessing to my mind, soul, and spirit. God bless you richly … and forgive you for dissing the cat variety of God’s creations. 😉

  9. This blog was right up my alley for counselling the young couples who come to me for conducting their marriage ceremonies. I have always referred to 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 as part of the sessions but this material (and the book “Cherish”) have caused me to present my material to include “love and cherish”. Thank you for “minding God” as you relay your spiritually rich thoughts that we can utilize in this vital work.

    • Love the comment about dogs and cats! Made me out loud. Great article Gary, thank you for the insight!

    • Thank you Gary! And thanks for your good work with premarital couples. Absolutely crucial ministry there.

  10. Absolutely beautiful, Thank you sir.

  11. What a timely reminder for us regarding our spouses! It’s so easy for most of us to expect much more from our spouses than we are willing to give to them in return. I pray that God will bring this great, truth -filled article to my mind in the coming days. Ultimately my treatment of others reflects my relationship with Him

  12. Gary, what you have shared has really hit home with me. My husband and I have been married for 35 years and I have found myself wanting him to be other than who he is, more than who he is for a long time. When in essence, he is a wonderful man with his own set of human weaknesses. Weaknesses that are common to all people. The Lord has been dealing with me lately on my own sin of pride and it has been quite humbling to say the least!! One reason why I think I have gotten caught in the ‘comparison web’ is because of being an identical twin. Growing up my sister and I were continually being compared. Why did I like peas and she didn’t? Because we are two different people with different taste buds!! I know I have brought that way of thinking into my marriage and I have ended up comparing my spouse to many others. How fair is that? It’s not!! Thank you for allowing Christ to use you to help others see more clearly. To God be the glory great things He has done!!!

    • Thank you, Lori. By the way, my mom is an identical twin. She and her sister had a double wedding and liked to dress alike, as senior citizens, on cruises. It’s a special relationship

  13. Great visuals for the content. The end where it is stated “everybody wins” made me cringe a bit. That word in the context of marriage just doesn’t sit right. There is no winning in relationships. The one piece I’d like to see addressed or mentioned is “treatment” of spouses. I work with a lot of women who get that their husband may be an ox or a peacock – they’ve made piece that they aren’t the handy man or conversationalist they dreamed of. What they struggle with is the emotional and verbal put downs. Never pick up a repair kit but don’t talk to me with such harshness. Many spouses explain it away “I’m not a poet with my words” or “God wired me this way.” I don’t believe God wired men or women to be verbally belittling. So what do you say to someone who is living with a spouse who is not kind to them verbally?

    • Thanks for raising this issue. It’s an important point.

      God gifts some people mechanically, intellectually, and creatively. He doesn’t create anyone to be cruel, abusive or apathetic. There’s a difference between nature and actions. God doesn’t call everyone to be a teacher, prophet or administrator, but his word does call EVERY husband to “love your wives and never be harsh with them” (Col. 3:19) He calls every wife to respect her husband (1 Peter 3:1) and he calls every spouse to submit to each other (Eph. 5:21). It’s just not true that someone who isn’t a poet can’t say a kind word. It doesn’t have to rhyme to be meaningful! And it’s not true that God wires anyone to be harsh or angry or critical or negative. That’s a case of someone being spiritually lazy. Celebrating who God made your spouse to be is very different from tolerating the way Satan is tempting them to act.

  14. This was thought-provoking. All good except your disdain for kitty-cats! 😉 Who doesn’t love little fluffy things that lay on your chest with their motor running letting you know how much they love you!! Kidding aside, I feel like my husband can do everything – he may not have the time for it and that’s ok. I think it comes down to the courting process and understanding what you need in a spouse vs. what you want – being realistic that one person may not be able to provide all needs and wants.

    • Thanks Liz! Joining your kidding, let me affirm that I stand by the dogs/cats comment. A “fluffy” kitty-cat regularly deposits mauled birds and mice right outside my front door. I hate touching dead things but I can’t just leave them there. And for the record, cats are one of only two animals who kill for fun, not for food. Another study found that if your cat was bigger than you, he’d take you down. Dogs are loyal, loving, protective and they just rock. Plus you can run with a dog, throw sticks to a dog, and they actually welcome you home. Golden Retrievers are about the sweetest creature God ever created. If your young kids want one, the answer is YES.

  15. Alan Ericksen, MD January 23, 2019 at 5:55 am

    Thank you!
    Low EQ
    PS: Beware of dogs….Philippians
    A CATegorical truth.

    • Alan, you’re a DOCTOR. See my comment to Liz. Unassailable truth that dogs are better than cats.

  16. Oh Gary… I always learn from your posts (and I do love the book, Cherish) but this one, this one is a masterpiece! Thank you and thank God for the talent for words with which He has blessed you… I personally do have better experience with cats, but I forgive you for that statement 😉😂

    • Ann,

      That’s so kind of you to say. I always covet prayers that God will keep moving–so if he ever puts me on your mind, I’d surely appreciate prayers for his continued blessing.

      And I send this with a prayer for you that God will enlighten you to the miracle of his creation called Golden Retrievers.