Soulmates, Unicorns and other Myths
About the Guest
Are you on a quest to find your soul mate? If so, you may be on the wrong journey. Counselor Jim Keller probes the legend of the soul mate as he explores and explodes mythologies of marital happiness. Jim Keller turns marriage upside down and sheds light on what makes a Godly marriage.
Are you on a quest to find your soul mate? If so, you may be on the wrong journey.
Soulmates, Unicorns and other Myths
Bob: You know the place in the Bible where Jesus talks about logs and specks—about how easy it is for us to see the speck in someone else’s eye and to miss the log in our own? Author and marriage counselor, Jim Keller, says that’s often true in a marriage relationship.
Jim: The thing I tell couples—I hear this from men and women: “We went to church,” this husband told me one time. “It was a perfect sermon for my wife.” I go, “Oh, really—a perfect sermon for your wife?” He said, “Yes. I asked her about it later. It didn’t even have an effect.” My question to him was, “Well, was it a perfect sermon for you?” He looked at me like, “Well, yes, I guess.” I said, “Well, did you tell her how God spoke to you during that message?” He said, “No.” I said, “You might want to start there.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, December 21st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. If there are issues or if there’s tension in your marriage relationship, is it possible that the place you ought to look first is at your own stuff? We’re going to talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Okay, I was starting to go with you on this. We’ve been talking about this book you wrote the “Forward” to—The Upside Down Marriage—and I asked you earlier about why you wrote a “Forward” to a book that says, “Don’t Talk So Much,” “Fight More,” “Quit Forgiving All the Time”. These are the chapter titles in this book.
Dennis: “Have Less Sex”.
Bob: That’s the one. I was going with you—I was starting to get there. Chapter 5—Ahh! No! — “Have Less Sex”. You signed off on this book; right?
Dennis: We’ve got to talk to the author of this book, Jim Keller. Jim—welcome back to the broadcast.
Jim: Good to be here. Thanks.
Dennis: After all the insults Bob gave you, you came back! [Laughter] What a friend! I love it.
Jim: It’s a privilege. [Laughter]
Dennis: Jim is the founder and President of Charis Counseling Center in Orlando, Florida. He and his wife Renee have been married for 35 years. They have two kids, four grandchildren; and he has written a book called The Upside Down Marriage. Every chapter in here will cause you to scratch your head. In fact, I thought, “You know, counselors like to be disruptive sometimes; huh?” That’s what you’re doing here!
Jim: Sometimes it helps.
Bob: These ten pages, right here—
Dennis: You’re disruptive.
Bob: —from page 77 to page 86.
Dennis: Explain yourself, “Have Less Sex”.
Jim: I think we are such a sex-saturated culture that sometimes we become desensitized to it. Couples, generally, as they counsel with me—usually, if they stay long enough—it gets to the topic of their sexual relationship, but the issue is not sex. The issue is intimacy. The whole point of the chapter is—we’re such a quantitative- and technique-oriented culture, when it comes to sex and sexual relationships. It has permeated all areas of our culture.
It’s great to talk about how often you want to have sex, and it is okay to talk about technique; but it all misses the point. The point is—sex was created by God to capstone the intimate relationship of marriage. It is an intimate act. If we degrade it to the point where we quantify it, and pick it apart, in terms of technique, and what we do, and how we do it, we’ve missed the whole point.
Bob: You boil it down to the biological, and you’ve missed what’s at the core of it; right?
Dennis: I’ve had this thought many times. Our culture is bombarded on TV, in music, on the internet, with all kinds of messages about sex. I mean, driving down the freeway, sex is used to sell everything from galoshes to prunes, for goodness’ sake.
Jim: Yes, it is.
Dennis: As a result, I think we, as a culture, have a real difficult time finding a plumb line to say, “How does this dimension of the marriage relationship fit together?”
Jim: I think many times we don’t have a plumb line at all. I think the reason why we don’t have the plumb line is we’ve lost the purpose. I don’t think couples—especially Christian couples, even—don’t have the idea of what sex really is. Interesting, when Paul is talking to the Church at Corinth—the Church at Corinth had a temple where there were temple prostitutes. Some of the believers were going up and “worshipping” at the temple.
Bob: Which had been their pagan—that’s how they had done it in the past.
Jim: Which had been their pagan—that’s their culture. They really didn’t think a whole lot of it until Paul writes and says, “Look. You have to understand, when you unite yourself with someone else, there is a spiritual transaction that takes place, even if it’s with someone that you don’t even know their name and don’t care about them—there’s something that transpires during that.”
