There’s been been a lot of talk about marriage lately.
From reality TV shows like, Married at First Sight and Say Yes to the Dress to the The Bachelor and Couples Therapy. From the secular world to the Christian subculture – one thing is certain: we love to think about, to dream about, and to talk about marriage, and we almost always have something to say.
We love to talk about marriage, because we were made to talk about it- in the sense that we were made in the image of a God who designed us to love and be loved.
But within the buzz of all the chatter- we may have got some things wrong. When all the smoke and lights of opinions and ideas begin to fade away- we’re left with the jolting reality that calls us to question what marriage really is.
Because if marriage is what we say it is, why does it’s foundation seem so cracked?
How do we explain the brokenness, the divorce rates, and the struggles we see all around us in real life?
Though I don’t claim to know the answers, my life experiences and career as a professional counselor has challenged me to question that maybe there are some things about marriage that we are getting really wrong from the start.
1. We don’t fully realize the selflessness that marriage involves.
I know this to be true, because out of over 1,000 married people surveyed, a whopping 96% of them admitted that the average person has NO CLUE what the sacrifices of marriage will entail.
That’s why I know I’m not the first person who has experienced this reality check. I’ve never been faced with more internal selfishness than I’ve experienced within the context of my marriage. From selflessness in small things (like who gets to hog more of the bathroom counter top – oh, don’t you worry – you’ll get to read ALL the nitty-gritty details of our bathroom drama), to selflessness in the big things – like forgiveness, and grace.
It’s easy to give up on marriage when we see it as a place to come and be served, loved, and wanted – rather than a place of serving, and laying down of “rights”. But the forgotten formula to a good marriage always starts with We > Me.
2. We don’t take personal responsibility of the baggage we carry into marriage.
When the struggles of marriage come – most of us will blame our marriage problems on our spouse. But truth only comes when we can face our own junk- and deal with it.
Like I address in detail in Choosing Marriage, marriage is a series of actions and reactions – it’s a build up of personal choices: and we are always responsible for how we choose to act. My favorite line from Paul Tripp reminds me that, “I am my biggest marriage problem”. That’s a hard pill to swallow, but one that frees us to truly change, to truly grow, and to truly love.**
3. We assume the word “Christian” automatically means compatible.
For those who are in a dating relationship- don’t be fooled. The word “Christian” isn’t a label or a title that automatically makes someone good for you. Just because you’re a Christian, doesn’t mean you’re healthy. And just because you’re a Christian, doesn’t mean you’re going to be good at marriage.
True faith in Christ is a way of life that defines every part of our reality and affects every aspect of life, including our marriages, which is why it’s so important to marry someone who doesn’t just call themselves a Christian, but evidences Christ in their life. But there’s always a learning curve to the process of a healthy marriage. And the more you know (about love, sex, conflict, communication, intimacy, etc) the better you’ll do.
4. We get caught up on finding the one instead of becoming the one.
I can’t seem to talk about this one enough. If we are to take responsibility in our marriage, it comes down to taking responsibility while standing alone. One thing we get majorly wrong about marriage, is that we simply neglect to prepare for it during our time of singleness. If healthy people make for healthy relationships– than we owe it to ourselves to be where we need to be right here, right now.
Whether that be in our marriage – or during our time of standing alone.
5. We forget that real love is so much more than a feeling.
I don’t care what the songs tell you – love ain’t no feeling. Love is an action word. It calls for patience, kindness, humility, selflessness, gentleness, self-control, forgiveness, and so much more. It forces us to act, not just to feel.
I think we go into marriage with so much feeling in tact, not believing that feelings will ever fade. So when they do, it sends us into panic mode- wondering if we’ve made the right choice, if we’ve married the right one, and what to do next.
If you’re in that position and wondering what to do next- the next best step is simple, and profound: because the next best step is to love.
6. We go into marriage, assuming that our spouse has the power to read our minds, heal our hearts, and fill us up.
Another major thing we get wrong about marriage is the expectations we have going into it. I’m an idealist when it comes to relationships, so I get this tendency and have done it myself.
We should always expect good things of our marriages but we should never expect ALL things of our marriages.
Did you hear that? There are so many things a good marriage can do- but there are so many things that only God can do. We need to take our spouses off of the god-pedestal, remember our humanity,, and interact with each other using nothing less than tons, and tons of grace.
7. We think that marriage is about us, failing to realize how much it is really about God.
Marriage is not about you. And the beauty of marriage in all it’s glory can only be seen as it’s held up against the ferocious love of God. We mess this up often, by trying to do this marriage thing outside of God’s design and purpose. We forget to reflect Him, and to see Him reflected in one another. We fail to prioritize Him, and end up making our marriage about us–instead of about Him. But the best marriages I have ever seen were devoted to the reality of God’s bigger story for their lives and relationship.
Marriage becomes so small when it’s all about us- but so spectacular when it’s bound to His glory. There is absolutely no way around it.
I don’t claim to have all the answers–and I never will. But personally, I am praying that God continues to transform my understanding and my expectations of marriage – so that I can be opened to experiencing and enjoying the gift of marriage the way God intended it to be received: Til death do us part.
May God give us the wisdom to understand the things that we’ve gotten wrong with marriage – and by His grace, help us to make them right again.
The more you know about marriage, the better you’ll do. Learn astonishing survey results, and practical steps to take in the hot topics of LOVE, SEX, INTIMACY, CONFLICT, COMMUNICATION, CONFESSION, and so much more. Pre-order my new book, Choosing Marriage, today and get $50 worth of extra bonuses. Click below to learn more!!
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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!