“Thanks for hogging the covers last night,” he said with a smile as he walked into the bathroom of our small apartment.
“Hey, at least you didn’t have to lift a 100-lb arm off your body in the middle of the night,” I said with exaggeration, squeezing behind him to get to the sink. It was 8am and we were huddled together in our bathroom, each trying to get ready with extremely minimal elbow-space.
We were newlyweds, and as much as we were truly loving the ‘married-life’, our minds flashed back to the seemingly random advice our mentors had given us just a few months before our wedding day. We had met up with them for coffee and a chat, hoping to pick their brain one last time before we finally said our “I do’s”. They were so in love, and whatever it is they had- we wanted. As our discussion came to an end that night, they left us with their final bit of wedding advice?
“Invest in a King-Sized Bed”.
“Really?” we thought. We listened politely, though we’d never heard that bit of marriage advice before.
Now that my husband and I have been together for over a decade, we look back at our time of preparing for marriage and realize that there is SO much about the day-to-day aspects of marriage that no one really told us about. From the practicalities of sharing a house to the practices of conflict management- a lot tends to be left unsaid.
I’m thankful for the older and wiser mentors who came alongside us into our transition of getting married, and told us the truth we may have otherwise never heard. Now, as a Professional counselor specializing in marriage and relationships, I often work with couples who are struggling in their marriages. While I certainly believe that much of conflict in relationships stems from issues of the heart, often times I see that couples are struggling in marriage simply due to a lack of preparation. Here are some of the things we’ve learned about marriage along the way:
1. Getting married is like a lifelong slumber party. When you think of a slumber party, what comes to mind? Movies, snacks, laughter and fun times all through the night. Marriage is so much fun in so many ways. You are given the opportunity to live life with your very best friend right there by your side. But while all slumber parties come to an end- marriage doesn’t. And with it’s day-in-day-out experience come the realities of becoming one.
We all think of the deep spiritual and physical benefits of oneness, but do we ever consider these things: One house. One bed. One bathroom. One mirror above the bathroom sink. One bank account. One budget.
In marriage, you relearn the preschool lesson of “sharing”, but you learn it in a very non-preschool kind of way. You learn to let go of the mine and yours mentality, because in marriage, everything is truly ours- but most importantly, it’s God’s. There’s something really hard about that truth, but also really beautiful, because it offers an opportunity for selflessness- and a whole lot of grace when your spouse hogs the covers all night long.
2. Conflict is a healthy part of marriage. I have to admit, I sort of prided myself in the fact that our pre-marriage experience didn’t consist of much conflict. But as I look back, I’ve realized that conflict isn’t the enemy- but how you manage your conflict is what can make or break marriage.
Binding two different people into one, marriage forces you to get to the heart of your opinions, needs, feelings and desires, and learn to share those things in a meaningful and healthy way. It requires you to look at your differences, and learn to work through those things with as much selflessness and sacrifice as you can muster. There is no getting around conflict, but there is always the choice to get through it, and then come out even stronger on the other side.
3. Your sex life is a small fraction of your married life. Let’s just put it out there: sex is awesome- once you figure out how to do it right! (PS. Don’t expect to master it on the honeymoon!) It’s the super glue of a marriage relationship that offers you an intimate experience with your spouse shared with no other person. It’s a God-given gift that points to the creativity of and majesty of our Creator. But the truth is, sex is such a small fraction of how you actually spend your time in marriage.
More than anything else, it’s the day-in-day-out routine of life that takes up most of your time in marriage. From the laundry, to the cooking, to the chores and the errands- you find that your time with your spouse is spent doing thousands of insignificant things, but with the opportunity to do them in really significant ways. As important as it is to serve each other sexually, it’s just as important to serve and love each other through the monotonous routine of life. To give your time, your energy, and your willingness to meet the other person’s needs. That is what a truly loving marriage is all about.
4. At some point, you’ll want to give up. Even in the most nourished marriages, we all come to a point where we’ve reached the end of ourselves. It’s that time where we’ve given everything we can and feel like we’ve got nothing left to give.
In marriage, there will be a day when you want to give up. To give up on trying, on forgiving, on healing, on growing or on loving. But it is in those very moments that God wants to intervene, to prove Himself faithful, and to remind you that true love always comes in the form of a choice.
Those moments in marriage have been the most life-changing for me, because it’s in those moments that I’ve learned that the end of myself is exactly the place I need to be. It is in those moments that I have watched God’s mercy pour into my life, so that His grace could flow out of my life. And His grace is always just what I need- and it’s always enough.
5. Getting married isn’t your final destination. It’s easy for us as Christians to become consumed with the goal of finding a spouse and getting married, because we all recognize what a special gift marriage can be.
But as I’ve had the privilege of experiencing marriage, I’ve realized that this relationship is just part of the bigger picture God has for my life. I write about this in my book, True Love Dates, because grasping this truth was such an important part of my expectations and understanding marital love: “When we see marriage as our sole purpose in life, we find ourselves with nowhere to go when we finally arrive. Marriage may be an avenue of fulfilling our purpose, but it’s not the final destination” (pg. 136).
Marriage is a great thing, but it’s only a temporary part of our God-given story. His purpose for each of our lives is never-ending, starting from the moment we are conceived and all the way into eternity. It’s a purpose and a calling that is filled with meaning, because it’s about sharing His love with the world around us (Matthew 22:36-40). It’s a love that reaches into our marriages, but goes above and beyond our relationship status, to everyone he’s placed in our lives. Getting married may be part of our journey, but it can never be the final destination.
Just like anything in life, having more knowledge creates the environment for a better experience. Marriage is certainly a lifelong process of learning along the way.
PS. In case you’re wondering, we totally invested in a King Bed 8 years into marriage 😉
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, 21 Days to Jump Start Your Love Life, and 21 Days to Pray for Your Love Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. You may also recognize her voice from her 150+ articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!