That’s what our culture doesn’t realize. That’s what I want couples to see very clearly— is that bonding is important. That needs to be the focus when couples get together—not, “Hey, let’s just have a great time with having sex,” —which is great, and it’s enjoyable, and it’s fun—but there’s something deeper and more profound that takes place.
Bob: I tease you about these chapter titles. You’re being intentionally provocative.
Jim: Of course.
Bob: You’re getting our attention with the chapter titles. When you sit down with couples, and are working through marital issues around intimacy, what’s at the heart of that? Where are you taking them typically? What are you trying to fix? What are you trying to undo? What are the issues they’re wrestling with?
Jim: Well, what I want them to see is that the things that are impeding their physical intimacy usually are relational, emotional, and spiritual. I want them to do first things first. Sex doesn’t fix a marriage. Sex is the icing on the cake of a good marriage.
I want them to see that there are steps that they need to take to communicate with each other, to resolve conflict with each other, and to take the time. This is so interesting to me. I ask couples all the time—be intentional about your physical intimacy. They go, “What does that mean?” I say, “Plan it—plan a time of intimacy.” I gave this couple homework. That’s sort of fun homework. Wouldn’t you want to come see me as a counselor? [Laughter]
They came back and I said, “How did it go?” They said, “It was okay. It was fine.” I said, “Let me guess. The time you allotted to your physical intimacy was 30 minutes, and you thought that was a long time.” They both looked at me with these big deer eyes and they said, “How did you know?” I said, “Because that’s our culture—this is a 30-minute act.”
I said, “Why don’t you take an evening next time, and enjoy each other. Don’t make it so sensual that it’s silly, but enjoy each other emotionally, conversationally, physically, and build your intimacy that way.” It’s interesting—that couples that have problems—I always ask, “How do you do when you get away together—when you have a weekend together?” This is why I think Weekends to Remember® work so well.
They say, “We do really well.” I said, “Do you know why you do well? It’s because you’ve got no one else around you. You can focus on each other and you have time together. Build that into your marriage relationship.”
Dennis: You actually challenge couples to give up having sex. You get a response from the men—that I laughed out loud when I read it.
Jim: Yes, there are couples that come in and the wife is complaining, “That’s all he wants. This is getting to be boring, irritating, and he’s a whiner.” There are more men that turn into whiners in this area. I’m ashamed of my gender. But there was this one guy that came in and he said, “Yes, my wife, she just doesn’t want to have sex anymore.”
I said, “I think that would be a good thing to do. I think you need to step back. I think you need to figure out how you’re going to be working on your intimacy without having sex being this be-all and end-all—‘If we don’t have this, then we’re really not intimate.’ Then, let’s talk about how we really want to do life and do your marriage.” Men don’t like that advice.
Dennis: And what was his response? Remember what he said?
Jim: Well I asked him, “Can you do it?” He said, “How, how—how long will I have to do it?” I said, “You’re going to have to do it until she invites you back into that relationship.” I don’t remember the exact—
Dennis: Well, I’m reading it right here.
Dennis: “Give up on sex? That’s absurd! If I can’t have sex, I’ll explode.”
Bob: “I’ll explode.” Yes, that’s—
Dennis: You guarantee men, in here, they will not explode.
Jim: I know. I challenge wives all the time to—on their iPhone or video machine—to see if they can catch an explosion of a guy not having sex for a long period of time. But I hear that from more people—more men. “Oh, I’ll just explode!” I go, “Really? Wow! That’s interesting.”
Bob: There are couples—we’ve talked to them at Weekends to Remember —who will come in and say, “It’s been two years. Things are not good.” If a couple came to you and said, “We’ve just decided not to make that really a part of our marriage. We’re okay with that—both of us—okay with that. We’re just fine with it being what it is.” Would you say, “Oh, okay,” or would you say, “No, there’s something we need to deal with, here.”
Jim: That’s a good question. There are couples, who physically, can’t be intimate. They have to work their intimacy around that—and that—pretty much, you decide for yourself on that. But a couple that comes in and says, “We’re just not that interested.” I usually encourage them to build some kind of physical intimacy back into their relationship.
I think God created it for a purpose, and I think it’s a wonderful thing. I think it’s different for a man and a woman. I think the mystery of two people loving each other that way—and those different thoughts and desires coming together— is a beautiful thing. I think you lose something in a marriage relationship if that’s not part of it.
Dennis: I’m with you, Jim. I think the couple who have allowed the sexual dimension to become absent—it’s a real mistake.
