The Marketplace of Love (Jul-Aug 2002)

By Matt Dabbs

By Chris Gonzalez
July-August 2002

Those silly reality shows about love and marriage appall us. Darva Conger married a millionaire and “The Bachelor” finally got hitched. Recently the magazine, Marie Claire, announced that it would help a woman find love by paying her to leave work and participate in activities with men all over the world to find love. The search for love is emerging as the newest spectator sport. Vicarious participation in romance as it unfolds on TV fits our consumer culture perfectly; we can take it or leave it. We can participate without commitment. We have something to talk about without having to be involved. All talk; no risk.

It would be easy to breathe a sigh of relief if this recent fad of television romance were the only symptom of the market driven search for love. However, there is no room for relief because consumerism has made inroads far deeper into marriage and family than can be seen on the surface. In his book, Take Back Your Marriage, William Doherty reports how more than ever before people are treating marriage like a product, spouses like service providers. Rather than finding a love relationship meant to last forever, more and more people are seeking out someone who can give them quality marital services. In a consumer saturated culture, this arrangement may appear to work if all goes well. If the marriage provides affirmation, status, and sexual gratification consistently, then there will be no complaints. However, if the services provided fail to meet the community standard, the consumer of marital services may start shopping somewhere else.

The result of this kind of consumer-minded approach to love is not only represented in the continuous stream of couples flowing through divorce court, but perhaps even more so in the rising tide of people participating in cohabitation. People are more willing to try out a partner than commit to one. This shopping mall romance mentality makes sense in a culture inundated with images and messages that scream, “Bigger! Better! Faster! More!” The cohabitation generation is the natural evolutionary result of the confluence of consumerism and an entire generation of divorce.

The social forces of relational consumerism were set in motion long ago and now have continued through decades of inertia. Any hope for genuine love and romance is clouded with cynical skepticism about contrived, prepackaged, and disposable relationships. Without an Almighty God, these concerns could be overwhelming, but with an Almighty God, there is hope to cure the consumer marriage.

The divine romance novel we as believers have in the Bible provides a better model for our marriages than our fallen consumer culture. The Father’s constant and passionate pursuit of His people throughout the ages models His commitment. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross further demonstrates that nothing can erode that commitment. The advent of the Holy Spirit dwelling within every single believer even further displays God’s commitment to intimacy with his people. God’s continual question remains, “How can I deepen intimacy with my people?” Old Testament, New Testament and today, the question is the same. God is doing everything He can to romance the one He loves…us.

Now imagine a couple who asks of themselves the question God is asking as opposed to what our consumer culture is asking. What would it be like if spouses asked, “What can I contribute?” rather than, “What is in it for me?” What a change! Divorce and cohabitation would no longer make sense with a shift like that. Why? Success in marriage would no longer be measured in personal satisfaction, but rather in personal contribution to the marriage. Commitment would emerge as normal since it is easy to commit to someone bent on outgiving you. This is what, “Submit yourselves one to another,” means. It is not about fairness; it is about love. It is not about who is in charge; it is about love. It is not about who deserves what; it is about love.

Consumer marriages are doomed to failure because they require something of marriage that it was never meant to provide, filling our emptiness with an inexhaustible supply of personal satisfaction. A Godly marriage relieves couples of the pressure to be a constant source of life for each other and replaces it with the comfort of leaving that up to God. The consumer marriage and the Godly marriage cannot coexist. Marriage is God’s gift to humans to teach us about how deeply He loves us. The more we learn of God the more we learn of marriage and the more we learn of marriage the more learn of God. His commitment to us stands unwavering. Let us look to God rather than the marketplace as our model for marriage.

Contact Chris at cgonzalez@betterlife.org

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This author published 1598 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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