Before I was married, I had this picture in my head of what I thought marriage would be. It was a dreamy blend of The Notebook and A Walk to Remember.
Of course, I’d be a good wife; patient, honouring and graceful. My husband would be cuter than Channing Tatum, charming, thoughtful and an incredible listener (just like when we were dating).
Then I got hitched and entered the world of “real” marriage. Oh, what a world! Glorious yet challenging. Rewarding yet costly. Beautiful yet confronting. Ha!
Is marriage good? Yes!
Do I love my husband? Big fat yes!
Is marriage always easy? Definitely not.
I’m certainly no expert and have been married 12 years, but there are a few little things I’ve discovered thus far. Come and see what marriage is really like…
1. Marriage is discovering you’re selfish and trying not to be
I thought I was a pretty selfless person until I got married. I quickly began to realise that I wanted stuff my way or the highway. From the silly things like picking where to eat, to what movie to watch, to whose turn it was to take out the garbage. In essence, most people are egocentric (me-centred). Marriage has a way of revealing that in all its glory, but it also has a way of turning that around and teaching you to put the other person first.
I’m not super great at it, but I’m trying – trying to think less about me and more about the man I love. We recently made a pretty huge decision. I didn’t want to do it, but I knew it meant the world to my husband – so I did! He has preferred me a thousand times and I figured I should do it at least once. (Totally kidding!) #Awkward
I once heard a highly esteemed Christian counsellor say “compromise” doesn’t work but leaves both parties feeling like they’ve lost. What you need to do is let someone “win.” Figuratively speaking. Whoever it means the most to, let that person have it. Obviously if one person is “winning” all the time then that’s not healthy. It should balance out. If both partners put each other first then you’re working toward a healthy equilibrium.
2. Marriage is complete vulnerability, yet total confidence
Real marriage is seeing someone at their worst and loving them regardless. Marriage is an exposure to the good, the bad and the ugly. When you’re dating you can hide the flaws, the imperfections, the insecurities. Marriage is revealing your whole self. It is complete vulnerability – physically and emotionally.
I remember on my honeymoon waking up early the first few days to “fix” my face. Ben had never seen me with absolutely no make-up on and I was self-conscious that if he did, he might change his mind. (Haha sounds so stupid now.) Well let me tell you, that lasted about three days. There’s nowhere to hide in marriage! Turn around and that person is always there. All the time. Proximity produces intimacy. (In-to-me-see!)
Thankfully Ben didn’t change his mind when he saw me fresh faced, ha! He actually regularly tells me I look beautiful when I first wake up. But he’s always such a sweet guy, he’s probably just being kind.
It takes maturity to stick around when you see every part of a person. But that is what marriage should be – embracing your lover, flaws and all.
“Marriage provides the solace of worked-on friendship and the joy of being known profoundly.” –Imogene Stubbs
3. Marriage is a pressure cooker, but it makes you grow
In the early days of my marriage, I often found myself saying: “Seriously you make me so mad, I’ve never felt like this before!”
(And that was the truth.) But it had very little to do with Ben and a lot to do with me. Marriage is a point of pressure and it brings out a whole lot of stuff! Past pain, personality proclivities, emotional baggage and anything you’ve got going on deep down in your soul.
Often times issues within marriage aren’t caused by the other person, they simply rise to the surface. Ben wasn’t making me mad – I had an issue with control and trust. I found it difficult adjusting my world to include another person. l had always been super independent and self-protective; it was my issue, not his. Marriage problems aren’t always marriage problems, they’re often single problems that aren’t addressed before you enter matrimony.
Real marriage is like a mirror – it reveals your junk, but it also gives you an opportunity to see it, take responsibility for it and grow as a person. Remember, diamonds are made under pressure. So let the pressure produce beauty!
4. Marriage is not just a team, it’s oneness
You’re not a pair. You’re one. There’s a difference.
“Me” becomes “we”. One house. One bed. One bank account. One budget. One bathroom. One wardrobe (70/30 split of course, haha). You don’t operate as two separate people anymore. I’m not implying you don’t have your own identity, dreams, friends or time apart. It’s definitely healthy to exist outside of another person. I’m just saying it’s no longer “his and hers”. Everything is ours. When you do this right, it makes you stronger. One can put a thousand to flight. Two can put 10,000!