Jim: I think so. I agree.
Dennis: It really is a mistake.
Bob: You also, in your book, tell people to be less religious and to go to church less often. I mean, that’s what the chapter titles say. What are you pointing to there?
Jim: Two different chapters. Well, to go to church less often—I’m a big believer and a participant in my church—and I love my association with my church. The issue there is church being used as a vehicle to fix my spouse—or to go and be a consumer—and not a participant, and a giver, and a servant. I think it’s critical that we look at church as being a place we can go and use our gifts and edify—not go and see if we feel good about the sermon or if we feel good about the worship. Worship is important and the sermon is important, but what you do is more important.
The thing that I tell couples—I hear this from men and women: “We went to church,” this husband told me one time. “It was a perfect sermon for my wife.” I go, “Oh, really—perfect sermon for your wife?” He said, “Yes, I asked her about it later. It didn’t even have an effect.” My question is, “Well, was it a perfect sermon for you?” He looked at me like, “Well, yes. I guess.” I said, “Well, did you tell her how God spoke to you during that message?” He said, “No.” I said, “You might want to start there.” When church is for you—it’s not to fix the people in your life—your spouse, your kids—it’s a place where you get to go and you get to meet with God. That’s the gist of that chapter.
Dennis: I like how you answered it, there at the beginning, when you said, “At some point, our relationship with God has to spill over and impact people where we live—in our apartment complex, our neighborhood, at work.”
Dennis: That’s a part of having a relationship with God—that we have good works, and be generous, and impact people’s lives.
Jim: Yes, absolutely. That is us, being the Church, in the world. The church I attend begins every service by saying, “Thank You for bringing the Church into this room.” When I first attended there, I thought, “That’s a nice thing to say. I get it—little “c” church, big “C” Church—I get that.” Sunday after Sunday, I went back—same thing, same thing.
I just got a little bit irritated. “Can’t you think of a new line to introduce?” Until finally—I was about a year into it—and I thought, “Oh, okay God, I get it. I get what You are trying to say to me. This is a constant reminder—that when I come into this building, that I’m just staying here for a short amount of time; but my real ministry is outside this building.” It’s a delightful reminder to have every week.
Dennis: Let’s talk about Chapter 11 in your book because this has to do with expectations. The title of this chapter is, “Give Up Finding Your Soul Mate”.
Dennis: You must find a little of this occurring in the counseling—
Jim: I find a lot of it. I don’t know who came up with the whole concept of soul mate. I’m not sure. Right now, I’m reading—I read it when I was in high school—but I’m rereading Les Miserables, Victor Hugo’s great novel. It’s a good read; but it’s so full of this love—this love between Marius and Cosette—and all the feelings of that. But this whole idea of there’s one person out there—who’s really going to be it and really does complete me—is a myth that I think has been foisted on our culture. It really can hurt and indeed ruin marriage relationships.
Dennis: Think about the TV programs that have been birthed by this concept: The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. I don’t think I’ve ever watched one from beginning to end—but maybe in channel surfing, I’ve whizzed by and stopped for a moment and go, “What must that be like?”
Bob: I laugh because they call it a “reality” show. I mean, that’s the least reality!
Dennis: Find your soul mate there?!
Bob: There is no reality in any of those shows whatsoever. But I think you’re right—whether it’s TV—how romance and marriage is presented in popular culture—in the movies, in song, and then we have websites that are all built around, “We’re going to help you scientifically find your soul mate.”
Jim: Oh, absolutely. “You take this test, and we’ll line you up. There you go.”
Bob: But there is something about compatibility that we need to be paying attention to; isn’t there?
Jim: Ah, I—
Dennis: Jim, you’re shaking your head.
Jim: I think compatibility is a myth.
Jim: It’s very much overrated. Here’s my bottom line in incompatibility. Of course, I am a believer in Jesus. I believe that two people need to be in love with Jesus. I think if a man and a woman are in love with Jesus, I don’t care what their personality is. I think they can have a great marriage.
Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory—you just line it up. I can give you ups and downs. Do the Marriage Enrichment Test—all those things you can have—but relationships are work. The whole idea of being a soul mate is something that you grow into. It’s not like you find them, and then you don’t have to do any work. It’s the lazy man’s—it’s the lazy woman’s—gateway to the perfect relationship.
Bob: I think you’ve hit on it, right there, because I think that people are looking for something that will require no effort.
Bob: When they’re saying, “I’m looking for my soul mate,” —“I’m looking for somebody who completes me, without me having to do anything.” Let me just tell you, “They ain’t there; okay?” Relationships take work, and the payoff—like you said—soul mate comes after you’ve done the work.
