A few years ago my husband and I were out with a couple that were newly married. Jacob and I were “newlyweds,” but this couple literally just got married. I made a comment to the wife (whom I barely knew) saying something along the lines of, “I remember our first year. Whew. It was tough.” She let out a huge sigh, looked to her left and right to make sure nobody was listening and whispered, “Yes, it is! And nobody talks about that!”
Her comment had nothing to do with unhappiness, but Christian couples don’t often talk about marriage being tough. It’s an embarrassing topic. It took several years into mine and my husband’s marriage before we could admit to one another how scared we were early on that we might have made a bit of a mistake.
Thank God things sure are different now! We KNOW we married well.
Before I ever got married, I discovered that there were two groups of people. One, told me how happy I was going to be and how marriage was the best thing that could happen to a person. The other made statements like, “Oh you love him now…give it a few years.”
Sadly, I still hear people making comments like that when someone gets engaged. People say how difficult marriage is and people talk about how great it is, but very few can give that balanced approach. Marriage is challenging, but for those who persevere, marriage yields great rewards.
So, in hopes of bringing you a balanced perspective, here are some of the challenges you might face in marriage and why you should marry anyway.
Challenge #1 – Marriage Requires Sacrifice.
Before you get married, you have the ability to go out whenever you want, leave the dishes in the sink if you so choose, and basically live however you doggone feel is best.
Marriage is quite a bit different. Being married means checking in with your spouse before you go out with friends for the night and considering what your spouse might want for dinner when you stop at the store. It means picking your laundry up off the floor even though “it’s not hurting anyone” and not watching your favorite show just so the two of you can watch something together. Marriage requires you to still kiss and say “I love you” even though your spouse’s snoring the night before kept you from a good night’s sleep.
Yeah, marriage requires a level of sacrifice that you simply don’t have when you’re just dating. But the good news is that with sacrifice comes blessing. Over and over again in Scripture we see blessings preceded by sacrifice with the ultimate example being our salvation through Christ’s death and resurrection.
Challenge #2 – Exaggerated Expectations
I work with a lot of couples and over and over again when they talk about conflict (regardless of what the conflict is about) the actual problem comes down to each one of them having expectations that are not being met. Sometimes the expectation is, “If you really loved me you would know what I want/need right now.” Other times the expectation is more along the lines of, “I’m right and you should do this my way (or simply, “you’re not doing that right”).”
When each spouse believes their way is best they have an incredibly difficult time with compromise or handling conflict. All communication becomes a duel to the death. Once the two of you become one in marriage, your aim should be team work, not overpowering one another. Mark 3:25 talks about this when it says, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” People often wonder if conflict can ruin your marriage. Conflict doesn’t (we all have some of that from time to time), but how you handle that conflict can. One of the greatest things about resolving conflict appropriately in marriage is that you learn something new about your spouse and can love them a little deeper for it.
Challenge #3 – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly Self
There is nowhere like marriage and nobody like your spouse to point out the areas that need to change in your life. I’m convinced that one of the many, many reasons that God delights in marriage is because it causes us to become a little more like him.
I still remember when my husband pointed out to me that I seemed like a real jerk anytime we went over to someone’s house. I’m an introvert by nature so it didn’t take much time in a crowd before I’d had my fill and was ready to go. Before marriage I could just offer an excuse and say goodbye. But, after marriage… Let’s just say that I needed to learn some better skills because sitting with a scowl on my face when I was ready to leave was simply not going to work. Being married means listening to your spouse and allowing him or her to show you the areas where you’re being un-Christ-like.
You may be asking yourself, “If marriage is so challenging, why should I do it in the first place?”
Here’s my answer to that question. Marriage gives you an opportunity to know another person and to be known in ways that can only happen in a committed relationship. Marriage gives you new understanding of sacrificial love and opens your awareness to God just a little more. Marriage helps you understand more fully how Christ sees you when he calls you his bride. But above all, marriage is the place where you can experience an emotional, spiritual, and physical bond that is blessed by God as the two of you become one!
Happy marriage, friends!
Jessica McCleese, PsyD
Jessica is the founder of Enhancing the Dance. She provides success strategies to struggling couples so that they can feel united and discover a new level of commitment to one another. You can find her online at www.enhancingthedance.com, in her Facebook group, Reclaiming Love in Marriage or on Twitter.