October 4, 2017

The Only Man/Woman in the World

Gary Thomas — 

Would you like to be particularly happy in your marriage?

Do you want the security of knowing that no matter what happens the two of you will face the future together, and that nothing will tear you apart?

Do you want the feeling of being truly and finally married—no doubts, no re-evaluations, no “what-ifs,” just daily growing closer together?

It’s possible.

It will require both of you to adopt a new mindset, to in fact go back to the very beginning of time and recapture that special intimacy experienced by Adam and Eve.

Have you ever wondered why Adam and Eve were initially so happy in their marriage? What was unique about their experience so that they could know perfect paradise while being together?

Of course, there was no sin yet, but there was something even more specific than that which led to Adam and Eve’s sense of satisfaction.

It wasn’t just about being naked and unashamed.

It wasn’t about being free from children (most of us don’t want to be free from our children.)

It wasn’t even about the fact that they lived in a rich, lush garden.

It was the fact that when Adam was first introduced to Eve, there was literally no other woman in the world to whom he could compare her. When Eve first saw Adam, she didn’t know what a man was “supposed” to be like or how he was supposed to act.

Eve defined woman to Adam, as Adam defined man to Eve.

When you’re with the only woman in the world, you don’t expect her to be more intelligent, less sarcastic, lighter or darker, thinner or curvier, she just is—Eve, the only woman in the world. The person who defines woman to you.

That led to quite the happy union, and it’s a mindset we can cultivate today.

Comparison Kills

Have you ever visited a friend’s house who just had their kitchen remodeled? New appliances. A new floor. Marble counter-tops. A brand new island with pot fillers!

After a lovely dinner you return home and turn on the lights and see your same-old kitchen, with the slightly worn cupboards, the out-of-date refrigerator, the floor that makes you wonder why you ever chose that tile in the first place…

It’s the same kitchen that four hours prior you didn’t think twice about. Now it looks so bad that it even makes you sad.

What happened?


You saw what a kitchen could be and yours feels so awful in comparison.

Too many spouses do that with their mates.

Adopting an “Adam/Eve” “Only man/only woman in the world” mindset recognizes this spiritual and psychological reality and chooses to let your spouse define what a man or woman is supposed to be. Comparison loses all of its negative force.

When cherishing becomes the new standard of marriage, exclusivity reigns. My wife becomes the only one I will let myself think about sexually. She’s the only personality I’ll care to make my best friend. I will figure out how to make this marriage work with her because she is my only option, the only woman in the world.

The foundation of a cherishing marriage is something I wish every husband could say and every wife could hear:

“My dove, my perfect one, is the only one” (Song of Songs 6:9).

Daily Walking Down the Aisle

It used to be that, when the wedding march began playing, every eye in the church looked back to see the bride walking up the aisle, but more recently I’ve noticed how this has changed. Because of some Internet memes, more and more people want to catch the face of the groom. Is he smiling? Crying? Looking nervous?

Men, try to remember that moment when your bride walked down the aisle and you lost your breath seeing her in all her glory. No one else existed for you at that moment. No other woman came to mind.

This doesn’t have to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It can be a daily reality.

To cherish our wives this way, we have to mentally choose to not look at any other woman that way. If you compare a two-carat diamond to a three-carat diamond, it will look small in comparison even though it’s bigger and more expensive than 99% of the wedding ring diamonds out there.

I prayed early on in my own marriage: “Lord, let my wife define beautiful to me. Let her be the standard for what I find most attractive.”

God has answered that prayer, and it’s so affirming to my wife. However she is, is what I am most attracted to. She is the “plumb line” of beauty for me, a plumb line that ages with her.

Cherishing goes far beyond physical appearance. I don’t compare my wife’s occasional frustrations with another woman’s peace, just as I won’t compare my wife’s skillset to another woman’s gifts. If I want supreme satisfaction in Lisa, if I want to truly cherish her, she must become to me like Eve, the only woman in the world. The only one I will ever look at in that way.

No man has ever derived any lasting, godly satisfaction from looking at another woman the way he should look only at his wife; after the short moment of excitement, there will be a much longer season of frustration and discontent, followed by anger and marital distance. Fantasizing about another woman is the highway to discontentment and marital separation. It never leads you to your wife; it carries you away from her at seventy miles an hour. That’s how you create discontentment, assault any attitude of cherishing your wife, and how you ruin your own happiness.

