You’ve probably heard that marriage can be difficult. I’m sure you’ve heard that at times your spouse will drive you crazy, that eventually the “honeymoon” will be over, and that’s when the real work involved in love will begin.
Love, after all, is an action, and not merely a feeling.
Well, if you’ve heard all of that, then maybe you also need to hear this:
Marriage is actually supposed to be awesome. Like, really, really wonderful.
I realize that it’s frustrating when it seems like the world doesn’t take marriage or love seriously enough. Marriage is supposed to be this sacred, lifelong union of two people, each no longer living for themselves, but living for one another. And yet it seems like so many people just cut and run when the going gets a little rough.
(It seems that way. But the truth is that this is probably rarely, if ever, truly the case with failed marriages.)
Do we really think that anyone gets married these days unaware of the fact that marriage will be hard at times? We may not get much right about marriage as a society, but the fact of it being difficult is something we’ve had pretty well beaten into our collective subconscious. Honestly, it is a wonder that people still get married at all with all of our talk about the difficulties of marriage!
The fact is that people know that marriage is going to be difficult. Yet people choose to get married anyway. It seems to me that the problem is not so much that we aren’t preparing people for how *difficult* marriage is going to be. I think the problem is that, with all of this talk and all of the emphasis put on the difficulties and the *work* involved to make a marriage work, we don’t give people enough of a reason to hold out for a relationship that is actually worth building a marriage on.
What nobody tells you about marriage is that it is supposed to be awesome. Building a life together with someone you love and who loves you…Growing up and growing old together with someone who gets to know you better than anyone else in the world…Having someone to talk to when you need a friend, a shoulder to cry on, and someone who encourages you to keep growing, keep trying, and for whom you get to do the same.
Marriage is amazing! Or at least, it is supposed to be.
It is also true that all marriages will take work. All of us are imperfect and will inevitably fall short of what I just described above. But it is possible to choose someone with whom you will maybe have to work just a bit harder at marriage (or even considerably harder), than another couple who are perhaps better suited for one another. Marriage takes work, but I hate to say that it is possible to make a poor decision to marry someone with whom the work might be unnecessarily grueling.
That’s ok. It’s not the end of the world. It is, in my mind, not a reason for divorce. I believe that your spouse is, for better or for worse, absolutely and unquestionably “the one,” because your spouse is “the one” you promised to love, honor, and be faithful to for as long as you both shall live. Difficult marriages can still be totally happy and totally loving; they just may take a little bit (or a lot) more heavy lifting to get there.
I think we put emphasis on the work of marriage because we assume we’re talking to an audience of only-married people. Maybe we’re subconsciously talking to our own parents who called it quits when we wish they had stuck it out. Or maybe we’re talking to ourselves after going through an infamous “rough patch” in marriage.
But we need to be careful with putting too much emphasis on the work and the hardships. Because listening too are those who are trying to figure out whether or not they should marry a specific person. They hear us and all of our talk about the work marriage takes, and they wonder,
If love is all choice and not about feelings, then maybe I should just ignore this anxiety I feel about this person with whom I’m discerning marriage. After all, I liked them when we started dating, and feelings fade, right?
The truth is that while it is important to be willing to put in the work involved in marriage, the person with whom you choose to do the work is even more important. Maybe that seems like an obvious point to make, but I think it’s worth emphasizing. Marriage is a vocation in which you are called to devote yourself to a specific person, not simply to an abstract state.
So, to the young couple who is not yet married, please know: Your relationship shouldn’t be full of hard work, not yet.
Will you have rough patches, even when dating?
Yes. It’s not that you won’t have to “work” at your relationship prior to marriage. You’re both human, which means that even when dating you’ll have to learn how to handle one another’s shortcomings. But how you handle those rough patches is telling. Does your handling it make you love (and even, like) the other person more? Or is it just another chance to say, “Oh well, all relationships take work!”
Does the thought of marrying this person fill you with overwhelming excitement?
It should! I think sometimes it’s possible to fall for someone initially, and want it to work out so badly that you can ignore that your feelings for them have changed as you’ve gotten to know them better. Well look, you’re not married. If you don’t actually like this person as much as you thought you would, you’re under no obligation to “stick it out.” In fact if you already feel this way, you’ll be doing this person a favor by breaking it off so you can each find people you’re actually over the moon excited to spend your life with.
Will you get to the stage where your spouse annoys you?
They tell me yes, but I’m honestly not there yet with Tyler (we’re just shy of five years married though, so I guess we’ve got time 😉 ). But, if you’re only dating someone and you already find them annoying in all sorts of little ways, it is not going to get easier when you get married.
Marriage won’t fix your problems. It will just mean you’re stuck with them, which is both exciting and scary. So choose someone with whom you work well, and even though marriage will still take work, it’ll also be awesome. I promise. 🙂