So I was talking with my wife the other day about the things that have surprised us about marriage. We've been married for two years, and already our preconceived notions of marriage have pretty much all been shot in the face. We also have friends who had these same notions, and at least one of them wasn't able to deal with the fact they weren't true, and they are now divorced. They lasted less than a year. So it is with these things in mind that I give you the top ten things to know before you get married, according to me.
- You are not at the end of your problems. Or your worries. Or your fears. You are only at the beginning. Marriage brings challenges you've never considered, or didn't believe were really challenges. They ARE challenges, and you’d better be committed enough to your spouse to work through them, or it isn't even worth it to start.
- Most of your personal freedoms are gone.
I know that if you’re engaged to, or dating “the one,” you’re thinking you’ll never want to do anything without them. You will. You have hobbies. Your future spouse has hobbies. They aren't all the same (no matter how similar you are). You can’t just decide to go out to eat. Or to go to a movie. Or to just leave. You need to communicate when you’re going to leave, what you’re going to do, who you’re going to be with, and when you’re going to be home. Get used to it. It takes effort and adjustment to be “of one flesh.”
- Count on getting angry.
You cannot get married and never have an argument. That isn't something that only “dysfunctional” couples do. All of us do it. No matter how strong our marriage. And sometimes we actually need to leave and take a breather. It’s ok for that to happen, as long as you both know that you’ll eventually figure things out, and the argument doesn't make your love for them change.
- The “Honeymoon stage” is a real thing.And no, it doesn't last your entire marriage. In fact, it usually doesn't last more than a few months. Sex is great, but once life sets in, and you’re aware of bills, school, your job, your in-laws, children, etc., the honeymoon stage wears off, and suddenly, it’s not as high up on your priority list as it used to be. That’s ok too, as long as you make sure the flame stays there.
- You’re going to have to work at staying in Love.
It’s true. Staying in love can’t just be expected to happen. It requires work. Hard work. It’s grueling. It’s heart breaking. You will be physically, emotionally, and mentally drained. You’ll wonder if it’s worth it. It is. It always is. But you still have to work for it.
- Trust must be earned, not demanded.
You need to earn the trust of your spouse. You cannot expect that just because you’re getting married, your spouse will trust you about everything. You need to prove that you’re trustworthy. They want to trust you. So that means sharing passwords to your Facebook account, or your email account. That means taking them seriously when they don’t want you to talk to an old flame. That means letting them know you’re leaving, making sure it’s ok with them, and letting them know when you’ll be back. That means that keeping them “safe” from the truth, no matter what it is, is not a good enough excuse to lie. Ever. (Of course, laws and other commitments that require confidentiality don’t apply here). Trust cannot be just assumed to exist. It must be earned, and it must be earned quickly if the marriage is going to last.
- It’s probably your fault.
Or at least partly. And your spouse will be very good at pointing that out. And you’ll be good at pointing it out too. The key here will be to recognize that you both have faults (yes, that includes you), and to always point at least a small finger of blame at yourself. I have never met an argument that wasn't at least partially my fault, no matter how much I tried to convince myself that it was all my wife’s fault.
- You will need to get over your need to be right.
Being right all the time isn't possible. Insisting on being right all the time will just cause conflict. You have nothing to prove to your spouse. They’re married to you. You don’t need to prove that they’re wrong and you’re right. You don’t need to prove that you’re super smart or talented. Odds are, that’s why they married you. Now you need to be humble, and be able to own it when you’re wrong. Few things say “I love you” more than “you’re more important to me than being right.” Surprisingly, this is a hard lesson to learn and odds are you’ll learn it several times over before you get it.
- Your love and gratitude for your spouse are never “just assumed.”
You need to say “I love You” and express appreciation for your spouse. Just because you’re married doesn't mean you can stop saying those things. In fact, once you’re married, those things become even more important. Don’t forget that your spouse needs it!
- You think you’re in love? You don’t know the half of it.
Before you get married, you find it difficult to believe that you could ever love your future spouse any more than you already do. No matter how long you've been together before you get married, the love always increases after. And a lot. I’m not talking steamy, or even romantic, although they increase too. I’m just talking love. Looking back on my relationship with my before she was my wife, I wonder what the heck to call it. Because that compared to what we have now seems so insubstantial and insignificant.