I posted the following as my status on Facebook yesterday:
Marriage was not designed to make you happy, satisfied, or whole. If you go into it for any of the aforementioned reasons, you’re in for a rude awakening.Some of my friends asked me to expound, so I guess I’ll take a stab at it here.
First let me preface this post by saying that I in no way claim to be an expert on marriage. My husband and I have been married a little under four years and we’re still learning a lot of things about being married. If you want expert advice, talk to someone who’s been at this for decades (and let me listen in). I can only share what I’ve learned so far. Further, I assure you that, despite the tone of this post, I really love being married. However, I don’t want people to be delusional about what marriage is or is not. So let me share with you what marriage cannot do.
Marriage cannot make you happy.
I think it’s safe to say that many people who want to be married think that marriage will make them happy, but I maintain that’s just not true. We’ve all grown up with the fairy tales where the princess finds a prince, gets married, and lives “happily ever after.” Simply put, nothing can “make” you happy. Absolutely nothing. Happiness is a personal choice and is not contingent upon one’s circumstances. There are plenty of happy poor folks and miserable millionaires. If you aren’t happy before marriage, chances are you won’t be happy in it. And unfortunately, a lot of people get dejected when they enter a marriage and realize they’re not as happy as they thought they’d be. Learn to be happy independent of outside influences.
Marriage does not equal satisfaction.
Let me be clear: you will not be completely satisfied in your marriage 100% of the time. You’re talking about two people who were raised by different mothers, were taught different standards, and somehow decided it would be a good idea to join together and become a unit. But because they are still two very distinct people, clashes naturally arise when expectations don’t align with reality. He has different ideas about cleaning than you do. She has different ideas about money than you do. You both thought sex would be more plentiful than it currently is. Somebody is going to be disappointed occasionally.
There is not a single person on earth who can completely live up to your expectations because all of us fall short. Whomever you marry will likely disappoint you, and I’m sure you won’t do much better. And don’t think you can change the things you don’t like about him or her. That’s a dead-end road, and even if you did “fix” those things, chances are you’d only find more things later that need to be “fixed.” Go into a marriage expecting the other person to fall short (within reason) and decide preemptively to extend some grace when they do.
Marriage cannot make you whole.
Everyone wants to feel complete, whether it’s in their careers or their personal lives. They somehow don’t feel like they can sit back, relax, and enjoy life until they have something they’ve always wanted. Sadly, plenty of people put their happiness on hold for some hypothetical day in the future when they have everything they want, including a marriage and family. If partial contentment is your status quo and the way you live your life, I can guarantee you that once you do obtain the things you think you want, you’ll find a reason not to be happy with them. Something will always be out of place.
Oh and another thing… do NOT go into a marriage expecting your spouse to make you better, fix your hurts from your past, or give you everything you ever thought you’d need. Only God can do that. Please, if you have personal issues that you’re aware of, work on them before you get married or you will sabotage yourself. Your spouse is not your therapist or your fairy godparent.
So, why get married in the first place?
Well, only you can answer that. But I can tell you one indispensible prerequisite for a successful marriage: be prepared to work. Marriage is beautiful, blessed, and sacred, but it’s not for punks. They say it takes work, but I say it more than requires work — it is work personified. It is a full-time job requiring a lot of spiritual, mental, and emotional strength. When you hear the words “for better or for worse,” imagine what the “worse” could possibly look like and honestly ask yourself if you have the wherewithal to thrive in those situations. If you don’t have it, that’s fine. There are far worse fates in life than to live it as a single person. But if you feel you have the fortitude to fully submit to another person until one of you leaves this earth, by all means go for it.
There is honestly no nobler thing than to dedicate your life to someone other than yourself, which is essentially what marriage is. You have to have the heart of a servant to do this thing correctly. Can you still fix him a plate even after he’s thoroughly pissed you off? Would you still put gas in her car for work tomorrow even after she’s stepped all over your ego? After days of fighting and arguing, can you still muster the humility to pray for one another? These are the types of things successfully married people do. In this job, you don’t clock out just because you’re not “feeling it.” That’s a hard thing for people to understand in a culture of selfishness, but it is what it is. Strong marriages are comprised of strong people, so you must ask yourself before you get to the altar, “Am I strong enough?”
Denise is a wife, mother, professional web designer, and minister-in-training living in the D.C. area. Check out her blog, How Mama Got Her Swag Back.