Embracing Imperfection in Relationships

Embracing Imperfection in Relationships

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I've mentioned before how much I love looking at quotes on Pinterest. Well, I found one the other day that resonated with me and my approach to dating:

"We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly."

I'm not sure who originally said it, but they knew what they were talking about, in my opinion. There is much to be said for being smart when it comes to who we date and not letting love — or infatuation — cloud our judgement. We can make our lists about all the qualities we want in a spouse and make all these pre-set qualifications for who we let slip through our filters.

We create this perfect person in our minds based on romance movies and novels, our own imaginations and even our comfort zones. But what we too often fail to realize is that we are all sinners and differences don't have to be bad. No one is perfect. While we're set on finding that one perfect person to marry, we can forget we're not perfect ourselves.

I used to struggle with this, big time. In high school and up until the end of my junior year of college, I was notorious for liking someone, discovering the interest was mutual, getting scared, and then finding any reason I could to run before a relationship had a chance to form. I really wanted to date but couldn't come to grips with the fact that no guy would be absolutely perfect.

By some miracle I did eventually enter a serious relationship, and it changed my perspective. It helped me understand that while a man might have all the qualities I'm looking for in a spouse, I will still find things about him I don't like. At the same time, there will be things about me that he doesn't like.

The beauty of love is being able to see the faults of someone else yet loving that person despite themselves and their faults. It is also one of the hardest things about dating. Marriage is the ultimate goal of dating, and it is a lifelong union between two sinners. In order for it to work, those people must work on the ability to be good forgivers. Forgiveness happens daily in relationships because no one is perfect, and I think the importance of that is too often overlooked.

As Christians, we look at things like how spiritually mature someone is and how closely they're following Scripture. While those things are crucial, it can be really easy to find the one thing that might be wrong and disregard everything else that is right. If everyone did that, we would all be dateless. 

One of my favorite things about dating is that when I find someone who complements me, he brings out my best and my worst. He helps me discover what kinds of things I need to work on in my life, and that ultimately pushes me closer to God. That should be our motive in any relationship — that we find someone who brings us closer to God and challenges us to become more like Christ. In turn, we should work on being that person for others.

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  • --Good reminder Amy :) a good writing too :)

  • --Yes, yes, yes!!!  It's taken these past few months in a relationship to see the incredible wisdom in this.  The first time I discovered something that annoyed me in my boyfriend, I panicked "Oh no, we're not a perfect match".  Got a whack over the head from my Heavenly Father along the lines of "well, you're not perfect, he's not perfect - that's where GRACE comes in!".  Thank you for this, Amy.

  • --The inevitable next question is, "How imperfect is too imperfect for me to date?"

    I really think that question has to be answered on an individual basis and through prayer. I don't think anyone can set a universal standard for themselves. If God calls you into a relationship with someone, you're in a tough position to say, "But God, I don't see myself marrying a teacher," or, "I'm in much better shape than that person."

  • --If anything, my boyfriend's imperfections lead me to realize how very imperfect *I* am. You think you're good until you get close enough to someone to realize that even your little private, personal sins affect them, and you notice a lot more.

  • --Your humble and clearheaded thoughts are always appreciated, Amy!  I must defer to your greater experience, but here are some musings of mine:

    One night at my pastor's house, some friends and I were playing the board game Loaded Questions.  It involves each player taking turns drawing cards that have certain "loaded" questions printed, asking the other players to anonymously write their answers, and then guess who gave which answer.  At some point, the question was asked "What is a tabloid headline you would never see?"  My sarcasm lacked restraint that night, so I wrote "[certain celebrity famous for dating lots of people and never settling down] gets married!"

    Later in a conversation with another friend, we concluded that many Americans probably see the main goal of marriage to be personal fulfillment of emotional and physical needs, and desire to be as picky as possible to make that happen.  But we Christians understand that marriage (and as you wrote, to some degree every relationship) is supposed to be an acquisition of a partner in the same goal you should have had already: knowing God and serving His Kingdom.  We can equivocate on the meaning of the word "need," but I think finding a mate can properly be called that.  God seems to have made most of us to require a spouse to become optimally productive human beings (Gen. 2:18, Prov. 18:22).

    This was shown vividly to me when the company for whom I work hired another employee.  After the initial interview, my boss asked me what I thought of him, and I basically just said we should go with him because he seems interested, available, and had sufficient entry-level skills.  I didn't feel compelled to seek out endless other options or pedantically inspect every little thing about this or that applicant, because the key thing was that there was a real need for another employee and he was there to meet it.  So we went with him, and it's been good for the most part.  My recent search for an apartment showed me the same thing: I had a real need to live closer to work, and there were no perfect options.  I settled on one that was available and sufficient, and it looks like it will work out great.

    The cool thing is that getting our personal needs met in marriage, from what I understand, does help us become more productive workers in God's Kingdom.  It's just important to keep the main thing the main thing.  And like you hinted at, I think, things we find too different or distasteful about someone might actually turn out very interesting and complementary.  Of course, finding a lifelong mate has far more impact on one's life than things like hiring an employee or choosing a place to live for a while, so the degree of "pickiness" should be adjusted accordingly.  But we in Western society could probably use a good dose of the principle of meeting a need in a somewhat timely fashion.

    Scripture does tell us to take delight in our spouse (Proverbs 5), and I'm guessing all of us are built differently in terms of how quixotic or how practical we envision the journey.  For better or worse (to risk appearing hypocritical in everything I just wrote), I'm definitely closer to the I-want-it-to-be-so-romantic-and-Providential end of the spectrum.  There have been women people have recommended to me, or who I could tell liked me, but if I couldn't at least see the seed of a great attraction, there didn't seem to be much reason in trying to start anything.  On the other hand, looking back on many infatuations of mine, the reasons seem more apparent why such matches weren't great ideas.  Let's be glad God is the one writing the story!

  • --""[certain celebrity famous for dating lots of people and never settling down] gets married!"

    Was it George Clooney, Taylor Swift, who?  Inquiring minds must know!

  • --Ria - right on!  How often do I now realise the problem wasn't necessarily his action but my attitude towards it?  My boyfriend isn't perfect but this relationship is also proving neither am I by a very long stretch.

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