Marriage is the most sacred relationship we can enter into. It is ordained by God, and is the oldest institution. It is spoken of throughout the Bible, and is sacred in every way. But it isn’t always easy, and you will never have all the answers.
Couples often enter into marriage with rose-colored glasses. When two very different, and admittedly selfish, people join together until death do us part, it can be hard to see exactly what problems could arise.
There are five things I wish I knew before I got married, and I want to share them with you.
1. You will never fix your spouse.
This is such a common issue in marriage. The day you say, “I do,” your annoying habits don’t change. Your personality quirks don’t either, and you will certainly not instantly turn into a neat freak when you have lived most of your life under a pile of clothes. The only thing that often changes is your tolerance for your spouse’s less-than-desirable habits. The truth is, you will likely never change your spouse. Old habits die hard, and it’s an illusion to believe that anybody will magically change overnight. The best thing you can do is know and accept your fiance (and eventual spouse) for who they are, and maybe even embrace their quirks.
2. Getting married won’t solve your problems.
Let’s face it: we all have a little baggage that we bring into our marriages. I’ve never met a family void of all disfunction, and anybody who has had more than one relationship has likely been hurt in the past. Likewise, all relationships will encounter times of conflict. But when it comes to marriage, it is wise to be honest about these things. If you are fighting about the same thing over and over again as an engaged couple, you will likely continue to fight about it as a married couple. Getting married will never fix your problems. In fact, at times it even enhances them. When we are able to let our guard down, oftentimes our filters for creating conflict are torn down just the same.
When we allow it to, marriage can create a vulnerability and a place to be fully known, and over time that can bring healing and restoration to areas of our lives that need it. But that doesn’t come naturally by simply saying, “I do.”
3. You will go through hard seasons.
After 30 years of marriage, Leslie and I have gone through our fair share of ups and downs. And let me tell you, we haven’t been immune to our own hard seasons just because we have devoted our lives to investing in marriages. So much of our lives today are played out online, and many of those moments are highlights. It can leave us with the false impression that others are always on vacation, or eating at the best restaurants, enjoying fine wine and deep conversation.
The truth is, much of our lives are lived in the mundane. We balance jobs, family, friends, and kids. We face hardship and have seasons where we are seeing less than eye to eye. Finances get tight, or somebody gets sick. The honest reality is that if you haven’t faced a hardship, then buckle up, because at some point you likely will.
What we have found is that the hard seasons have brought us closer together when we have let them. The biggest lesson we have learned is that during hard seasons, it is imperative to do them together. It can be so easy to turn against each other, but that never brings a good outcome. And as much as we hate to face hardship, it truly is where our character is built–and this will build a solid foundation of trust and compassion in marriage.
4. You are two selfish people entering into the most selfless relationship.
For the better part of two decades or more, we live life mostly for ourselves. We make decisions for one, take care of one, clean and cook for one. And we get quite used to how we like things being done, don’t we? I know I did. It is human nature to think about yourself first. But in a marriage, that will get you nowhere fast.
When get married, we are called first to serve. And if you’re like me, that doesn’t always come naturally. It is a daily shift to think and act selflessly. But it’s not just a suggestion, it’s a mandate and, I believe, one of the biggest keys to a great marriage. The sooner you can admit that you are selfish, the sooner you can let that piece of you go. Not only will your spouse appreciate it, but your marriage will thrive!
5. It’s OK to fight!
Red flags go up everywhere when I hear couples say that they don’t fight. By no means am I condoning a pattern of raised voices and saying things that you will regret, but I am suggesting that “fighting” can be good for a marriage. There is a healthy way to talk out your differences and most of the healthiest couples I know not only have the occasional fight, but aren’t afraid to admit it. Conflict is an unfortunate and not always comfortable part of any relationship, but it is also a place where you can grow closer together as a couple. As long as it is not abused, it really is OK to fight!
Marriage is the ultimate journey of growth and learning to love selflessly. I’m hoping that for those of you who aren’t married, that this will help you set better expectations for your marriage. Ultimately, the key to all of this is grace. Here’s to a marriage that thrives, not just survives!