I have been married for almost two years, so when it comes to marriage, I am still learning on the job. I got married at 30, and looking back, I spent a lot of my 20s not knowing exactly what I was preparing for.
For all of you not yet married (and those of us who are), I asked some friends to help me put together a list of five things we wish we would have known and are still learning about marriage:
- It starts with friendship
- It takes self-work
- It’s all about the little things
- It goes through seasons
- It helps us grow
Andrew, Dallas, Texas (Married 3 years)
“Before I met my wife, I had dated numerous girls that checked the box for other attributes I liked other than a true friendship. These relationships never felt truly fulfilling. My advice is stop looking for a girl based only on superficial reasons. Find a girl that you love to spend time with. Find a friend!”
By the end of the day, most of the time I spend with my wife is doing normal life things: cooking a meal, watching a show, etc. What makes my marriage so rewarding is doing those things with someone I love spending time with, not someone who simply ‘checks all the boxes.’
The boxes don’t matter as much when you’re scrubbing pots and pans. Shared interests, compatible personalities, and a desire to continue to invest in that friendship matter most.
Anthony, Portland, Oregon (Married 6 years)
“Marriage doesn’t solve all your problems, but it gives you a foundation to finally get a start on them. The fact is, I didn’t have all the tools to become the person I wanted to be until I was married. My wife doesn’t fix anything for me, but her wisdom, care, reminders, and even her flaws all help address what I might never have gotten around to addressing without her.”
One thing I got wrong about marriage was thinking that it would magically fix things in my own life. I thought, “when I’m married, I’ll workout more, save more money, not snooze my alarm, etc.” I was wrong.
Often marriage is a magnifying glass for the work I need to put into my own life, but it also gives me a partner who encourages me to grow and to put in the work.
Justin, Des Moines, Iowa (Married 7 years)
“When my wife and I find ourselves in a rut, we inevitably look back on the previous weeks (or months) and realize it was because we had not been doing the little things, like spending time together, praying together, and challenging one another. It’s about the little things.”
I’m a big picture guy, and my wife is professionally detail-oriented, so this one I had to learn and keep learning.
Marriage isn’t about the big dreams; it’s about the little, almost forgettable, details of daily life that show love and care in a way that person best receives it. It’s about the little details, like holding your tongue in a frustrated moment, finishing the dishes without being asked, or going out of your way to say ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry.’
Isaac, Austin, Texas (Married 8 years)
“There are different seasons to a marriage. Often times, once ‘normal’ kicks in, a few days, weeks, or months go by and you’ll be at a new ‘normal’ — more time spent at work or raising children. Embrace the crosses and the fruits of each season, thank God for each, and don’t spend too much time longing for a past or future season. Live your current season well.”
There is definitely no ‘normal’ in marriage. I used to think (and sometimes still dream) that getting to the next thing: a promotion, loan payoff, house, etc. will bring this existential peace. It isn’t true.
Instead of trying to fast-forward past my current season, I have found greater peace and joy in marriage when I have embraced the moment I’m in with all its messiness.
Mark, Washington, DC (Married 10 years)
“Marriage is fun and rewarding. The inner dynamics in marriage are designed to make us truly happy. When my wife and I ‘do marriage’ right, our permanent commitment to self-giving teaches us about who God is and reflects the image of God to the people around us. And even when we ‘do marriage’ wrong, the built-in dynamics of marriage naturally draw us to reconciliation and growth.”
Some people treat marriage as a casual social construct between two people that can end as soon as it gets hard or inconvenient. It’s a defense mechanism for when we are afraid to put in the work to grow.
My marriage continues to be a lifelong ‘construction zone,’ but it’s worth the work that my wife and I put into it together. Through two years of marriage we have grown as individuals, grown closer to God, and to one another.
Single? No ‘top five’ list can prepare you for marriage, but for me it serves as a needed reminder of the great mission we are called to. It will not always be easy but I know that a lifetime of marriage is possible and worth every effort.