What I Wished I’d Known About Marriage

Maybe if they would have told me I wouldn’t have listened.

And maybe if they would have made me take a class or something I would have spent the time doodling on a notebook and whispering to Chad sitting next to me.

Either way, I went into marriage believing things about wedded bliss that were utterly and completely false.

Eventually I learned that…

1. Sex IS actually important.

You heard me correctly.

I spent my whole junior and senior high school years in evangelical youth group where all of the save-yourself-for-marriage lessons always ended in something like, “And sex really isn’t that important anyway. If you base your whole relationship on sex then you’ll end up disappointed because how much of you life REALLY are you going to spend doing THAT in bed?” Plus, I really couldn’t imagine the 98 year old great-grandmas getting funky between the sheets, and I still wanted to be MARRIED when I get old someday, sooo, yes, I believed that lie: that sex really wasn’t important to a marriage.

So not true. While sex itself isn’t what a relationship should be founded on, intimacy is desperately important. It is central to our emotional, spiritual and physical existences. We need to be in transparent physical intimacy in order to function well as a married couple.

2. Marriage isn’t a panacea for loneliness (or anything else for that matter).

Granted I wasn’t single for that long. But it seems as if every romantic notion in Western culture points to marriage being the cure, the answer and the antidote for all problems. If I feel ugly, getting married will cure that. If I am sad, marriage will make me happy.

But here is the truth: If I’m lonely before I get married, I will be lonely after. If I’m lustful before I put a ring on my finger, I will be after too. Marriage doesn’t cure anything. It actually serves as a magnifying glass for problems I already have.

3.  Every act of humility is a gift to my spouse (and consequently, each act of selfishness steals something from him as well).

Last week a friend asked me the what the root of Chad and my marital problems had been almost a decade ago. And I really had to trace it back to extreme selfishness gone haywire. Super bad selfishness.

I had no idea that acting in loving humility each day gives new life to our marriage. Thinking of the other person first, moving past my entitlement to be angry, and loving him how he deserves to be loves makes our relationship breathe in a healthy way.

When I don’t, I steal tiny bits of him that aren’t mine to take. At least not in that way. I chip away at the foundation of our marriage and I slowly break it apart. And I chip away tiny pieces of his heart too.

4. Marriage isn’t free. It costs everything.

Back in 1996 when I got married, we pieced together a DIY ceremony (sorta) with a lot of help from friends and about 3,000 dollars. I used to think that it was the WEDDING that was expensive, not the marriage.

But it’s the daily dying to my own self and living in the states of Compromise and Let’s Make This Work that takes every shred of energy and focus that I have. It has cost me everything (not unlike the Cross) but it is worth everything too (also not unlike the Cross). I give my whole self, body and heart, to my husband, and I’ve done it willingly.

It has cost me time and tears and years, really. But again, all of it is worth the intimacy and the relationship.

Thoughts? Anything YOU wish you would have known before you got married?

Comments

  1. says

    I wish I would have had more information about his family. He only had one Sister and I didn’t find this out about her until after we were married…she has been married five time and, believe you me, she has been nothing but called constantly to change my husband’s mind about his Mom and marriage. She succeeded with the Mom, but not marriage! Praise God on that one! It took tons of patience that I had to have because of her interference. She was his only sibling and “older” sister and to be honest I felt he was wrong with listening to him and agreeing with his Sister about his Mom. Now that this Mom has passed, he says he would give anything if he hadn’t believed his sister. I wish my wish would have come true. Thanks for letting me share, Sarah. A load is lifted!

