In the beginning… we tend to think of marriage as blissful. Sure, many of us have a bad taste left in our mouths about eternal union by parents who divorced, an unfaithful parent or just society in general. Still, the moment a ring is accepted is usually joyous and full of hope. Sometimes, though, we can allow that hope of a life of bliss blind us from some common myths we believe in order to avoid the honesty of how tough marriage will truly be.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m no grinch trying to steal away the sparkle in the eyes of the newly engaged couple. I’m just speaking from experience with many couples: believing these myths has the potential to harm or even destroy your marriage.
Myth #1: “We know everything about each other.”
Whether you’ve been dating or courting (or whatever) your future spouse for 6 years or 6 months, you will NEVER know everything about them. People are like onions, and no matter how transparent the outer skin may be, we all have things about ourselves that we don’t even know! Aaron and I have been married for 15 years, and we are still learning about ourselves and each other. This isn’t a bad thing. Your job as an engaged or married couple is not to memorize every tiny detail about the other person. Discovery is one of the central, most joyful things in marriage! In addition, if you are growing daily (which you should be) you’ll always be changing.
So, engagement counseling? A MUST. Non-negotiable, people. The more seminars you can attend and books you can read, the better, but you also need at least 4-6 sessions of true counseling with a professional counselor or experienced pastor. Maybe you have lots of great mentors in your life already, but the value of having a 3rd party evaluate your relationship and walk through some general marriage topics is invaluable. Don’t trust me? Go to your fiance or spouse and do the following exercise in entirety in separate locations and then meet to share your answers:
- Each of you make your own list of all of the household responsibilities (chores, finances, etc.) you can think of and assign them as either to be completed by husband, wife or as a shared responsibility.
- Write down the amount of money you think either of you should be able to spend without consulting the other person.
- Describe the atmosphere in your home growing up. How did your parents handle disagreements? How were you disciplined as a child? What was meal time like? What was your family schedule like on a daily basis? How would you describe your parents’ parenting style? Then do the same for your better half- what were these things like in their home?
- Write out a monthly budget that you feel is reasonable. Estimate your married income as best as you can, and plan out every number- rent/mortgage, utilities, shopping, savings, etc.
Share your answers with each other and have an honest discussion about how these answers affect your relationship now or in the future. Even if your answers are very similar, there is something to be learned about the love of your life. Don’t miss this and other opportunities by assuming you already know all there is to know.
Myth #2: “The One”
Only God knows how many great relationships or marriages have been sabotaged by this myth. You might believe that God has one plan for your life and when you make mistakes he is standing at the very spot you went off track, tapping his foot, waiting for you to return so you guys can get back to what He was doing. However, even IF this were true (which I don’t believe it is), God doesn’t give us a “do-over” for marriage. LOVE IS A CHOICE. Just kill that touchy-feeling romantic comedy crap you’ve been fed and take a look at Scripture. Take a look at life! Some parents do not love their children. Is that because the kids are the wrong ones? Hardly.
Romance is no different. We fairy-tale and fantasize this up, but loving another person for the rest of your life is purely decision, not feeling. Is chemistry involved in relationships? Absolutely. Is it important to be attracted physically to your spouse? Heck, yeah. But love is a different thing entirely.
Aaron understood this before I did. The night before we got married, one of his friends asked him how he KNEW he was supposed to marry me. His answer? “I don’t! But I know I love Sara. I know we both love God and want to be in ministry together, so why WOULDN’T I want to marry her?” He chose me. Was I predestined since the beginning of time to marry Aaron? Who cares?! We said, “I do,” and now it’s all about effort and decision and hard work. There is no greener grass, folks. That guy you dated in high school? He has his OWN set of issues, so don’t even let your mind go there.
Myth #3: “Real love” comes naturally.
This offshoot of the myth of “the one” is just as damaging to relationships. There truly IS a difference between REAL love and the kind of love sold by Nicholas Sparks and beer commercials. Want to know how you can tell which is which? REAL LOVE IS HARD WORK. I know. Now that you wanted to hear, but all of the married couples said a hearty, “Amen!” Feelings are fickle and emotions are like the weather. Your spouse is never going to be able to read your mind. Ladies, your future-husband is not always going to know when you want to be held or when you want time alone. Guys, your wife may never know that her asking you to take out the trash every day makes you feel like a 12-year-old. We’ll talk later about the importance of proper communication, but let’s note that communication is a vital vehicle for creating real love in your relationship.
This is a great opportunity to bring up The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Go through this book together, and discuss how you can better communicate your love to one another. It might not feel magical, but these things are what real love is built upon. Forget the perfect dialogues from “The Notebook” and be real with each other. Laugh at yourself (and one another). Talk about what really makes you feel loved. Then stop expecting perfection. Work at it! This is where marriage gets really powerful. Iron sharpens iron, and when you’re committed to studying and serving someone forever and ever, great things happen. It has been said that it takes 9 years of marriage before you start thinking of the other person FIRST. Nine years of practice. Nine years of forming new habits. Nine years of building real love together. Sounds like a great adventure…
NEXT LESSON: Job Descriptions- His & Hers