In my life as a pastor, I have had the honor of officiating close to 100 weddings. I will confess that I'm not a big fan of couples "writing their own vows." My experience is that the vows couples typically write are less rooted in commitment and more rooted in the language of romantic movies.
The films they have devoured through their lifetimes have given them a perspective of love that might sound good on screen but that is actually quite shallow. In the long-term context of their marriages, their overly-romanticized views can ultimately be destructive.
This is because the challenges of married life cannot resolved in a two-hour narrative. And while a certain movie line might sound sweet on the screen, it may be a terrible foundation for deep, lasting, sacrificial love.
Here are five lines from popular movies that teach the wrong things about marriage. I've also tacked on one at the end that is pretty solid.
"You complete me."
Looking to someone else to "complete you" is a recipe for disaster in marriage. If you expect your partner to give you meaning and significance, you are going to be disappointed on every level. This is because you are counting on a fallen, sinful person to do something that only God can do. A better alternative is to work on being "complete" in Christ and then to bring that whole person to the relationship. Do anything short of that and you're asking for trouble.
"LaFawnduh is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I'm 100% positive she's my soul mate."
-Kip in Napoleon Dynamite
A close relative of "You complete me," the concept of "soul mate" is just as silly. It presumes that God created a person out there that is the perfect fit for you. Your "soul mate" will be easy to love and will love you perfectly in return. The result will be a carefree relationship void of conflict and hardship. It's ridiculous. The better alternative that God offers is to put two different people in a marriage so that their differences can be a part of the refining process in our lives. As Gary Thomas says in Sacred Marriage, "God didn't create marriage to make you happy, but to make you holy."
“I love you. You’re my only reason to stay alive.”
- Edward to Bella in New Moon (Twilight)
I've never been a fan of the Twilight saga. Maybe it's because of how Stephen King compared the books to the Harry Potter series: "Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend." If your spouse is literally your only reason to live, then your need to consider your purpose in life. A better alternative is to focus on living out God's unique calling on your life and then inviting your spouse along for the ride. As my wife Jenifer puts it, "God is everything...your spouse is just the extra stuff and fluff."
"As you wish."
Wesley to Buttercup in The Princess Bride
As much as I don't like Twilight, I love me some Princess Bride. However, the line that Wesley gives to Buttercup over and over is laced with just a tinge of dysfunction. If your spouse always gets their way and your life is totally submitted to their every whim, things can get out of balance pretty quickly. If their desires are unhealthy, you might move into "enabler" status. Sometimes, your spouse needs you to say, "No. That's not a good idea. We shouldn't do that. Here's why." Your spouse probably says "no" occasionally because they love you. And that's a good thing.
“But for now, let me say - without hope or agenda - to me, you are perfect - and my wasted heart will love you....”
-Mark, in Love Actually
When a guy expresses his affection for his friend's bride a few days before their wedding, you know something is "off." But my biggest problem in this scene was his sentiment: "You are perfect." If he really thinks that, it's because he doesn't know her that well. Nobody is perfect. Stop expecting your spouse to be perfect. You are a sinner married to a sinner. Get over it. A better alternative is to overlook your spouse's imperfections and offer a little grace. I'm certain that's what you want your spouse to give you.
Finally, here's the movie quote that I think actually sums up marriage rather accurately. Granted, it comes from "The Notebook," which most guys hate because Ryan Gosling raised the bar on romance to entirely unrealistic levels. (Ladies, we're never going to be as romantic as Noah was in this movie, so stop expecting it. Curse you, Nicholas Sparks!)
“So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s gonna be really hard. We’re gonna have to work at this every day, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day."
- Noah to Allie in The Notebook
This sums up marriage pretty well. To paraphrase: "I love you and I choose you. We're going to face some challenges in our future, but I'm so committed to you that I'm willing to sacrificially work through the difficulties to build something great with you."
This is not too different from a more traditional pledge: "...For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, forsaking all others, until death do us part." In the day-to-day challenges of married life, this line is helpful. In a significant marriage crisis, it's absolutely invaluable.
In those moments, "you complete me" isn't particularly helpful at all.
What movie lines can you think of that get love wrong? Can you think of any that get it right?