I was clicking through some posts on a singles forum and came across one titled “Dream wife and Dream husband.”

I admit that I was surprised at the maturity of the responses. Dream spouse characteristics included honest, church-going, non-judgmental, secure, empathetic and so on. Of course, there were some silly ones in there too: “Like Eve before the fall.”

The thread got me thinking about some teaching I heard a few years ago before I got married, a talk given by Pastor Dave Harvey called “When Sinners Say I Do.” The gist of the sermon (now a book) was that if I enter into marriage knowing that my wife will sin, then I won’t be disappointed when … surprise … she does sin.

The outline of the message, which is freely available from Sovereign Grace Ministries, shows how you can tell whether or not your doctrine of sin is being applied effectively in your relationship. The first “indicator” is: “We are More Aware of Being a Sinner Than Being Sinned-Against.” Fascinating.

What I took away after listening to the sermon was an encouragement to practice grace and have realistic expectations, expectations based in what Scripture says about human nature.

I think it may be helpful to think of “The One” as someone who’s sinful, just as you are. I think that’s better than to think of them as the idealized “soul mate” (see this and this) with whom you’ll be able to enjoy a problem-free, effortless relationship.

While it’s true that singles should do a good deal of work “up-front” in selecting a spouse, it’s also true that because we’re all sinful, a good relationship will continue to take a good deal of effort and require a good deal of grace.