I stood at the altar across from my now husband, recited my vows, and said, “I do.” But the road to matrimony was not without its fair share of poorly paved cement and potholes.
About four months into our engagement, I started having doubts about the relationship. I had had similar doubts before while dating but chose to press on believing that I didn’t have a “good enough” reason to break up. Now that we were engaged, those doubts resurfaced and left me asking myself whether my fiancé was truly the person I wanted to marry.
The reason I struggled so hard with this question was because there really wasn’t anything wrong with him. He was a great guy; he was kind, laughed at my jokes, supported me and my decisions, and it also helped that he was a great cook. On the flip side, we were complete opposites. He is calm and relaxed; I’m emotional. He plays things by ear; I’m a planner and value order. He’s a spender; I’m a saver. He still lived with his family; I saw mine once a year. He sees the dress as blue and I see it as gold. Okay, the last one is a joke.
Our differences resulted in many arguments both in our dating relationship and during our engagement. I thought if he was relaxed about the concerns I raised, it meant he didn’t understand my feelings or dismissed them. Him not planning dates told me he was not intentional about spending quality time with me. And our financial differences meant that our priorities were not aligned.
When we argued, we were not level-headed like some of the couples you see in movies. I don’t know how, but those arguments seem to last all but two minutes before both parties are happy again. I know, I know, movies are not an accurate depiction of everyday life, but watching couples on TV did make me think that our fighting habits were not exemplary. Our arguments sometimes lasted hours. Not only were they time-consuming, they exposed negative parts of ourselves we didn’t even know existed. All this made me question, “Should I marry this person?”
I never believed in soulmates or finding “the one.” I believe love is a choice. You choose the one you will marry and you choose to commit to that person for better or for worse. This belief only fed the doubt in my mind. I knew that I wasn’t obligated to marry anyone specific and I could very well walk away with the hope of meeting someone different. There are 7 billion people on this planet and I couldn’t help but wonder if there was some other stranger out there who was better suited for me.
I knew I could love this person standing in front of me, but did I want to? As I deliberated over these thoughts and daydreamed over “what if” scenarios, I reminded myself of the reasons why I wanted to marry my fiancé in the first place: he’s thoughtful, is a man of God, and loves me even when I swear and slam doors. Despite some of our less proud moments, I could see myself building a beautiful life with him. So, I put on my white dress and I married him.
Now that we’re married, life is far from sunshine and rainbows. I still swear and slam doors and he continues to say hurtful things or disappoint me. “IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THIS WAY.” I had gone from wondering if I should marry this man to, “Did I make a mistake?”
In my hours of Googling articles on this topic (not recommended) and reflecting on my decision, I realized that I had put marriage on a pedestal and treated it like some Utopian destination where all my insecurities would disappear, we would stop shouting at each other, and my relationship would achieve perfection. Even though I was not ignorant to the fact that marriage is hard work, I hadn’t quite understood the effort with which that work would require.
When our relationships threaten to reveal our flaws, it is our tendency to blame the other person and bail. I didn’t want to see the ugly sides of me or believe that I was capable of saying such harsh things. So, I focused on my husband’s flaws and what I wasn’t getting out of the relationship to justify my own thoughts and actions.
But marriage is a mirror and sometimes our reflection isn’t so pretty. His faults are no greater than my own and he doesn’t raise his voice any higher than I’ve raised mine. As someone who melts over chick flicks, all my doubts were fueled by things that my husband did that didn’t make me happy. I have been conditioned to believe and expect my spouse to always and only bring me happiness.
Since signing our marriage license, there is one important lesson I’ve learned: Marriage is not meant to make us happy, but holy.
In Mark Gungor’s book, Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage, he states, “God wants to kill you. Not the physical you, but the selfish you. Jesus taught us that if we don’t die to our selfish nature, we will never be able to experience all the blessings that God wants to bestow on us. Well, if there was ever an institution designed to kill the selfish you, it’s marriage. In fact, it is virtually impossible to succeed at marriage if you don’t learn how to let the selfish part of you die.” Marriage is not a destination but a vessel through which we become sanctified so that we can achieve our ultimate goal, which is to be more like Christ.
Marriage is hard work and anyone who says otherwise is hiding something. My husband and I have our differences, but the one thing we have in common is that we are both committed to each other. We want to help each other grow, mature, and become better people.
My marriage is only a fetus, but I’ve already experienced how messy and ugly it can be. I’m just glad the person I chose to spend this life with is equally committed to being made holy so that one day we can give more and expect less, appreciate more and criticize less, love more and demand less.