Jim: It does.
Dennis: Well, we marry one another because we’re different.
Jim: I agree.
Dennis: You didn’t marry a carbon copy of yourself.
Jim: I hope not.
Dennis: You wouldn’t. If you did that, then one of you is unnecessary, at that point.
Dennis: So we marry because they’re different. The problem is—before we get married, that’s an attraction. After we get married and seal the deal, it’s like two magnets that get turned around. They start repelling each other.
Jim: That’s right.
Dennis: The differences become aggravations. We tend to look at the other person, “They’re not truly my soul mate.” Then, you bring in the issue of the spiritual dimension—where one person is really growing, and sees a great need for God and a relationship with Him in his or her life, and they’re married to a spouse who may not be there, right now, in the journey.
Jim: Right, right.
Dennis: So the issue of soul mate to that person—is it wrong for the person who is really on fire for Jesus Christ to want to have a soul mate who shares the spiritual dimension of life together?
Jim: No, but my response to that spouse—be it a husband or a wife—is, “You now are called by God to be Jesus Christ to your spouse. This isn’t a, ‘Okay, now where can I go find someone like-minded?’ This is ‘Oh! Okay, I get it. This is where God has me, for whatever reason.’” We don’t know the ways of God. We don’t know His mind. But instead of saying, “This is really hard, and I wish this were easier,” it’s, “No, I need to love this person like I’ve been loved by Christ.” It is that kind of love—turned toward that spouse—that whether he or she is an unbeliever or whether they’re just very young in their faith and not really growing—that’s the long-term mission for that spouse.
Dennis: Jim, you and Renee, for a number of years, spoke at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. You undoubtedly saw some couples come to that conference, who were not soul mates when they came; but they were on the road, as they left.
Dennis: I just want you to speak to perhaps a listener as to why he or she ought to get their spouse and go to the Weekend to Remember, and get away to be refreshed, spiritually, and perhaps find their soul mate. You know what I mean? It’s the antithesis of what you’re talking about—but really, be more on the journey together—the spiritual journey together.
Jim: Well, that’s the point I would make. Any couple who wants to—who’s thinking, “Okay, how can we work on our marriage more?” That weekend is a weekend to get away so you can literally be on the same page. You are working together, communicating together in an environment that’s going to encourage you to do that, you’re getting the input that you need to do that. It also gives you a place where God can get you away, out of the daily grind of life, and speak to you in a unique and special way.
I did those conferences; I loved them. I did them for 18 years; and of course, I was a counselor for most of that time. Of course, you work away with people and you counsel people. I remember sending couples to the Weekend to Remember, encouraging them to do that. I remember this one couple I worked with for six months—and couldn’t even get to first base. That weekend was the catalyst for them to come together and for God to speak to them. It’s amazing to me—and it always was—how God can use that brief time together to really change the course of a relationship. I wholeheartedly would encourage couples to consider it. And it is beneficial—greatly beneficial.
Dennis: In Acts, Chapter 17, it is said of the disciples—that they came to Thessalonica. The phrase used to describe them, “These men, who have turned the world upside down, have come here also.” What Jim Keller wants to do, in this book, is turn your marriage—your world—upside down around the person of Jesus Christ by connecting you and your spouse to Him. You’ll benefit from getting a copy of his book.
Jim, I just appreciate you, your faithfulness to God and the Scriptures, and to your vocation as a counselor. I also appreciate your friendship. You’re a good man, and I meant every word I said in the “Forward” to that book.
Jim: I appreciate that, and I feel the same way. It’s a privilege to be with you both. You guys are great.
Bob: I’m sure nobody is surprised by the fact that we’ve got copies of your book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Listeners can go online to request a copy. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com if you’d like to get Jim’s book, The Upside Down Marriage. Again, the website: FamilyLifeToday.com. Or call toll-free: 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number; 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.
Let me also just add here, I think it would be a good idea for listeners to make a New Year’s resolution. I know we haven’t even gotten to Christmas yet, but you’ve probably already started thinking about your New Year’s resolutions. One of them ought to be, “We’re going to go to an event in 2013 to strengthen our marriage,”—a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, maybe an Art of Marriage event, maybe host an Art of Marriage event in your community. Make plans to do that. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about what’s available and how you can make plans to either host an event or attend an event. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com
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We hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family can worship together this weekend in your local church; and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we have something special planned for you for Christmas Eve, with our friends Keith and Kristyn Getty. So I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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