Adam was so blessed—and so happy, accordingly—because there was literally no one else to compare Eve to. And while the world is now populated with billions of other women, we men can still make the choice to look at our wives as Adam looked at Eve, the only woman who matters in that way.

To fill up our eyes with only her.

To be so taken with her that there is no Juliet, no Jada, and no Anna.

Just Eve.

It’s a prayer first, “Lord, let me look at my wife as the only woman in the world.”

Then it’s a choice.

Then we guard our hearts and keep our focus.

It requires a recommitment when we stumble. We will have to go back and pray again. We will have to choose again.

But if we keep holding her dear, mentally reserving our focus exclusively for her, eventually, it happens: our wife is cherished. Our wife isn’t just our first choice, but our only choice.

We become happy, satisfied, fulfilled.

You’ve taught yourself to cherish her and it’s worked. You’ve become enthralled with her, as you are with no other woman.

You want this, men. Trust me. You do. It is one of the supreme blessings of marriage that is often overlooked. When it arrives—when your wife is Eve and there is no other—you will feel like the most blessed husband alive.

Your wife will feel cherished, because your adoration will be as genuine as the beginning of time. Your heavenly Father will experience joy because he delights when his daughter is richly cherished. Your kids will feel secure because they spiritually feed off their parents’ affection.

Everybody wins. Everybody.

But Adam wins the most.

The Only Man in the World

Women can take the same journey. Divorce statistics reflect that women tend to be more dissatisfied in their marriages than men. Wives may have to fight more fiercely against the onslaught of disappointment lest they be tugged toward frustration, collapse into bitterness, and find themselves captive to contempt.

How can you fight contempt? How can you learn to cherish your husband as if he were the only man on earth?

Here’s the spiritual choice you have to make: when any woman gets married, she agrees (consciously or not) to a “commitment of contentment.” She forever resets the boundaries for what makes her content. She doesn’t get to compare her husband to other husbands because to her, he must become the only man in the world. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3).

You’ve already made your choice, in your ideal world you have no intention of ever starting over with someone else, so why not put your energy into and your focus on building on the strengths of that choice, and making yourself ever more grateful that you made that choice? Think of yourself as Eve in the Garden of Eden, standing before the first man Adam. Eve didn’t have anyone to compare Adam to. All she could possibly think was, “This is what a man is like. This is what my man is like.”

No man can be everything. A successful long-distance cyclist can’t be a body builder. A handyman may be able to fix a lot of things, but he may view exercise or long talks as chores rather than something he relishes. Though there are exceptions, dedicating one’s time to becoming exceptional at one thing usually means not being exceptional at a whole lot of other things.

Since no one man can be everything, one of the best gifts a woman can give a man is to tell him with her eyes, attention, words, and acceptance, “You don’t have to be anything other than what you are. You are my Adam, the only man in the world. I cherish you.

With such an attitude, anything your husband isn’t becomes irrelevant—your guy isn’t that, so you don’t expect that and there’s no point in fretting over that. If you marry a guy who isn’t a handyman, you don’t judge him for not being a handyman. If you marry a guy who is a bit silent, you don’t brood over the fact that your best friend’s husband will sit and talk to her for hours.

Instead, you think of your man as Adam—the only man in the world. You cherish him for what and who he is, you don’t expect him to be anything else, and you never compare him to anyone else.

At some point, if you want marital happiness, if you want to learn how to cherish a real man instead of longing for an imaginary composite, some “Frankenstein” husband who somehow has it all, then you have to own your choice and even learn to cherish your choice. “My vineyard, my very own, is for myself” (Song of Songs 8:12).

It’ll take biblical understanding to do this, then prayerful supplication to God (“God, help me do this”), then an intellectual consent (“I want to do this”), and finally a determined act of the will (“I’m going to do this”) to fully go through this process, resetting your brain to think of your husband as Adam.

It’s not a one-time deal. You’ll catch yourself slipping back into comparison at times, and then you’ll have to go back to square one and set the process in motion once again. Over time, it will just become the way you look at your husband. Thinking of him as Adam will be your default mode.

