What kind of advice can you give a friend who’s getting married? I often wonder this as my friends get engaged. I have a whole five months of experience, and you’d think that’s a whole lot better than no experience. I should probably share from my vast knowledge.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that nothing will happen simply by you intending it to happen. I’ve intended for my office to be cleaned up for five months now, and it’s yet to actually stay clean. Sure, it’s been picked up for a few days when the relatives were visiting, but it immediately returned to its former, unsightly state.
The lesson there is that you have to be intentional about what you do. That’s not really specific to marriage, but it seems more obvious now that I’m married. A lot of things become more obvious after you’re married. But being intentional is also helpful to your marriage. You can intend all you want to buy your wife flowers, but good intentions don’t score any points (and that’s just an expression, we all know that scoring points is not the purpose of flower buying–it’s trying to out-do the other guys).
Probably the most important thing I’ve learned about marriage is that it’s not glamorous. Before you get married you think it will be. But that’s because you always had the opportunity to get away from your loved one when they were at their worst. When you’re married, you rarely have that opportunity. Before you get married you have to go to separate homes at the end of the night (or the early morning, depending on how late you stay up). This separation introduces a sense of longing that immediately makes things more romantic and glamorous. When you’re married you just climb into the same bed and click the light off. Then your wife has to listen to you snore, grind your teeth, and then fight you for the covers. It’s not surprising that the romance seems to wear off pretty quickly.
Once a friend of mine said he was learning how to better serve his wife. Then it hit me. That’s what marriage is. Service. You’re supposed to put your spouse’s interests ahead of yours and serve them. That is unbelievably hard to do. When I come home after work I want to crash on the couch and watch The Simpsons and I want supper to be ready. But if I’m serving my wife, I should come home from work and make supper for her. There’s got to be some give and take. Which is really hard to do after eight hours of work when you just want to crash.
Marriage isn’t easy. That’s the one thing I’ve learned. You can’t just kiss and make up and hope it’s all okay. Sometimes you have to slam the door and angrily do the grocery shopping by yourself and come home and work through some difficulties. It’s called a fight, and only normal, healthy relationships have them. If you’re don’t ever fight, you’re in for some serious trouble.
Am I meaning to be depressing? Is this a plea for help that my marriage is going down the tubes? Absolutely not. I love my wife. It’s just it’s not all flowers and sex and disgustingly cute couples. Marriage is also about scrubbing toilets and paying bills and deciding who’s going to cook dinner.