Marriage isn’t for cowards. It isn’t for idealists, either.
Perhaps one reason why marriages are failing at an alarming rate is that people idealize what marriage will be like. They marry and find themselves in a world mixed with joy and pain, commitment and contention. They look around and see other married couples smiling and holding hands, and they wonder what they are doing wrong. What they don’t realize is that every married couple out there has gone through difficult times and struggled in some area of their marriage. They just haven’t heard anyone complaining about these tough times … yet.
The Truth About Happily Ever After
The prevailing fairy tale is that as soon as you find your prince, you live happily ever after. But the reality looks a little different when you’re married. You now have someone who is committed to you and who loves you enough to be amused and also annoyed by you at times, someone who will see you at your best and at your worst. Even though it isn’t always easy, your spouse is there with you through it all.
That’s the good news we need to share with each other. But we also need to share about our disagreements and hurts without betraying our spouse in a complete tell-all. I’m not suggesting we throw our mate under a bus and blurt out every embarrassing or sad detail of our marital disharmony. But a little healthy complaining about the realities of our marriage may just encourage your married friends who are comparing themselves to an impossibly perfect picture of what marriage should be.
The more we see and hear of friction and squabbles in the lives of other couples, the more we realize what a normal marriage is like. We won’t freak out when we’ve had a season of intense irritability with each other, a week of stormy silences or a day where we just could not stand to be in the same room with our spouse for one second longer. We’ll start to accept the ebb and flow of marriage and relax into those tough times with an attitude of “this too shall pass.”
When we smilingly “complain” about our marriage and open up about the journey we’re on, we teach other couples that:
- Love can survive a lot of things: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7) Sometimes it’s good to discreetly share with our friends the things we are going through in our marriage, whether its financial strain, stresses in parenting styles, or a period of friction due to a lack of fun. You don’t have to expose your spouse and bring shame, but you can wisely and appropriately share in general about the struggles you have, and about how you are learning to love each other through them.
- We can learn how to love realistically and radically: When we share with newly married couples the marriage secrets we have learned the hard way over the years, we encourage young couples to be realistic about the marital journey. In my case, I grew up in a church with godly married couples all around me. Several of them opened up and shared willingly about their struggles and their joy. It encouraged me that learning to love each other radically was worth the effort, and made me more prepared for the realities of marriage. Now, 32 years later, my husband and I are sharing our journey with other couples.
- Marriage is about perseverance, not performance: Love doesn’t give up. And when we persevere through hard times, we show other couples the value of our wedding vows and the strength of the marriage covenant. Get to know couples in their golden years and ask them how they persevered through tough times. Be willing to become that kind of couple who not only makes it through the hard times, but who shares about their marital journey with joy and candor.
When you see a couple struggling, do them a favor. Complain a little about your marriage, in the nicest way possible. Laugh with them over how much you’ve learned about love. Then, smile in relief as you realize how good you’ve got it. You’ve got someone to love – and you’re ready for the journey ahead.
You may also be interested in 7 Deadly Habits: The Bad Habits That Can Kill A Marriage