When that happens, you’ll find that you cherish your husband instead of having contempt for him. You’ll discover that you are grateful for his strengths instead of bitter about his weaknesses. You’ll experience the joy of your heavenly Father, who delights in seeing his sons cherished, encouraged, and respected. You’ll be a strong witness to Christians and non-Christians alike. You’ll provide one of the best parenting role models a mother could ever provide for her children.

But just as importantly, you’ll find more contentment, enjoyment, happiness and intimacy in your marriage. Your heart will swell with pride and you will be the envy of all your friends—the one woman in their circle who is utterly and contentedly in love with her husband and can’t even imagine being married to any other.

That’s a very pleasant place to live.

This blog is not written for women in abusive marriages. The advice offered in these posts will challenge both husbands and wives, but the advice could be counter-productive if it is applied in an abusive relationship.

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16 responses to The Only Man/Woman in the World

  1. Reading this through tear-filled eyes. Thank you for taking the time to inspire, Pastor Gary. It is beautiful and very well-written. Even more than that it is wisdom and very pertinent. Believing.

  2. This is a good read. We recently listened to cherish together and have done or taught every “formula” for marriage over the past 20 years. But, I am very sad to say papers are filed and in the system for a divorce after 28.5 years. It seems I was more concerned about what I could do for her then who I could BE for her. I am a risk taker and have blown trust with finances and my kids hearts. I thought my marriage was untouchable and satan proved me wrong. She has been my Eve for 30 years but I have certainly missed the mark from time to time. Please pray that God will go to only where He can go in our hearts. He is a God of reconciliation and has given us all that call ourselves christians this ministry. 2 Cor 5:18

  3. I love this concept and remember it well from the book. I even wrote a letter to my wife telling her she was ‘My Eve’. (Please don’t sue me for plagiarism Gary!) I love the ‘cherish’ concept – BUT my wife doesn’t like it! She is not dominant, but she is strong-willed, self dependent and can be stubborn. Our 40 year marriage is good and holy. This isn’t a deal breaker, but I confess that it bothers me. I know we should not put too much pressure on marriage (A good marriage is a good marriage) and God always comes first as my ultimate source of love and fulfillment. Though “I stumble in many ways”, I pursue this magnificent obsession. Nevertheless I seek to honor both God and His beloved daughter by blessing her through love and cherishing acts.

    We are recently retired empty nesters. We spend lots of quality time together but also have separate interests. We are active in our church and ‘have mission together’ such as leading a couples group and hosting an Art Of Marriage event. Yet when I try to do special things for her – kind acts or words, offering to give or do something, taking her somewhere special – she resists. These things are given in a loving and cherishing, not manipulative manner. You touched on the sin of comparison in this post – and I whole-heartedly agree. I remember your quote that “No married couple is called to be another” and the story where the counselor said “She is the only woman who matters”. I know each couple, just like each individual, is unique. It’s part of the brilliance of God’s design. So I try avoiding the sinful voice inside that says “I don’t get it. Most women (or even men for that matter if the roles were reversed) would feel so honored.”

    I recently finished Sacred Search – brilliantly written and provides excellent material for my working with premarital couples. Somewhere in that book – and I can’t recall what section or how you worded it – I thought you said something to the effect that a (potential) person should recognize and willing accept (as opposed to resist) their partner’s desire to do kind and loving things. Did I get that wrong?

    I have read 5 of your books (along with several from other Christian authors) and have yet to see this explained. Could you kindly indulge me with your thoughts? Or perhaps this is worthy of a separate post? My apologies for taking this post a bit ‘off course’, but I would be most appreciative. Many thanks and God Bless!

  4. I would love to read the book and be for ever dedicated to my wife.In stead of comparing her with other women. There is more to marriage then to fantasise about what life would be like with a different partner. Sure would love to read it and improve my marriage. Thanks and Regards.

  5. Where was this article 5 years ago when I discovered that our 25+year marriage had been filled with porn and my husband sneaking around with a woman I thought was my friend. How I wish we could start over. How can I ever trust him again. His mind is so full if images and expectations I can never compete or compare to. Not that I want to look or act the way he perceives women should act in bed. This comparison has ruined my self confidence and my own perception of what a woman should be. Maybe we are all fooling our selves. If porn isn’t what guys really want and wish their wives were like, then why is it such a growing industry even among church guys. I don’t have a chance of being that for my husband nor do I want to. I don’t believe him anymore when he says he thinks I’m pretty or enough for him. It has ruined my confidence and our intimacy in our marriage. I wish guys would think about the hurt porn causes to their marriage and their wife. The deep hurt is not worth a fleeting tingle off a computer image. Please guys. Stop and think about it.

