In the past 6 months, there is one question I have been asked more than any other:
“How is married life?”
To which I respond, “It’s totally underrated!” For some reason that gets a chuckle out of people, or at least a double-take. What I mean is that I never knew life could be so rich until I got married. Here’s why…
I have a lot of married friends, but I rarely ask any of them what married life is like. I’ve just assumed it’s part of a normal human’s progression in life. You know what I’m talking about: Childhood > (angsty) Teenagerism > College > Flop around looking for a career > Get a decent job > Start a savings account > Date around (realize your expectations are too high) > Decide a mediocre life is good enough > Marry a nice boy > Buy a nice house > Have nice kids > Hopefully be lucky enough to get a very stable job in a very stable company > Retire by 65 (or 70) > Spend time with your grandchildren and your great grands > Pass away peacefully.
That seems like a normal life, right? I assumed marriage was just a normal part of that equation. But marriage has been the second-most transformational decision of my life (right after my decision to follow God). Just in the last 6 months, I have changed. My personality and my tendencies have changed. I have become more like Russell; he has become more like me. I have become more calm and respectful and I’ve learned to set healthy boundaries. He has become more contemplative, spontaneous and social. I’ve heard people say about marriage, “It’s not much different than dating.” And frankly, that breaks my heart. On a bad day, I might even tear up from hearing that. Marriage is FANTASTICALLY DIFFERENT than dating and even different than living together. People who live together are roommates, economically benefiting from cohabitation. They are not married, they are not committed…far from it. Long-term dating relationships are also not the same as marriage, because if it doesn’t work out, you move on…alone. There are even marriages that are not based on a lifelong commitment, and if you fall into that category, you’re missing out on the best parts. >>end of soapbox rant<<
Marriage is underrated…
…because romance is better with someone who has committed to be faithfully yours til death do ye part. I adore that phrase “til death do ye part”. It’s so weighty, momentous and seldomly used. In a world where I can “love” Taylor Swift, doughnuts, and Jesus all in the same breath, that little phrase still packs a punch. It means so much, partly because we as a society don’t use it much. For example, I will NOT stay at my job until death parts us. I will NOT be blogging until death parts us. I will NOT even be as committed to my future kids (as I am to Russell) until death parts us. The only person in the same sentence as “until death do ye part” is Russell. And there’s a really comforting weightiness that comes with that. I know that regardless of bad days I have, bad habits I pick up or bad events, Russell is with me through it. So how does that effect romance? Because we bond from our shared trust, and with trust comes freedom to express just how much we mean to each other. I don’t ever say “I love you” and hope he says it back. I don’t wonder if I’m revealing too much of my tender soul. And romance is much better with undying, faithful trust.
…because my potential is enhanced through the accountability of the person who is most vested in me becoming all that God has created me to be. When I tell Russell I need to blog once per week, I know I’m going to have someone to encourage me to do so. When I want to stay up watching Netflix all night, he reminds me that I made a commitment to spend time with the Lord each morning. If that sounds like a total killjoy to you…you’re probably not ready to get married. For me, Russell’s accountability has been a source of strength and encouragement that I always dreamt of having. And I can sense my potential increasing each time I gratefully receive his encouragement. As King Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 4:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
(I always hear Mr. T’s voice saying “pity the fool”…I double-dog dare you to re-read it and not hear the same thing.)
...because I’ve never had to rely on God so much as I have in the last 6 months. I wish I could describe to you what it takes for me to believe that this lifelong bond is real, to believe that Russell really loves me as much as he does, and to believe God put us together. Believing all that has been a faith challenge I didn’t realize I desperately needed. I don’t think I ever confronted some of the residual feelings of my parents divorce, the distrust and discord it produced, and the lies I told myself to cope…until marriage. Anyone who comes from a divorced family can attest that post-divorce, you aren’t really sure if love is enough. I don’t know a cuter way to put it, so I hope you understand what I’m saying. Life taught me at 10 years old that love isn’t enough and that my mom and dad weren’t enough for each other. I, as a by product and no better than my parents, wasn’t enough for someone, and love surely wasn’t enough to last a lifetime. I spent my dating days presenting a fake version of myself, hoping fake me would be enough for someone…anyone. And then I met Russell. When I met Russell, I knew things were different, and for the first time I was the real me. Now as a wife, when I’m tempted to disguise my feelings, my ugliness, my raw heart, I rely on God. I trust God’s hand in our marriage. I trust God enough to reveal my true self to my husband. I trust God is knitting us together.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
1 John 4:18
…because you wake up with, come home to, and fall asleep next to your best friend. In my lifetime, I have been beyond blessed (grace upon grace) with the remarkable friendships I’ve had. And as close as I thought I was with friends, my friendship with Russell is beyond. There’s a different level of friendship when you know that no matter what you say or do, your best friend will never leave you. When you’re married to your best friend, you can unfold all those little secrets, fears, and joys you were too embarrassed to admit to other people. (I’m talking Christian marriage here, guys, not celeb-style or convenience marriages.) With Russell, I am the most authentic “me” I’ve ever been. He knows my secrets –even how wildly ambitious I am– and he believes I can do everything God has called me to do: spread the Gospel to the world, adopt a baker’s dozen of kids, and be a New York Times best seller.
…because you grow together…or you don’t. When you have a friend or colleague who gets on your nerves or with whom you disagree, you distance yourself. But you can’t do that in a unified marriage. If you disagree with your spouse, you either drive a wedge between yourselves, or you mend your differences. There are no other options. (Edit: You can temporarily disagree, but in the long run, you have to decide that both the fact that you disagree and the very topic you disagree about is unimportant in relation to your marriage.) If you look at people who are happily married and in love for more than –let’s say– 20 years, it is not because they are hard-headed. And it’s definitely not because they both believe in the importance of all the same stuff. It’s because they prioritize their unity above their individual feelings on various topics. In marriage, you change and what you value changes. You grow together, and it is extraordinarily beautiful to spend a lifetime growing with someone else.
If you’re single, I hope this gives you an idea of marriage that’s worth looking forward to. If you’re dating, I hope this factors into what you expect in marriage. If you’re married, I hope you’re inspired with renewed hope of what marriage can be. And if you have some other good responses to “Marriage is underrated because…”, leave it in the comments section! I enjoy reading them, and I’m sure other readers will, too.
Let me end with this simple poem from Fr. Pedro Arrupe:
“What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
With love on our first annual half-iversary,