Last week we celebrated our wedding anniversary. Though it doesn't seem possible, though we both still feel young most of the time, we are considered senior citizens in many places, and since we are getting awfully close to our fortieth anniversary, we are surely considered an "old married couple".
Back in the day, "the olden days" of the seventies, our premarital counseling consisted of one session at which the pastor told us that most couples argue over three things - money, sex and in-laws. While he was pretty spot on with that piece of wisdom, the truth is that I entered into marriage, at the ripe old age of nineteen, not really having a clue about what I was doing. Mama, and any other older women in my life, never gave me any premarital advice. What I did have, at my young age, were years of unrealistic romantic daydreams about what it would be like to be married and to have a family and home of my own. I wish one of the "old married ladies" in my life, say someone who was approaching their fortieth anniversary, had sat me down and been honest about both the joys and the struggles that married couples face. Since that didn't happen, here's what I wish someone had told me.
Your marriage will be filled with deeper, sweeter joy and harder, more painful struggles than you can imagine on your wedding day. You will have days when life will be so good and you will feel so blessed that you feel you might burst with the love you feel. You will also face days when you wonder if it wouldn't just be easier to give up. "If you don't quit, you'll win" is something your husband will pound into your children and the people he pastors. You'll remember his words and thank him for them when you get this text message from your oldest daughter on your anniversary, "I love you both. Thanks for getting married. And for having me. And for staying married. And for actually liking each other." You'll look back and thank God for helping you both not to quit.
Your husband is not your all in all. About year one into your marriage you are going to realize that your husband is not meeting all of your needs. You'll be lonely at times, even when you're together. He won't always understand your super sensitive nature. He won't always meet all of your needs. You'll be pretty darn sure that what he needs is a good strong talking to from the pastor. You're not going to like what happens in that meeting, but in the long run, it's going to be the best piece of advice you've ever gotten. Instead of correcting your husband, the pastor is going to correct your wrong thinking. He'll say, "If another person could meet all of your needs then they would be god to you and you wouldn't need God." That piece of wisdom is going to start your lifelong quest to develop your friendship with God and it's going to change your life forever. So, do yourself a favor and abandon the Prince Charming fantasies before your wedding day. You are marrying a sin-broken, fallible human being, just like every other man on the planet. He will do his best to love you and will do well some days and fail miserably on others. Forgive him on the days he doesn't get it right and remember, you're no princess to live with yourself.
One day you'll wake up and you won't love him anymore. Yes, I know that no young bride-to-be wants to hear this, and even if they do hear it, they most likely won't believe it. But that's before you've told him eleven thousand times to please pick up his dirty socks, before you noticed that the way he holds his fork when he eats annoys you, before he forgot to get you a card that one Valentine's day. You'll wake up one day and not feel anything. Coming from a broken home, this will terrify you. You'll be convinced that, either this is the beginning of the end, or that you are doomed to live the rest of your life in a loveless marriage. God's going to intervene into your hopelessness with something that you hear on a Christian radio program. "Eventually, all human love runs out. That's when you need to pray and ask God to let His love flow through you." You will pray the words "God, please help me to love my husband the way you know He needs to be loved. Give me Your love for him", repeatedly over the coming decades. The good news is, God hears and answers your prayers. There's a rather famous quote that says that a successful marriage means falling in love with the same person over and over again. I'd say that's a fairly accurate statement, except that it's a lot more intentional than falling. It's a choice, a crying out to God for help when it's hard, and a willingness to let go of the offenses that hinder the flow of love through you to him.
You may never think alike about some things or have mutual interests. That does not mean you can't be close as a couple or that your marriage is a failure. You are opposites in so many ways yet exactly alike in this, you both like to be right and you are both very stubborn. There are some things you will disagree about repeatedly for years, decades even, before you both resign yourselves to the fact that you don't have to think alike about everything. This is hard, because you both stubbornly believe that your way of thinking is right and that the other should be able to see this. Give it up girlfriend, or you'll drive yourself, and him, crazy. Also, he will always love sports and you will always love shopping. Let him watch those games, let him buy those season tickets, because he'll spend countless hours in the car reading while you are in the antique store, and he will walk though the mall with you and your three daughters, and eventually his granddaughters, more times than any other man on the planet.
Sex is important. It's not just important to him, but to you, too. Don't judge it all by those early years when you were all passion and no skill, because it gets better and sweeter the longer you've been married. And yes, "old married people" still have sex. More often than you'd think.
Keep your priorities focused on your relationship with each other first, even after you have children. You are going to absolutely love being a mom. It's going to be the most challenging as well as the most rewarding thing you ever do. It will be easy, and tempting, to get all of your emotional warm fuzzies from your relationship with your kids. Beware, the time with them goes by at supersonic speed and they leave home, leaving you living alone with that man of yours. You will not regret all of the dates and getaways alone together that you went on through the years. They will pay off when you're in the empty nest years. And let's just pause here for a moment to talk about grandchildren. Better. Than. You. Could. Ever. Imagine.
You are not your husband's personal holy spirit. You know that stubborn part of you that thinks your way is the right way? Well, it's going to partner up with that part of you that is critical, faultfinding, and a bit self-righteous, and going to drive your husband and you both crazy. You are going to find it practically impossible to keep your mouth shut when your husband thinks, says, or does something that you don't think is right. You are going to be convinced that it's in his best interest for you to correct him. You'll find it hard to admit that you are trying to change him, to make him think, act, and respond a little more like you would, but that's exactly what you are doing. You get extremely frustrated because it never seems to work and he gets extremely hurt that you are forever unhappy with who he is. Those times when you actually do succeed in keeping your mouth shut, take what is bothering you to God in prayer, and trust God to deal with anything in your husband's life that needs changing, you are going to be amazed how much better a job God does in his life than you do. Talk, (nag), less and pray more needs to be your motto.
You're going to be ok. Someday, when you're an old married lady, you won't regret that you both stuck it out during the hard times. You'll actually realize that you're more alike than you think. You both love deeply and you both get hurt easily. You are both completely dependent on God to get life right. You both have had to forgive each other seventy times seven times a thousand. You are both stubborn, which has created some of your biggest issues, but it has also meant that you were both too stubborn to quit. And guess what, "if you don't quit, you'll win". So, on your thirty somethingth, or your fortieth, or your fiftieth or whatever anniversary it is, stop and savor the sweet taste of victory, girl.
love from the "old married lady" you,
Also joining THOUGHT PROVOKING THURSDAYS
at 3-D Lessons for Life
Kelli at CHRONICLES OF GRACE