“There comes a time when a man and woman realise that their separate schemes can be better achieved as a conspiracy.” –Robert Brault
5. Marriage is everyday boring life, but making it count!
The stuff that takes up the most time in your marriage is actually pretty boring. It’s day to day life. Working a job, cleaning the house, cooking dinner, raising kids together. To enjoy marriage, you have to put joy into the everyday stuff – the simple stuff. You can turn little things into significant things. When my husband and I were in the season of very young children, one thing we loved to do every few days is go get a drive-through coffee (and babycinos) when dad got home from work. It took less than 20 minutes but our kids loved it! (Not gonna lie, so did I.)
Marriage isn’t often wining and dining and holidaying in Bali (although occasionally those things are really nice). Marriage is everyday life. Have fun in the mundane. Enjoy each other’s company. Do things you love. Develop a deep affection for one another, because ultimately marriage is friendship on fire!
6. Marriage is waking up to bad breath, but keeping romance alive
Marriage opens up a whole new world of intimate relations; some incredibly attractive and appealing and others not so much. I often joke that people break up because they just get so sick of their partner flatulating in front of them. (I am 100 per cent implying men here.)
Marriage is washing his dirty laundry, sharing a bathroom, a toilet, a bed. Marriage is seeing your wife’s body change when she’s pregnant and giving birth! (That is a scary thought for any guy. Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure women got the short end of the straw there.)
I know it doesn’t sound very attractive, but it’s real. It’s an authentic connection. We don’t live in Hollywood. Sorry, photoshop doesn’t translate to into real life. Seriously, marriage is waking up to bad breathe, brushing your teeth and still wanting to get back in bed and make out with that person.
7. Marriage is learning to listen and attempting to understand
Men and women are from different planets when it comes to communication. Marriage will require you to learn how to really listen to your partner and get on the same page.
Sometimes what one person says and what the other person hears can be two different things. We live out of our own perception. Attempt to see things from the other person’s perspective. Often times, when emotions are up, things get lost in translation and can create conflict.
Some of the best advice I ever got was each week take some time together when you are feeling calm to actually talk about any issues or hurts. One person talks while the other just sits and listens. No interruptions. No rebuttals. Then vice versa. Doing this often results in solving the problem or at least becoming aware of how the other person is feeling.
8. Marriage is a rollercoaster of emotions, but teaches you true faithfulness
Feelings are fickle – they come and they go. Some days you may look at your spouse with a nostalgic twinkle in your eye like you’re 18 again, other days you may look at your partner and think, “gee this person is seriously annoying right now”.
It’s ok. Because love is not just a feeling, it’s a choice – one that needs to be made often.
Don’t trust your emotions because they can go up and down like a roller coaster. Stay committed. The true test of whether you really love someone is how you treat them when you don’t necessarily “feel in love” with them.
Marriage is consistency. Consistency is not sexy but it is necessary!
9. Marriage is discovering that you’re different, and being OK with that
One thing my pastor used to tell me was, “the sooner you accept your spouse and stop trying to change them, the happier you will be!”
It took a few years, but now I get it. Marriage is not about changing someone to be more like you or into the person you want them to be. Often the person you marry will have a completely different temperament, different passions, different values and life experiences to you. That’s ok – it can be a great dynamic and often teaches you to appreciate their strengths. There is always space to grow. But it’s not our job to make that happen.
“Once we figured out that we could not change each other, we became free to celebrate ourselves as we are.”
10. Marriage can hurt, but teaches you how to forgive
My husband and I love each other very much, but we have also hurt each other. When you give someone access to all areas of your heart, their words and actions have the potential to pierce its very depths. I am ashamed to say that some of the meanest things I have ever uttered have been to the man God gave me.
At times, marriage will hurt. But with every wound there is an opportunity to restore, to forgive, to show grace and receive grace. With the inevitability of being disappointed and hurt in marriage comes the reality that you need to learn how to forgive, continually.
“The first to apologise is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest.”
My husband is regularly all three.
Marriage is not easy, but anything worth it, usually isn’t.
Article supplied with thanks to Sabrina Peters.
About the Author: Sabrina is a writer, pastor and relationships blogger. She is passionate about Jesus and changing the way people think about God & sex.