    • Sandy, I’m so sorry for the pain you’ve felt and the betrayal you’ve endured. We usually can’t heal ourselves from a hurt like this. Please consider seeing a Christian counselor who can offer some strategies for going forward. It’s not as simple as “forgive and move on” and it almost sounds as if that’s what you’re trying to do. You need someone to care for you and someone who can help you set up the necessary safeguards so that you can begin to trust (in a way that you know is verified) again. When a hurt this deep invades a marriage, you need a spiritual surgeon to help put it back together.

    • Sandy,

      I truly grieve for your situation. Though every situation is unique, I know a couple who faced a similar situation where a ‘supposedly Christian’ husband was both unfaithful and used pornography. You wouldn’t know it and on the surface, they appeared to have a good marriage – by society’s standards, but obviously not a God-honoring one. Fortunately the Holy Spirit got hold of the husband and convicted him of his sin. He genuinely repented and began pursuing God’s kingdom, not his. He rededicated himself to his marriage by working on his flaws, not his wife’s. Eventually, he found the courage to confess his sinful past to her. Through the grace of God, she was able to forgive him. They now have a wonderful, God-centered marriage. Few would have found the strength she did to forgive him. It must have been very difficult, but ultimately she trusted in the Lord. Nothing is beyond His redemptive grace as God can fix things even when we see no hope.

      If your husband has already or is truly willing to change – as was the case of the story I shared – then ask God for strength and grace to work through this seemingly impossible reconciliation. He can do amazing things, but only if you both commit to it. This will be extremely difficult, especially for you, and seeking professional help may be wise if you haven’t already done so. On the other hand if your husband continues in his sinful ways and shows no sign of repentance, there are biblical circumstances where divorce is acceptable – not that I am suggesting it because I am neither a pastor nor professional counselor.

      I will pray for God’s help in your marriage. I also echo your sentiments of men (and women) indulging in pornography and will pray for God’s help to those struggling to overcome it.

    • My heart breaks for you, Sandy. Really and truly.
      Praying for you and your family this morning.

  6. This requires being comfortable with egg on face at times. Requires letting others sneering at your husband /wife without you distancing yourself from your own..it requires true love, not self serving love. Thank you for the challange !!!

    • Lisa, your comment gets right down to the thick of it. Wise, insightful words. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Yes and amen, Gary! My first marriage was incredibly abusive and comparison was the primary weapon. I was compared to other women, to the impossible standards of pornography, to myself in younger years. There was no way to win that Pick Me contest, and many years of neglect and rejection left me an insecure mess when I finally escaped.

    Compare that to the wonderful second husband God provided for me. A tender man who has in human terms become my glory and the lifter of my head. Who found value in me despite my own sense of utter failure, who daily cherishes and praises me despite my many flaws. Who thinks I am simply the cat’s meow! I’m so grateful for this beautiful second chapter!

    Comparison is like taxing someone. They may pay but it will be little more than the amount due, and given grudgingly.

    Love is like tithing. I do not receive a tithe bill but I pay it joyfully out of a grateful heart.

    Today I joyfully “tithe” love, affection, intimacy, acts of service, and all kinds of other wonderful loving gifts to my husband — simply because I am so utterly thankful and blessed by his cherishing of me.

  8. So grateful for this write up. I am sharing this with as many as I can.

  9. Gary, the “only man/woman in the world” mindset is such a beautiful concept. Thank you for this marvelous analogy. It puts everything about marriage into perspective. It defines love as “being” and not “doing—where one is loved and cherished simply for who one “is” and not for what one “does” to fulfill the other’s expectations. In this sexually saturated society where pornography more and more defines sexuality, it is comforting that God’s way is one of purity and contentment. One doesn’t have to “do” to gain love, but one is loved simply because of who he/she is.

    • Karen, yes! Thanks for bringing in the all important being/doing point. That’s a beautiful way to elaborate on it

  10. AWESOME! this makes me want the book. Great job, Gary, directing us to how marriage is to be. Forgetting the curse of Eden, and remembering the promise of how man and wife should be.