There are few people who really know what they’re getting into when it comes to getting married. We all have an idea of what marriage is all about. We have hopes, dreams and expectations of what it will look like. We watch movies, TV shows and even observe marriages in the world around us to try and get a glimpse of this thing we call holy matrimony. But we don’t really know until we’re there, do we?
There are some things about marriage that I understood going into it, but there are so many things I could have never fully imagined. To this day, there is still so much that I’m learning. I write about this concept in my book, True Love Dates—specifically regarding the things marriage can’t do. But marriage can also do a lot. Here are 10 things I have learned about it.
1. Marriage is more intimate than sex
Often, one of the first things singles think about when it comes to marriage is sex. But while there is so much value and closeness within the sexual relationship, a good marriage is what makes for good sex, not the other way around.
Before marriage, I don’t think I grasped the real intimacy that comes with committing to this one person for the rest of my life. Marriage is an amazing opportunity to allow another person a look inside your life, your mind, your heart and your very soul. Now that is true intimacy.
2. Marriage reveals selfishness, but can also cultivate selflessness
I didn’t know how selfish I was until I got about six months into my marriage (probably more like six hours, but I’m being generous). From the silly moments of choosing where to eat and who gets the remote, to the more significant things like apologizing and putting your spouse’s needs before your own—you learn that true selflessness is something that has to be lived out. It’s a hard lesson, but also a beautiful reminder of a God who selflessly gave His all for me.
3. Oneness literally means one
We all think of the deep spiritual and physical benefits of oneness, but we don’t always consider the inconvenient parts of it. One house. One bed. One bathroom. One mirror above the bathroom sink. One bank account. One budget.
In marriage, you learn to let go of the “mine and yours” mentality, because everything is truly “ours.” There’s something really hard, but something really beautiful about that. It’s a reminder that at the end of the day what’s mine is yours … but everything we have is actually His.
4. At some point, you will be disappointed
This one was a hard reality. I am fully aware of my and my husband’s humanity, but for some reason this truth doesn’t really hit home until disappointment hits home.
My husband and I have loved each other deeply, but we’ve also hurt each other deeply. When you allow someone to bury their heart in yours, there’s no doubt that one day, you will feel an ache. Whether In the form of an unkind word, a thoughtless action or a selfish moment, marriage will hurt. But by God’s grace, each wound paves the way for grace, forgiveness and restoration. Each wound is a reminder of our need to love better and more deeply.
5. Like it or not, you will learn the meaning of forgiveness
With the certainty of being wounded comes the reality that you will need to learn forgiveness. The biggest lesson is that true forgiveness comes not because the person standing before you is deserving. Rather, it comes out of a heart that understands how much we’ve been forgiven though we, too, were undeserving.
6. Marriage will cost you
The truth is, you lose a part of yourself within the glory of marriage. You exchange a little bit of who you are for a little bit of who your spouse is. You learn to give and take. You learn to let go of the things that don’t really matter. And in the end, you realize what you’ve given is far less than what you’ve ultimately received. Love is good like that.
7. Love isn’t a feeling, it’s a series of decisions
Before marriage, you can’t really comprehend the strong feelings going anywhere but higher. Then one day you realize that feelings can’t really be trusted, because some days you feel you may not even like each other. Feelings come, but feelings also go. They are a compass, and sometimes a guide, but they are never to be followed.
The test of real love is what you do when you don’t feel like loving. Marriage is constantly choosing to love, to give and to serve because of the commitment you have made. It’s choosing the other instead of choosing yourself. That’s the very definition of love in it’s truest form.
8. Marriage will require you to learn how to communicate
No matter what your communication bent, marriage will require you to take a good hard look at your opinions, beliefs, ideas and feelings—and share them with another. It will cause you to answer the hard questions and speak the difficult truths. Communication is the lifeline between two people. There’s no way around it. It will cause you to take responsibility for not just what you say, but how you say it—tone, body language, sarcasm and all.
9. Marriage is not the end of your destination.
Before you’re married, it’s easy to see marriage as the grande finale. It’s the thing we dream of and live for. And then it finally comes! Now what?
This relationship God has blessed you with is a fraction of the grand scheme He has for your life. Your purpose and passions will extend far beyond the reach of your relationship with your spouse. And God will use the relationship He has given you, too, as the love between you and your spouse is reflected to the world. Marriage is not the end, it’s only the beginning. God has so much more up His sleeve.
10. Marriage gives you a glimpse of so much more
On the same note, you learn a lot about God when you are rubbing up against someone day in and day out. There’s a reason God uses the analogy of marriage to describe His love for His Church. No relationship will ever compare to the intimacy that is exchanged within this earthly connection. God’s love for us magnified through the lens of a healthy marriage, but He also uses this marriage to shape us, refine us and put us through the fire—making us more and more like Him along the way. Reflecting Jesus is the greatest honor we can partake in when it comes to marriage, but more so, it’s the one and only thing that will keep our marriage alive.
There are many routes to holiness, and marriage is definitely one of those routes. I am a different person because of this sacred relationship, and I know God’s not finished with me yet. I’m so thankful for the blessing of marriage, and look forward to what lies ahead.
Debra is a Licensed Professional Counselor, relationship expert, speaker and author of several books, including True Love Dates. Debra is also the creator of the popular relationship advice blog TrueLoveDates.com, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.