  2. mary kathryn tyson says

    sarah,

    thank you for this post. i often say, “i know a whole lot about things i know nothing about.” i always thought i would be married the day after i graduated college (from a women’s college at that) and have all five of my children by the time i was 30. at 32 and still-single, i am confident i would be twice-divorced by now because of all the learning and growing up and mistakes i’ve had to make on my own (i was not sad AT ALL to turn 30!)

    i learn a lot by observing and spending time with my married friends, whom i wouldn’t trade for anything (which is a good thing, because i’m not sure just how many friends i’d end up having). and i am thankful for this because, without judgment, i’m able to think on my own, “wow! this is the couple i want to live on a cul-de-sac with one day” or “dear lord, thank you for sparing me from that kind of marriage. love, mk”

    once again with my dissertation, sorry – i just want you to know that i appreciate your candidness and your honesty about marriage. those are definitely points that are valuable to me and i can take into my lifetime relationship – if i get married in 2, 10, or 100 years (if at all).

    xo

  3. Mary B says

    My husband and I got married young and everyone was so worried for us wondering if we would “make it”. I had no idea of that and glad I didn’t too! I’ve seen people make comments like “When she smartens up and leaves me…” You HAVE to have the mentality that you will make it and failure isn’t an option! Then your heart will be in the right place, as Sarah says, to live humbly and selflessly for each other.
    On the topic of sex inside marriage – I was made to believe in Sex Ed that “If you had sex, you would get pregnant.” After 7 years of marriage and being on Birth control, my husband and I started trying to have our first child. It took us almost 1 year to conceive. I had no idea what a miracle it really is to have a baby. Thanks for letting me share! (:

  4. says

    Totally agree with everything you listed! #2 in particular struck a chord in my heart. My husband and I always talk about how the “hole in your heart” when you are single seems so big!! you just want to get married! But then when you get married you realize that “hole” is actually very very very tiny. Marriage is not the cure for our hearts!!

    Thanks for your vulnerability Sarah! Happy Tuesday!

  5. says

    You know, if I’d known the things I wish I had known before marriage, I probably wouldn’t have married. I walked into my marriage with a broken heart, and broke my husband’s heart in the healing. I so often look back and think, “we could have avoided all this if…” But then he wouldn’t be in my life now. I am so grateful that I did get married, because, ready or not, God wanted to make us one. And there is nothing else like that in the world.

    • Stacey says

      Honestly, this is me right here. If I’d truly known what it would cost, I wouldn’t have done it. I struggle with my daughter’s dreams of being married and having children (she’s 9 – it’s all golden right now). I want sometimes to slow her down, to take the gleam off that dream; then I feel guilty for not joyously embracing this call. And this is God’s call, even though I thought it was mine.

      • Becky says

        This is me,too. But it is hard to second guess God. At the time, I thought this marriage was God’s plan for me. With all the hurt, I have regrets and wish I had chosen differently. The story isn’t done and I am still working to see God glorified in and through our marriage, but it hurts. And it’s difficult, even though I do love my husband, our children, and the life God has given us together.

  6. Shannon says

    Thank you for this post. As a single woman, I think it’s easily to fall into the trap–that marriage will solve everything…which as you said–just magnifies our own problems. Thank your for your willingness to always be authenitic and share your heart. You are a blessing.

    • Nicole says

      yep, that’s a hard one all right. :-) Sometimes I forget to do this and then God always reminds me of the things I’ve done that he (God) has forgiven me of. Usually they are much worse than whatever little thing my hubby has done.

  7. says

    I wish I’d known that it wasn’t my husbands job to make me happy. That it wasn’t his job to validate me or give me worth. It wasn’t his job to rescue me from my hurt. It wasn’t his job to be any of the things that only God can be to me.

    Thankfully, we have weathered the storm :) My husband truly is my best friend. And that *is* his job ;)

  8. says

    I wish I had known that it works in reverse, too…that no matter the depth of my love and commitment (to spouse and to God), I can’t fill that hole in my spouse’s heart, the sin, the pain from his life. He may still make choices that will devastate our marriage and I can’t fix it. It’s freeing and disheartening all at once.

  9. Elle says

    What I wish I’d known before I married was that marriage and love isn’t a fairy tale. It’s tiny choices you make every day and those choices bring you closer or farther away. I wish I’d known love wasn’t a feeling – it wasn’t about feeling all giggly and goose bumpy all the time, or ever once “I do” was said. I kept waiting for a feeling and when it didn’t come, when the connection was gone, I was sure I’d married the wrong man and walked away. I was young and foolish and broken before the marriage and I wish I’d known that those things could ruin another person and that they couldn’t love me enough for both us.

