There is something sacred about marriage. The idea of committing yourself to one person for life is almost otherworldly. It is something to be strived for and fought for. Not only does it make for stronger societies and families, it is a union designed and implemented by God. Although God designed and ordains marriage, it does not mean that marriage is always easy. In fact, the opposite is true. Marriage is hard. Sacrificing for the well being of someone else can be hard for many of us, especially when you have promised to do it every day for the rest of your life. When you listen to vows that are proclaimed in a marriage ceremony, the promises are clothed by the picture of a sacrificial life that can seem impossible to live up to. This is why marriage is a lifestyle that is shaped by the decision to love unconditionally, regardless of any reward or recompense. If those of us who are married would be honest, we would have to admit that there are some days that we don’t feel a lot of love for our spouse, and this is OK. Not feeling love is not the same thing as not being committed to that love.
Life can be ugly and cold. This is why God designed us for relationship and community, so that we can surround ourselves with others to lift us up and walk through the hard times with us. I want to discuss a few common misconceptions about what marriage is. For those of you who are married, I pray that these words will encourage you, or even renew your commitment to cherish the promises you have made to your spouse. For those of you who are not married at the moment, I want to encourage you to prepare yourself for what marriage is. Whether you intend to be married one day or not, it is important to understand what others are going through, and some of these principles can impact other relationships in your lives as well.
The misconception that marriage will bring happiness.
Many people believe that marriage will be the final moment when happiness is brought into their lives. While loving someone does bring happiness, people will eventually let you down. If your happiness is wrapped up in one person, what happens when that person disappoints you? Your happiness will be affected. If you want true happiness that doesn’t waiver, it must be found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. If my happiness was controlled by my wife’s love or attitude towards me, it would be affected each time she didn’t act loving towards me. Be established in happiness and joy before you tie the knot. Not only will this be a foundation for your expectations on your future spouse, but it will also ground you into your true purpose, which is to glorify the God who made you.
The misconception that other people will change after marriage.
There is an old proverb that says, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it doesn’t change the fact that its a pig.” Please don’t think I am calling your spouse or significant other a pig, but this silly statement has some truth to it. If you are contemplating marriage, please understand that the things you don’t like about a person will not magically disappear the moment they say “I do”. Even if they promise to change things or do something different, they are who they are, and change takes time. I am not saying people cannot change or never will. I am saying we should not place our happiness in the belief that marriage fixes people. Not only will this expectation leave you frustrated, it is an unfair expectation to place on someone else. If you are not married yet, find the person who meets your standards, don’t settle and hope they will change. If you are married, don’t run from the promises you made to that person. Love them and cherish them, and don’t act like your love is based on their willingness to change something for you.
The misconception that your spouse will meet all your needs.
No one is perfect, and I don’t want someone else to expect me to always satisfy their every need. I am sure you would not want that either. That is a lot of pressure! So don’t be the person who places that pressure on someone else. If you think your future spouse will meet all of your needs, you will be disappointed eventually. If you are married and you think your spouse exists to meet your every need, you are wrong. You will either be disappointed at some point because they couldn’t live up to it, or you will place so much pressure on them to be that person in your life that they will eventually break. Every need you have can never be fulfilled by another person. Not because they don’t love you, but because they are imperfect, and they have weaknesses just like you do. If you want every need in your life to be met you must find it in Jesus Christ. I know I keep bringing Him up, but He can take the pressure.
The misconception that good marriages don’t struggle.
I don’t remember any friendship that I have ever had being a perfect one. In fact, many times my relationships ended up being stronger because they could survive the hard moments. The same is true in marriage. Even the best marriages struggle at some point. The key is to be committed through the struggle, and not be willing to walk away because things get hard. I have two young sons. When life gets hard, or when they make things hard for me, I don’t want them to ever think that I would walk away from them. I want them to know that hard times are opportunities to double down on my commitment to love and sustain. That is why we make unconditional vows in a marriage ceremony, because conditional promises don’t exactly display confidence and security.
Marriage is a wonderful thing, but don’t go into it thinking that it makes life easier. It may bring more fulfillment into your life, but it takes work to make it work.
We went dancing in the minefields,
We went sailing in the storms,
And it was harder than we dreamed
But I believe that’s what the promise is for.
– Andrew Peterson