There are very few people that actually know what they’re getting into when it comes to marriage.
I was one of those people.
I mean, we all have an idea of what marriage is all about. We have hopes, dreams, and expectations of what it will look like. We watch movies, idolize TV shows, and even observe marriages in the world around us to try and get a glimpse of this thing we call holy matrimony. But we don’t really know until we’re there, do we?
There are some things about marriage that I understood going into it, but there are so many things that I could have never imagined. And to this day, there is still so much that I’m learning. But as a professional counselor, and more importantly – as a wife, the past decade of marriage has taught me ten important things I didn’t fully grasp before.
1. Marriage is more intimate than sex.
I think one of the first things singles think about when it comes to marriage is sex. In our society, sex is portrayed as the mark of intimacy within a relationship. While there is so much value and closeness within the sexual relationship, a good marriage is what makes for good sex, not the other way around.
Before marriage, I don’t think I grasped the real intimacy that comes with committing to this one person for the rest of my life. Within marriage, is the amazing opportunity to allow another person a look inside your life, your mind, your heart, and your very soul. Now that, is true intimacy.
2. Marriage reveals selfishness, but can cultivate selflessness.
I knew I had the ability to be selfish, but I didn’t know I actually was selfish, until I got oh…about 6 months into my marriage (probably more like 6 hours, but I’m being generous). From the silly moments of choosing where to eat and who get’s the remote, to the more significant things like apologizing and putting his needs before mine– you learn that true selflessness is something that has to be lived out.
It’s a hard lesson that has stretched my spiritual life more than anything else ever could- and through that, a beautiful reminder of a God who selflessly gave His all for me. I’m learning to be more like Him through this part of my marriage.
3. Oneness literally means…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. There’s something really hard, but something really beautiful about that. It’s a reminder that at the end of the day what’s mine is yours…but everything we have, is actually His.
4. At some point, you will be disappointed.
I know, this one was a hard reality. I’m not sure why I didn’t really believe it would happen. I am fully aware of my and my husband’s humanity. But for some reason this truth doesn’t really hit home- until it actually hits home. My husband and I have loved each other deeply, but we’ve also hurt each other deeply. When you allow someone to bury their heart in yours, there’s no doubt that one day, you will feel an ache. Whether In the form of an unkind word, a thoughtless action, or a selfish moment- marriage will hurt. But by God’s grace, each wound paves the way for grace, forgiveness, and restoration. Each wound is a reminder of our need to love better and to love deeper.
5. Like it or not, you will learn the meaning of forgiveness.
With the certainty of being wounded, comes the reality that you will need to learn forgiveness – and sometimes, our pride can get in the way of that exchange. But the biggest lesson to learn, is that true forgiveness comes not because the person standing before you is deserving, rather, it comes out of a heart that understands how much we’ve been forgiven though we, too, were undeserving.
6. Marriage will cost you.
I’m not even talking about the cost of the wedding. That’s nothing in comparison to the emotional costs that come with becoming one. The truth is, you lose a part of yourself within the glory of marriage. You exchange a little bit of who you are, for a little bit of who they are. You learn to give and take, and then you learn to let go of the things that don’t really matter. And in the end, you realize that what you’ve given–is far, far less than what you’ve ultimately received. Love is good like that.
7. Love isn’t a feeling, it’s a series of decisions.
Talk about a reality check. Before marriage you can never comprehend the strong feelings going anywhere but higher. Then one day you realize that feelings can’t really be trusted, because some days you feel you may not even like each other. Feelings come, but feelings also go. They are a compass, and sometimes a guide, but they are never to be followed. Loving is easy when you feel like it, but when you don’t, that’s the test of real love. It’s choosing to love, to give, and to serve because of the commitment you have made. It’s choosing the other instead of choosing yourself. That’s the very definition of love in it’s truest form.
8. Marriage will require you to learn how to communicate.
Like to talk? Don’t like to talk? Well, it doesn’t really matter. No matter what your communication bent, marriage will force you to bring your insides out. It will require you to take a good hard look at your opinions, beliefs, ideas, and feelings- and share them with another. It will cause you to answer the hard questions, and speak the difficult truths – because communication is the lifeline between two people. There’s no way around it. It will cause you to take responsibility for not just what you say, but how you say it- tone, body language, sarcasm and all.
9. Marriage is not the end of your destination.
Before you’re married it’s easy to see marriage as the grande finale. It’s the thing we dream of and live for. It’s the force propelling us forward into this destination we call life. And then it finally comes! Now what? There’s this strange moment when you realize that this relationship that God has blessed you with is a fraction of the grand scheme He has for your life.
Your purpose and passions will extend far beyond the reach of your relationship with your spouse. Even more exciting, is seeing God at work because of this relationship that He’s given you as the love between you and your spouse is reflected to the world around. Marriage is not the end, it’s only the beginning. God’s got so much more up His sleeve.
10. Marriage gives you a glimpse of so much more.
On that same note, man do you learn a lot about God when you are rubbing up against someone day in and day out. There’s a reason that God uses the analogy of marriage to describe His love for His church- because no relationship will ever compare to the intimacy that is exchanged within this earthly connection.
Not only is God’s love for us magnified through the lens of a healthy marriage, but He uses this marriage to shape us, refine us, and put us through the fire- making us more and more like Him along the way. Reflecting Jesus is the greatest honor that we can partake in when it comes to marriage, but more so, it’s the one and only thing that will keep our marriage alive.
While it’s important to acknowledge that there are many routes to holiness, we have to realize that marriage is definitely one of those routes. I am a different person because of this sacred relationship, and I know that God’s not finished with me yet. I’m so thankful for the blessing of marriage, and look forward to what lies ahead.
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Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, and Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Me where she writes candidly about love, sex, dating, relationships, and marriage. You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the web! She’s the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!