Living in Community and the Curse of the Reality Show Marriage

I know why those marriages on reality shows always fall apart. You can take an otherwise good, or at least decent, marriage, and put them on TV, and by the end of it, they are an angry, bickering mess.

Which, of course, is what makes great TV and so these things are encouraged. Who wants to watch a loving, stable couple go on sailing trips and live happily ever after? Of course not. We want to see the guy obnoxiously drunk, vomiting over the railing, hurling F bombs at everyone in earshot, including the camera crew, preferably while his wife is below deck kissing someone else’s husband. This is much more entertaining.

But, I’ve been thinking about this the last couple of days. I am staying in what we in the Christian world call, “community.” If you haven’t heard of this, it’s kind of a thing right now. It’s sort of like the Christian version of The Real World. You get a handful of people, many times strangers, all living together in one house, and using values of Christian love, somehow inhabiting in harmony.

In this sense, the idea goes back to the first century church, in which they sort of inhabited the same general locale, and shared fish and bread and all prayed together all the time. It’s very grassroots. A lot of churches believe that Christianity has become a big, institutionalized machine, and that we should go back and study how the first century church lived, and somehow adapt that to our lives and overall method of worship.  Community can work if it’s done right.

So, I’ve done this before, and I’m doing it again for a short interlude. It’s always an interesting study of how people live together. But, the thing about it, is, that if you do it right, it can make you dangerously introspective.

Living in community is like living in a house of three way mirrors. You live with people constantly around you, and constantly seeing everything you do, and reflecting it back on you. Suddenly, you are aware that you tend to leave kitchen cabinet doors open. Or that you will get a glass of water, sip from it for two hours, then forget where you set it, and then go get another one, leaving a graveyard of half-empty water glasses all over the house. That is, until someone comes trudges into the kitchen with all of them, wondering where they all came from…And suddenly, you begin to feel like a slob…Man, you say. I thought I was reasonably clean…

It’s like that with everything. Geez, I didn’t know I shed so much hair in the shower. Maybe I need to take some kind of vitamin…Everywhere you turn, you are constantly re-evaluating the way you do things, the way you communicate, interact, and in general, live. Well, am I offensive to others in this way…well, maybe I shouldn’t have said this or that…And you keep doing this all day until your head explodes. And eventually, you just want to be like, “Forget, people. This is how I am. Live with it!” Of course, you know this isn’t the “right” way to do things, so you don’t. But, you spend so much time thinking about how you live and interact with others, that you are practically falling apart.

So, aside from a lifestyle of missions-oriented prayer people, I don’t know how this could possibly work. I guess that’s why it really doesn’t. That’s why Real World is entertaining. You get so many strangers is a house, and…well…just let ‘em have at, and then point the camera.

Which, I would think, if you had the whole world watching your marriage, and weighing in all over the Internet, it would similarly make you a nervous wreck until you didn’t know which end was up. And, eventually, your marriage, made of two broken people who love each other very much, would explode into a train wreck divorce before you even knew what happened.

And this is why reality TV marriages fail. Because no one’s marriage can survive with the whole world commenting on how much hair they leave in the shower…


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