Marriage teaches you a lot of things about life. Like how syncing calendars is essential to not overbooking your days away. Certain tv shows and
all basketball games should not be interrupted. Husbands would rather do laundry than participate in photoshoots, especially if they consist of dandelions. And most importantly, Grippos need always be in the pantry. Unfortunately, none of these bits of wisdom are offered during most pre-martial counseling sessions. These little life hacks that make covenant relationships easier are only discovered through trial and lots of error. Sure, finances and budgets are important, and no one is knocking the necessary “cling to your husband not your momma” lesson, but marriage is so much more than figuring out who will do the grocery shopping and how much personal money you get every week.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The notion of pre-martial counseling is brilliant. Whoever came up with the idea that couples should meet with a counselor BEFORE they enter into forever deserves a big hug and pat on the back and a Pulitzer Prize because pre-martial counseling is that awesome. The topics you cover and the conversations after enriched my marriage in ways I can’t describe. I thought I knew Spencer like the back of my hand, and honestly, I downplayed how beneficial pre-martial counseling would be for us because I thought the wretched thought, “We have it all together.” Oh, how I was wrong. SO WRONG. And to go even further, I’m certain after our counseling that we will never have it all together this side of Heaven. Love ya Hub.
I will tell you though, pre-martial counseling couldn’t have taught me what I’ve learned in the last five months. Our dear counselor (who should be able to retire with full benefits and an even fuller bank account after dealing with us) definitely spoke to the issues we’ve had and even warned me that life after the wedding day wouldn’t be the magical, floating on clouds, fresh flowers every day, mind-reading life I naively thought would be my reality from “this day forward”. However, experiencing marriage personally rather than just through hypothetical conversations has been drastically different. You might be thinking, well duh. Duh real life as opposed to day dreaming is different. Duh real life is harder. Duh talking about marriage and actually being married are two separate things. And you know, I thought those same things. Before I was married. But even in saying duh to everything I thought I knew, I really knew NOTHING. Does that make sense? Maybe I’m overdoing my point.
As I entered into my marriage with the pretentious idea that I knew absolutely everything about being married, rather than falling into the arms of my brand new husband, I fell flat on my face. Quickly, I realized that I do not in fact know everything about marriage. I found myself guilty of worrying more about what the outside of our marriage looked like rather than the inside. And to be completely real with you, if I was focused on the inside of our marriage at all, it was on how the inside of our house looked. I thought that sitting in front of the tv was spending time together. I thought that hiding my anxieties and fears about finances was just keeping the peace.
I was so wrong.
Marriage is about learning and changing and adjusting.
Marriage is about realizing your choices and their consequences.
Marriage is about stepping in front of those walls you’ve built.
Marriage is about shutting off your phone.
Marriage is about keeping snacks in the kitchen.
Marriage is about intentionality.
Marriage is about being on the same team.
Marriage is about praying and weeping together.
Marriage is about saying, “I forgive you.”
Marriage is about giving second chances over and over again.
Marriage is about not just putting aside pride, but crushing it all together.
Marriage is about staying up too late pillow talking.
Marriage is about looking at someone’s sin and saying, “I love you anyway.”
Marriage is about knowing fully he’s looking at you saying the same thing.
But mostly… Marriage is not about me.
Marriage is a beautifully designed gift from God for the purpose of bringing Him glory, while shaping and sharpening two individuals into Christlikeness. Marriage is a foreshadowing of the union to come when believers are reunited with the Father and all Creation is reconciled unto Him. Marriage is the closest example of Jesus’ love for us. As we try to die to our own desires, our own needs, and we try to provide and nurture the desires and needs of our spouse, we see just a glimpse (an imperfect glimpse), of the sacrificial love Jesus has for us. Not only are we given such a sweet companionship on this earth, but through that companionship, God is sanctifying His people and bringing others to Himself through marriage. How wonderful are His works!
I know our culture tells us over and over again to look out for ourselves. To not trust others and live in such a way to never get hurt. The hookup reality that twenty-somethings are living in today sends the message, “You’re only as good as what you can give me.” and “Once I get what I want from you, I’m out.” As women, we’re degrading and demoralizing ourselves for attention and fulfillment. We wear provocative clothing and talk dirty to guys because we want them to wonder what else we’ve got to offer. In our relationships, we’re afraid to take off the mask we hide behind and we’d rather just stick to behind the screen because we’re more comfortable with ourselves on Instagram than the actual woman we are. We don’t think we’re good enough because of our body fat, or our education level, or our like-count.
And then we take all those insecurities and fears and anxieties into our marriages, all while covering them up to appear put together. And we wonder why after the wedding day is over we aren’t completely happy. We aren’t completely satisfied. I found myself right there in the midst of my new marriage. I thought I had it all figured out. Come to find out, I had nothing.
But thankfully, in God’s rich mercy and grace… when I have nothing, He has everything. He can and will turn my mourning into dancing. My pride into humility. My fears into peace. His unconditional love for my husband weighs more than my conditional love for the same man, and in that realization my heart is humbled and softened and able to make right my wrongs. Able to release my grip. Able to give God the room He desires to ruffle and tweak and redeem my marriage.
So no, pre-martial counseling didn’t teach me everything there is to know about marriage. And despite my previous connotations, I realize now my lack of wisdom and need for experience. When I began this post, I had not intended for this outcome. Sometimes that happens as I usually don’t have a plan when writing. I hope you hear my heart through these ramblings and maybe feel encouraged.