In part one, I wrote about the importance of focusing on being a whole, complete, secure individual (a “one”), before we can ever hope to find intimacy as a couple (a “two”). It is unfair and unrealistic to think that your spouse or your marriage will fix what is broken in you.

In this post we will explore how learning these truths applies to 5 relationship scenarios.

  • Application to Singles and Pre-Marrieds

If you are single, please don’t move on to adding a two until you’ve gotten a grip on one. You certainly don’t have to be perfect before you get married. You never will be. But here are some key truths that every single must know:

  • Marriage is not going to meet your deepest needs.
  • Marriage is not going to make you happy.
  • Marriage is not going to fulfill your dreams.
  • Marriage is not going to heal your past.
  • Marriage is not going to solve your personal problems.
  • Marriage is not going to secure your future.

Marriage can be a source of great joy and satisfaction. My wife and I share and enjoy many hopes and dreams together. Marriage is a wonderful gift from God, but it cannot take God’s place. The abundant life and marriage that we enjoy as a couple has as its source somewhere outside of the marriage itself. We would never be able to enjoy our marriage to its fullest capacity if we were expecting our marriage to be our own personal Messiah.

We are free to enjoy our marriage because we do not need our marriage to experience joy.

  • Application to Marriage

The movie, Jerry Maguire, came out the year I graduated from high school. I would listen to the featured song from the movie on the radio as I drove back and forth to school. This particular version of the song included clips from the movie. I can still hear Bruce Springsteen’s voice singing, “She’ll let you in her house if you come knockin’ late at night…” and hearing Tom Cruise tell Renee Zellweger, “You complete me.

As I listened, I dreamed of the girl who would one day complete me and be everything I needed her to be. I would have her at hello and she would save me from myself. It was a very unfair expectation to place upon my future marriage partner. It was also a very self-centered view of romance and relationships.

Becky does not complete me. I do not complete Becky. We gave up trying to complete one another and we no longer take our marriage advice from Tom Cruise. We also decided to vaccinate our kids. I liked Tom better back when he flew F14s.

We no longer get our security, identity, or validation from one another. We don’t fill the void in each other’s heart.. If we expected our marraige to do something it was never intended to do then we would end up destroying it. I almost did.

Just like my push mower was never intended to be held up to trim my hedges. I lost my hedges doing that. I almost lost my arm too. I don’t want to lose my marriage due to misuse or unrealistic expectations of what it can do. It’s not supposed to complete me or make me whole!  

  • Application to Affair Recovery

The fact that one comes before two offers much-needed hope in affair recovery. Most couples in therapy for infidelity make the mistake of focusing on the couple. Most counselors have forgotten that one comes before two. The assumption is that the affair must have happened because something was wrong with the marriage. This is a wrong assumption.

Becky and I believe that affairs happen because there is something wrong with the person who had the affair. His or her unfaithfulness reveals a deficiency in him or her that the marriage didn’t fix, and will never fix, no matter how wonderful the marriage might become through counseling.

Certainly no marriage is perfect and if you look hard enough you will find something in the marriage you can “blame” for the affair. Again, we think this is a mistake. Ultimately, it is the person who had the affair who must take personal responsibility. He (or she) must take a moral inventory of his own heart and must own up to the fact that he chose to deal with whatever “issues” were in his life and marriage by choosing an affair. One comes before two.

What if Two Leaves You?

What if your partner chooses to leave after an affair? Can you ever heal and become whole? What if he or she refuses to do the hard work, go to counseling, or quit seeing his or her affair partner? Is there hope for you without him?

We believe that you can still fully recover from your affair trauma and emerge healthier and more fulfilled for it. How? Because your recovery is not dependant upon him or her. You don’t need a two to be a healthy, whole one. Your identity does not need to be wrapped up in your marriage or in your marriage partner.

His choices do not get to define who you are. Closure will not come from him. It will come from you. As heartbreaking and as hard as it is to have an uncooperative spouse who abandons you and your marriage, you’re still going to be okay.

You can be a whole and complete person without your spouse. Your life, joy, and peace does not depend upon your marriage. As much as we would love to see your marriage healed, you do not need to have a healed marriage to be a healed person.

  • Application to Affair Prevention

There is nothing you can do to “affair-proof” your marriage. You can only “affair-proof” your own life. It’s your partner’s responsibility to affair-proof his or her own life. Saying that you can affair-proof your marriage is essentially saying that you have the power to do certain things that will control your partner’s behavior. You can’t manipulate your partner into staying faithful. It’s not your job anyway. There is nothing you can do ensure that he or she never cheats.

Certainly, there are things that a couple can both do to remove common vulnerabilities to affairs and to create an atmosphere of honesty and openness that makes having an affair difficult. There are also certain unhealthy habits that develop between couples that do just the opposite and create an environment ripe for an affair. Couples should do all they can to create a healthy relationship that removes affair facilitators and that creates affair hindrances. However, the only way a couple can truly affair-proof their marriage is when each individual takes personal responsibility to affair-proof their own eyes, mind, heart, and body. One comes before two.

  • Application to Relationship with God

Ultimately it all comes down to the fact that One (THE ONE) comes before two. Our relationship with Him is paramount to having a healthy relationship with other people.

The Bible teaches that God has given us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). He has given us everything we need for life. We don’t need anyone or anything else to be complete. God has already given us everything we need to be complete.

It is our sin that has separated us from God and others. It is our sin that has created a sense of emptiness and inadequacy inside of us. We were created for relationship and intimacy with God first and foremost. He wants our identity and our security to be wrapped up in Him. He wants to give us our sense of validation, worth, meaning, and significance.

Our sin stripped all these wonderful things away from us and left us feeling naked, exposed, vulnerable, and spiritually dead. We felt alone, not because God abandoned us, but because we were hiding from Him. We went out in search of fig leaves to cover up our shame. Those fig leaves to the form of money, power, sex, drugs, approval, relationships, even marriage perhaps, but it all left us lacking.

But God, in His great mercy, came looking for us. He sent his Son, Jesus, to be our life-giving groom. He came “so that we might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). In him, we find forgiveness, sufficiency, value, and purpose. We don’t need anything or anyone else.

Our love for others, including our love for our spouse, comes out of the overflow of this first and foremost relationship. Jesus said that the correct order of the top two greatest commandments was to love God first, then love others second (Matthew 22:37-39). One (the big ONE) comes before two.

In John chapter four, Jesus started up a conversation with a woman who was drawing water at a well in the city of Samaria. This poor woman had spent her whole adult life trying to find completion, validation, and satisfaction by adding “two’s” to her empty, incomplete, and thirsty “one.” By the time she met Jesus she was on her sixth relationship and living with a guy who didn’t even respect her enough to give her a ring or his name.

Jesus came to rescue people like her, people like you and me, people who trust in cheap substitutes, and cheap thrills, and cheap people to do for us what only He can do for us.

He came to rescue us from our puny messiahs and to be our true Messiah. He came to offer that woman, and to offer us, living water so that we would drink from Him and never be thirsty again and have all our needs met in him.

Nothing in this world (and no one in this world) can satisfy the longing in our heart except Christ. In Him, we can be a healthy, whole, satisfied, complete, secure and sufficient one. From this place of health and wholeness we can then enjoy the blessings of being united with a two, but not based on need or dependence, but based on love, desire, sacrifice, and acceptance.

These are the kinds of relationships that God created us for. These are the kinds of relationships that people who are already healthy and whole ones flourish in because they put one before two.