  10. says

    I think you nailed it…

    Marriage is costly.

    Intimacy is scary, because our nature is to keep hidden the yuckiest part of ourselves…who could love that, right?

    Over the years (22 to be exact) my husband has shown me that he loves even those parts that I hate. He has shown me what grace and mercy look like in human form….and He inspires me to live for Christ by his life.

    Thanks for those reminders Sarah…I enjoy reading your blog

  11. Kim Shaw says

    Sarah,
    I stumbled onto your blog through Incourage and have loved and appreciated your blog ever since. I’m a Christian (along with my husband) and we will have been married for 10 years in Dec. 2010. But it has been a long 10 years. We have recently started seeing a Christian marriage councelor. Your blog brings me hope that my marriage will one day finally be what God intended for it to be. But for now, I feel like I am in the fight of my life to save it. Thank for exposing your life so that a girl in AL. can be encouraged by knowing how God has restored your marriage. I look forward to reading your blog everyday.

  12. says

    Thank you Sarah for writing this!

    I am in a serious dating relationship, heading towards marriage. We are in the process of having many tough conversations and trying to ask ourselves questions about our past. I have more of a past then he does (broken family, depression, years of trying to gain love from just about anything that would feed my loneliness), and I know these things have a direct impact on our relationship today and my ability to love and receive love.

    I especially appreciate your discussion on humility and how selfishness takes something from our significant other. I never looked at it that way, and the more I think about it, I see how “on point” you are.

    Thank you for sharing your heart… it has surely blessed mine!

    Sincere Regards,
    A young 20-something

  13. jessica says

    Brilliant post this echos what Love and Respect by Dr Emerson Eggerichs books, conferences and DVD’s are based on Ephesians 5:25-28 where women are commanded to respect their husbands and men are commanded to love their wives as this does not come naturally…so as to get off the crazy cycle.

    Thank you Sarah for your transparency, so that we may learn together.

  14. says

    On one hand, I have a laundry list. And on the other hand…I look at the work God has done in the last 11 years and think about how I would likely have missed out on so much!
    I was engaged once and the fellow called it off 10 days before the wedding. 10 days. *urp* It was such a sad situation, and I came out of that hurt, confused, and mad @ God. 10 years later, almost exactly to the day, at age 38, I married my husband, “The Package” – and he is, indeed, the whole package! Had I known what a tough road it would be, I would’ve taken the chicken exit. Which is precisely why I didn’t know. And now, looking @ the man I didn’t marry, and his family, I can see what God saved me from.
    The Package was the one praying for me during the most hideous times of my life. (There were a few, thanks to some baaaad choices.) He didn’t know me. But he was praying for his wife. God answered those prayers and brought me back. I guess what I would tell someone else is that if you let God be the centre, you’ll be amazed at what He does. And it’s never too late.

  15. Donna says

    I wish I had known that long lasting love is hard. Really hard. Loving someone means letting the everyday little nuances stay little. Humility.

    As Carol, I also wish that I had paid more attention to his family. The family dynamics of who washes the car, who tends the lawn, who is “really” in charge. I would not have been so dismayed in my expectations and instead could have worked out the everydays from the start.

    Again, thank you for sharing your wisdom and allowing all of us to strengthen our marriages to be what God intended.

  16. Debbie says

    I wish I had known that after the first year – things get better. We had to learn to live togehter and I kept waiting for the Snow White birds and forest animals to be around while we lived an idyllic life and instead we were in the middle of a re-model of an old house and mess everywhere and some days we just didn’t like each other.

    20 year later – can’t imagine being with anyone else but I wish I had paid more attention to his relationship with his parents. I wish someone had told me that it is okay to not be Ruth and Naomi with his Mom and to have a courteous but not so close relationship. ( I always thought it was ME and that I had failed somehow.)

    Thank you for your ability to share yourself and share your life. It makes me think about ME and my life. :)
    Deb

  17. Cherity says

    Thank you so much for this post! I think you hit on the head when you said that we probably wouldn’t have listened anyway and I didn’t. My grandmother told me that marriage was the hardest job that I would ever have and as soon as you quit working at it that it will fail. I didn’t listen and I quit working at it.

