Pursue Complementarity, Not Compatibility

Compatibility. Has any concept done more to hinder the development of love? We hear that once we discover our perfect physical and emotional match, we'll taste ceaseless fulfillment, experience sizzling romance, and meet one another's deepest needs. A world of bliss.


Actually, this approach is fraught with pressure and flawed from the start. Tim and Kathy Keller said it well in The Meaning of Marriage: "Physical attractiveness will wane, no matter how hard you work to delay its departure. And socioeconomic status unfortunately can change almost overnight." In such relationships, cracks will show, and soon the "compatibility foundation" falls apart. So people rip up their marriages and start over again, believing they married a person they weren't compatible with.

How tragic! The real issue before every couple is this: none of us is compatible. We're sinners. That's why we need something much better and sturdier as the ground of our marriages.

We need complementarity, not compatibility.

Complementary Love

We're all confused today. Our sexualized culture has lost a script for love, leaving only consent and an eCard in its wake. In such a vacuum, compatibility seems promising as an organizing principle for wedded union. The biblical perspective, however, says the taproot of a happy, healthy marriage is gospel-shaped manhood and womanhood. Life in marriage simply doesn't make sense without this vision.

Scripture shows us God creates the woman for the man after forming him from the ground (Gen. 2:7, 18). Eve is made from Adam's own body, indicating both his call to protect her and a connectedness that transcends biology (Gen. 2:21–22). She's his "helper," and he's to "hold fast" to her, which means he's to lead in love and never let her go (Gen. 2:18, 24). Paul fills out this picture in Ephesians 5:22–33, the Bible's preeminent passage on what marriage is and should be. By grace, a husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church. By grace, a wife is to submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ.

Beyond Ephesians 5, Scripture demonstrates that the wife seeks to cultivate what Peter calls a "gentle and quiet spirit" while the husband lives with her in an understanding, self-sacrificial, tender way (1 Pet. 3:4, 7). If God wills, they raise children. They work together to build a happy home in Christ, and he spiritually leads his family, managing it well (1 Tim. 3:4).

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