Written with love, by Pastor Dave Page
"And they lived happily ever after.”
About half of the marriages in America end up in divorce. It might be more accurate to say, “They lived angrily ever after."
I’m not stupid. I know that life is no storybook but I’ll admit that somewhere deep in my subconscious lurked romantic visions of Cinderella - an image of a bride and Prince Charming riding off into the sunset. In the writings of Shakespeare, the presence of a happy ending is one of the key points that distinguish melodrama from tragedy. Let’s face it, marriage is not for the faint of heart. You want to believe your deep love for each other can pull you through anything you face, and it can, but it ain't always pretty.
That may sound depressing but the truth is that marriage has a lot to teach you about yourself, your partner, and the true nature of love. Read on to discover the ten things nobody told me about marriage:
1. Creating a good marriage is the hardest thing you’ll ever do.
You may have heard, “Marriage takes work,” and you assume “work” means being patient when he forgets to put down the toilet seat. But it’s so much more complicated. Getting married is like moving to a foreign country. You experience culture shock. You and your husband won’t always speak the same language. Living in marriage is a huge adjustment.
Bill Hybels says, “Consider the math of marriage: One sinner plus another sinner equals two sinners. Double trouble under one roof. Add a couple ‘sinnerlings,’ and we’re talking quadruple trouble under that same single roof.” Creating a healthy marriage will tap you to the core of your being.
2. Marriage doesn’t complete you.
Jerry Maguire was a good movie. But contrary to classic line in the movie and the implicit messages embedded in statements like “I’ve found my soul mate" or “my other half," a healthy marriage consists of two whole people who partner to create a third body of their marriage. In other words, one plus one doesn't equal one or even two; it makes three. You are responsible for your own happiness and wholeness, and your spouse is responsible for his or hers.
3. You will probably consider divorce at some point.
I never envisioned the “D” word going into our marriage but after one stressful season where I had a financial downturn in my salary, my wife became depressed and it seemed like we fought more than we got along, and divorce looked like a serious possibility. Fortunately we went to counseling for help. I’ll never forget the counselor saying, “You don’t want to get a divorce.” I really didn’t. I just wanted the pain to stop. I’m so glad we stuck it out.
4. You will go for periods without sex.
God designed sex to be a very important part of a marriage. When we have sex, a hormone (oxytocin) is released that makes us want to connect, physically, and once connected, stay connected. It a bonding glue for humans.
With that said, there are times that one of you just won't feel like having sex — often for reasons that have nothing to do with your spouse. The fact is, there will be nights that one of you is not in the mood. Sexless periods are a natural part of married life. A dry spell isn't a sign that you've lost your mojo or that you'll never have sex again. It just means that maybe this week a good night’s sleep trumps sex.
5. It’s better to lose some battles in order to win the war.
“I got my way in the end,” a spouse said proudly after emerging the victor in a domestic dispute. He may have won the battle but he lost the war. In his case, he won the dispute but lost a spouse. Many times it’s our anger that gets us into a fight but it's our ego that keeps us there. The relationship is the most important thing.
6. A good marriage doesn’t mean the absence of conflict.
Harmony is normal and conflict is abnormal. FALSE. Conflict is natural, normal and inevitable whenever people interact together. What makes marriage work? It's how you resolve conflict that matters the most. Learn to fight fair.
7. You won’t always find your spouse attractive.
It happens. Even if we know this intellectually, when lack of attraction hits in marriage people panic. We’re a profoundly image-based culture and we’re taught through mainstream media that if you’re not wildly attracted to your partner, you’re with the wrong person. That simply is not reality.
We see our partners in many different lights — from elegantly dressed for a special event to losing their cookies over a toilet bowl. Even over the course of a day, attraction can fluctuate and that's normal.
8. You realize the only person you can change is yourself.
I had a wonderful self-development plan for my wife when we got married and I was flabbergasted when she rejected it. I’ve learned that I can’t change my spouse but I can change myself.
In the words of Michael Jackson:
“I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change."
9. Having small children is synonymous with sleep deprivation.
Let’s face it - having children is stressful, overwhelming, rich, and beautiful and it will put a strain on even the best of marriages. It's a small miracle that any couple survives, parenting through the process. I can still hear Carrie say, “It’s your turn to get up and feed her.”
10. Marriage isn’t always happily ever after.
Truth be told, marriage isn't “happily ever after.” It isn't the end of the road, the resting spot for eternal happiness. Marriage more accurately is a constant work in progress.
In summary, marriage is one of the most challenging and rewarding paths we can commit to as human beings. And I highly recommend it.