    I also wish that I had prepared myself for the fact that in a marriage truly communicating and talking are not the same thing. We were both spending a lot of time talking at eachother and not truly listening and responding to what each of us were saying. We spent the first several years of our marriage being angry and becoming more distant by the day until we realized that we were creating the problem ourselves.

    We have slowly figured out our way. I found your blog and it has been giving me the extra encouragment, and support knowing that there are others out there working right along with us. Thank you for your inspiration. You have truly blessed me and my marriage. My husband thanks you too!

  18. says

    In some ways I wish I had known more about how our own family experiences would influence our expectations of marriage and each other. I wish I had known that it is ok to fight, and work through it and make up. I wish I had known about some of the “baggage” that would be brought in. But then, perhaps, I would not have dared to get married! After 15 years this month, I am thankful for what God has done in me through staying committed to my marriage, even if I often writhed and screamed at God at the hard moments. I am thankful for where we are at now.
    Great post!

  19. says

    I felt “rushed” to get married at 21. I was going to be an “old maid”. LOL I should have sat back and waited. Looked at all my possibilites. I needed to learn how to do basic things first like: manage my own checkbook, cook lasagne (jokingly), provide, to be esteemed by my own merit, and still learn how to depend on God.
    Instead I rushed and these were things I struggled with in my first years of marriage.

    thank you for this post. I’m going to share with my daughter and some others tonight, I hope you don’t mind.

  20. khaki says

    that marriage isn’t about making us happy, but making us holy…that it all really is this huge mirror that exposes my every sin and i can either try to cover it up and become self absorbed, lost in defensiveness…OR, I can daily die to self and let Him take my broken, exposed self and shape it into what He created me to be…a blessing to Him and a gift to my husband of 16 years!

    • Kathleen says

      Khaki, I agree so much with what you’ve said! It truly is a humbling, growing experience to be so close to someone else that you can see yourself reflected off of them – mostly the sins of the heart are exposed. But what a blessing to have that husband there reflecting the areas that need some prayer time!

      • Sarah Markley says

        Elizabeth,

        I think that the commenter was saying marriage (along with most of the rest of life: parenting, going to school, etc) is part of God’s way of making us more like Him.

        We all know that if we allow it, marriage can rub off our rough edges and make us into better people.

        But I also imagine that the use of the word “holy” in trying make a spouse submit to our wishes or our personal control is one of many ways that a marriage can be abusive.

  21. says

    I wish someone had told me that paying attention to the children is NOT the same thing as paying attention to your spouse! You can both put a lot of love and time into your children and totally ignore the relationship that came first! So plan a date night….no matter what!!!

    I wish someone would have told me that communication never gets easier and you have to work at it every day. And that after you’ve been married 23 years, you will be a different person and so will your spouse….and that you should enjoy the experience of watching each other grow.

    • Cherity says

      AMEN to that. I am glad to hear that I am not the only one who believes that having that alone time is so important!

  22. says

    I wish I would have known that some days would be just plain HARD. For the first couple months, I would feel guilty about the hard days thinking that we were doing something wrong or that I wasn’t truly ready for marriage. Now I know hard days are normal and it’s getting through those days that make us stronger.

  23. says

    Thanks for such an encouraging post! We’ve only been married three weeks, but these insightful comments and the challenging post were a big encouragement/challenge to me. Great reminders that my husband’s job isn’t to make me happy, and that marriage is hard, hard work. (We have been slowly getting glimpses of that!) Thanks ladies! :)

  24. Kathleen says

    I totally agree with everything you’ve said, Sarah! I would like to add that a wife/woman needs, truly NEEDS, to feel as though she is lovable, loved. And a husband/man needs to feel loved too, ofcourse, by their spouse but more than that I believe they need to feel respected. The Catch 22 is that the less we respect our husbands, dwelling on the things they do “wrong,” the less they love us. The more we respect them, the more love they feel for us. And I agree whole heartedly that sex is important and it’s something that is so personal, so intimate, that only the two share together.

