Twenty teenage girls are on a beach trip. They are having a horrible time. Insecurity runs rampant and expresses itself in a thousand different fights. At any moment, any number of combination of girls aren’t talking to the other girls. They spend most of their time moping in the condo.
Except, for about an hour each day, they put on their swimsuits, fix their hair and make-up, go to the beach and take selfies. The pictures are posted on social media, hashtagged with #blessed or #grateful or #beachlife. Then the girls return to the condo for another miserable 23 hours.
It’s American teenage life in 2016.
We live in a day in which the highest priority for many is to appear as though everything is going well. Forget reality. Deny the true condition. Simply dress up as best as you can so you can project the image you want others to believe. (See: Everyone’s Pain Is Just Below the Surface)
It’s hypocrisy. It’s dangerous. And it’s the way many people handle their marriages.
There are moments in which seemingly perfect couples suddenly appear anything but perfect. The marriage which looked so good on social media comes crumbling down in a dramatic way.
In most cases it’s because the appearance was a facade. Smoke and mirrors were being used in public ways to distract from the real issues going on inside the home. In most cases, the couple is intentionally putting on a rouse. In some cases, the couple, ignorant of what a good marriage looks like, has no idea their relationship is fake. Its ending is a shock to them.
Heart vs. Facade
It’s contrarian to this culture, but the focus of a couple must be on the heart of their relationship, not the appearance given to others. They must put their time, energy, and effort on nourishing the inward reality of the relationship, far more than the outward appearance.
Appearances matter. Couples don’t have to ignore what they are projecting to others. Yet they should never fixate on it. Other than avoiding hypocrisy, a couple should not be nearly as concerned with what others see as they are about what is actually taking place in their relationship. (See: Ignore the Internet–Marriage Still Works)
Sadly, many couples fail to take this approach. They worry solely about creating the facade of a good marriage. So they speak kindly to one another in public, post loving pictures of one another on social media, and say all the right things when talking to others. However, at home they are silent or short with each other. They are unkind and inconsiderate. They are quick to serve everyone else, but never each other. They work diligently on everything in their lives except for their marriage. To others, they appear to have it all together, but internally things are falling apart.
The Heart of a Marriage
When a couple cares more for the heart of their marriage than the outward appearance, they place their energy in specific areas. They become too busy in working on their relationship to spend too much time concerned with what others believe.
Several areas define the heart of a marriage:
1. The condition of each individual heart. The heart of a marriage is most influenced by the spiritual condition of each individual heart. By protecting my own heart, I’m helping protect the heart of my marriage. By helping nourish the heart of my wife, I’m also nourishing the heart of our marriage.
2. Trust. The ultimate characteristic of a healthy marriage is a relationship defined by trust. Where trust is absent, disease sets in. Left unchecked, the sickness will destroy the whole relationship. Trust does not imply perfection, but it proves that even when mistakes are made we know how our spouse will respond and we believe that response will have our best interest at heart.
3. Priorities. A healthy marriage is properly ordered. At minimum the couples understands what they should and should not value. At maximum, they live every moment according to that value system. When a couple does not properly order their lives according to their values, disunity will arise.
4. Respect. The heart of a marriage cannot be healthy when disrespect is present. Spouses do not have to like everything about their spouse, but they do have to have a deep respect for one another. When respect is absent, the heart of the relationship begins to decay.
5. Communication. How can we guard the heart of our marriage without learning to communicate with one another? The greatest sign a couple is working on the heart of their marriage is when they prioritize communication within their relationship. Recognizing its importance and the struggle we all have to communicate properly, healthy couples continually seek ways to better communicate with their spouse.
Inside Living in an Outside World
Why do plastic surgeons make more money than psychiatrists? There might be many reasons, but one of the main reasons is that we often value outward appearance more than inward issues. On many occasions, we would rather appear healthy and be sick than run the risk of appearing sick even though we are actually healthy. (See: Facebook Doesn’t Cause Divorce)
Maybe it’s a holdover from our survival of the fittest instincts. We still believe if we show weakness, others might exploit us. Maybe it’s a byproduct of an image driven world where pictures can be airbrushed in such a way to distort reality. Whatever the reason, the result of our infatuation with appearances is damaging to marriages. We are tempted to care more about how others perceive us than how things actually are. It’s a temptation we must avoid.