May 242016 1 Response

The Goldilocks Principle of Marriage

Not too cold. Not too hot. But just right.

In the children’s fairy tale The Three Bears, a little girl named Goldilocks enters an empty house owned by three bears–Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear. Each animal has a preference for the porridge. Goldilocks finds one too cold, one too hot, but one just right. The Goldilocks principle often references finding the middle ground of two extremes.

Within marriage, we need to find just the right perspective of how to think of ourselves. Pride can express itself in one of two extremes–thinking too highly of ourselves or thinking too little of ourselves. Either way, our perspective is wrong. For a healthy marriage, we need to understand ourselves and our spouses in the proper way. When we think either too little or too much of ourselves, we will throw our marriage out of balance. (See: Pride–the Only Enemy of Marriage)

We must think of ourselves just right.

Too much

When we overestimate our value in marriage, we make marriage solely about us. Instead of understanding God’s role in marriage, we assume marriage is simply about our feelings, satisfaction, happiness.

From this perspective, our spouse’s role is to please us. We expect them to make us happy, serve us, and make us the center of attention. Our happiness defines their value. The importance of our vows is dependent on our feelings. (See: 3 Essentials of a Healthy Marriage)

Thinking too highly of ourselves can express itself by:

  • Believing if our spouse truly loved us they would know what we want or think
  • Refusing to listen to our spouse’s thoughts or concerns
  • Showing contempt toward our spouse
  • Turning every disagreement into a personal attack
  • Yelling and other forms of disrespect
  • Failing to take responsibility for a major aspect of home life (finances, housework, etc.)
  • Assuming principles of fidelity or character don’t apply to us
  • Being physically or emotionally abusive
  • Ignoring our vows and refusing to submit what we desire to what’s best for the couple

When we think too highly of ourselves, a healthy marriage is not possible because our spouse can never be seen as our equal. We will always think we deserve better and that they are lucky to be married to us.

Too Little

When we think of ourselves too little in marriage, we do not give our full selves to God or our spouse. We withhold the fullness of who we are and in so doing dishonor God and cheat our spouses. This is often done under the appearance of humility. But it is a false humility. It’s an undervaluing of who we are as beings created in God’s image. It’s thinking of ourselves less than who God made us to be. It’s trusting our judgment over God’s.

Thinking too little of ourselves can express itself in a variety of ways:

  • Be unwilling to communicate our true thoughts and emotions
  • Pretending to be something we are not
  • Expecting our spouse to read our mind
  • Assuming we deserve to be treated poorly
  • Excusing our spouse’s poor behavior as our own fault
  • Exchanging genuine service for actions intended to earn the love of our spouse
  • Refusing to believe we deserve the love and respect of our spouse

When we think too little of ourselves, a healthy marriage is not possible because we will never fully engage in the relationship. Our spouse will always be relating to part of us and not all of us.

Just Right

Whenever we think of ourselves just right in marriage, we understand our proper place within the relationship. Knowing we were created in the image of God, we understand our value. Yet understanding we are the creation and not the Creator, we don’t overvalue ourselves. This perspective breeds true humility. (See: What Men Can Do for Marriage)

A just right perspective expresses itself by:

  • Humbly communicating through both listening and sharing our true feelings
  • Feeling a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity to give and receive love
  • Showing respect at all times and in a variety of ways
  • Continually learning how to be a better spouse and how to understand our spouse better
  • Dealing with issues directly, but keeping them in their proper context
  • Fully shouldering and sharing the responsibilities for making the marriage work
  • Appreciating where the relationship is but always striving to get better

Seeing ourselves in the right context creates a climate in which a marriage can thrive. Both partners feel valued, grateful, and empowered to create a meaningful marriage.

When it comes to marriage, are you too hot? Too cold? Or just right?


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