  25. says

    It’s crazy when I read the list you came up with and I think about how I walked into our marriage thinking I hadn’t brought any issues in the door. I was seriously under the delusional impression that when we said “I Do” we started everything over with a brand new life. It took me a good 6 or 7 years before I realized I had to deal with all the junk/baggage I pulled in with me cause it certainly wasn’t going to take care of itself and it wasn’t going away anytime soon.

    I think that was a huge oversight on my part when we started this journey. I needed to be aware of myself and my past and how it effects my interaction with you and how we grew and are growing our marriage. I think this is all helped by being, more, self aware, honest and truly transparent. (I just identified three areas I need massive work on, nice)

    Excellent post babe and great comments everyone!

  26. Caryl says

    I wish we had premarital counseling before marriage. We waited a long time to get married – both in our mid-30′s, did a lot of stuff before we got married. That makes you *think* you know more, but if you don’t get all your junk out in the open, and all that junk is carried into the marriage with you, there’s loads more work to do. We ended up getting counseling after our daughter was born last year b/c everything exploded at that point.

    Frankly, though, being older before getting married has been helpful. I’m more patient, considerate, thoughtful and helpful. But I still need God to put His hand over my big mouth…

  27. Sharon O says

    It does work~ It will be ok~ Be patient.
    My husband and I married at ages 18 and 19. Almost 37 years later I could write a book about, better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health(especially after last year when I came down with the MUMPS)HE loved me through my sore fat face. He loved me through the worst when my sister was dying of alcoholism in our home. (she survived)He has loved me when I was not loving back when counseling opened up ‘hard’ memories. It was LOVE that has kept us open to each other.
    I am learning to love with a love only God can give… so hang in there and pray… God is the ONLY one who can heal your hearts or your relationships.

  28. says

    a few years ago about this time of year, i remember thinking to myself,’i wish i knew it(my marriage) was going to be this way this way.’ or even worse, ‘i’m not sure it was meant to be.’ that was a sad day.

    and, the rest is history for me. for us. shortly after that resignation, that agreement with the enemy, i comprimised my heart and the rest is history.

    looking back, i wish i would have known so many different things about how marriage really is. how it takes every fiber of our beings, sometimes. how it can be the best and worst all mixed into one.

    and i also know, that i know, that i know, it’s worth fighting for.

    He redeems the dark places and

    even on the worst days, it’s worth the fight.

    great writing, sarah.

  29. says

    Excellent post.

    What I know now is that you marry the whole family – not just the husband. In my case, that turned out to be a pretty good thing (mostly).

  30. says

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  31. Dee says

    Get married in a church if you must but LEAVE THE STATE OUT OF IT. And KNOW the character of the person to which you are going into partnership. Money comes and money goes, but good character is essential.

    Marriage itself is an outmoded legal arrangement based on ancient forms to ensure that legitimate progeny inherit. Even Christ said, “There is no marriage in heaven.” Nowadays it doesn’t matter about ‘legitimacy’ (who came up with that anyway?) because all children are cute and good and deserve love and respect. All children are entitled to health and education.

    If you insist on getting married, you should have at the minimum two years of living on your own – not with a roommate or partner-to-be – but totally on your own and paying your own bills. Be self-sufficient and have a job. If more persons did that there would be less of the “oh my spouse is abusive” nonsense because no one would have to put up with the garbage. Too many women try to get men to take responsibility for financial support. And remember, adult women are just as responsible for the health and welfare of children and pets as the men, so to stay in an abusive situation simply for financial reasons endangers the dependents and is a load of bs.

  32. says

    sarah…
    I have no doubt, at all, that you (and chad) are healing my marriage before it begins. Thank you for the honesty and candor and life words. I pray they sink deep, deep into me.

  33. says

    This is a litle late, but better late than never. Everyone tells you it is going to be hard and you say ‘I know I know” You think that you really DO know. The truth is you really have no idea how hard, HARD really is! Belive others when they tell you it is hard. Marriage Is hard work but so worth it and so possible when God is in the Center. Please Father, help me to make you the center of our marriage.

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