Marriage is desired for so many reasons. Some are excited to finally have commitment, some hope for unconditional love, some dream of the glory of the wedding day itself, some anticipate sweet romantic moments that build upon each other for a lifetime, some believe that marriage will solve all of their problems, some await sexual intimacy, and the list could go on.
But are these dreams realistic? With the divorce rate skyrocketing and households so often broken, can marriage truly be a wonderful, fulfilling experience, or is that a dream of days gone by? This question has plagued me.
I was “that girl”; the one who dreamed of marriage since the moment she left the womb. Hah-and I bet you think this is an exaggeration. Its not. As I entered into my early 20s, I became nervous that because of all of the dreaming, I had set myself up for disappointment not only for marriage, but also for what kind of man I desired to marry. I didn’t dream of marriage quietly; I dreamed with girlfriends and mentors, so as I got older, I was constantly advised to “come down to earth” and “be realistic” about marriage.
Something in me hated the advice of bringing down my expectations, but a rational side of me fought back saying that I needed to take heed of this advice so I wasn’t let down with marriage and my husband. Were either of these appropriate responses? To lower my expectations…was this decreasing a standard I should have of the beauty of marriage, or was it stripping away a culturally imposed idealism, or was it something else? I had no clue. As I entered engagement, my fiancé, Andrew, and I began to talk a lot about what we thought a realistic approach to marriage was; not culturally, but Biblically.
Here is a overview of our thoughts on this topic so far.
Our culture tells us two completely conflicting messages about marriage. When we’re young, we are told that once married, we will live “happily ever after” with our prince charming. My, this is captivating. No wonder why so many girls play princess and notice boys from a young age. Once we reach our mid-teen years, the message changes though. We are told that true love doesn’t exist and we need to be more realistic. We are to “experiment” with the type of man we want. Take this as you will because it means a hundred million things to a hundred million people. Overall, I think it is the expectation that one will go out with lots of different kinds of people, sleep with someone if they love them, definitely not get married until independence has been gained and you have been established as your own person, and definitely don’t “EVER change who you are for anyone”, because if someone really loves you they will accept you for who you are. Once married, it is not the joyfest you hoped for, because you have to “give up” singleness forever and only be with one person for the rest of your life. So wait if you can. “Commitment is great…(kind of), but really, what a bummer to have to only have one person forever”. Oh, and this “commitment” is sealed by the signing of a pre-nup. Commitment is a fantasy in our culture. It truly is! The only thing that we really can’t part with is death now a days.
I have seen a few results of this mentality, and it is not only among secular culture. Pornography reigns king among both unmarried and married men and women of all religious beliefs, websites that promote affairs are becoming popular, many couples create separate lives from each other so they can do their own independent thing which often leads to them being roommates instead of lovers, and that is only the beginning.
I want to go back to Scripture. I owe so much to my mentors, but I think I’ve relied on them a little too much for truth regarding a lot of my life, in particular marriage. Scripture needs to be my source of truth and through that truth, everything else should be filtered. So while I treasure the wisdom of those who have gone before me, I realized that I have turned too much to that and not enough to Scripture (often the advice does line up when I do, but my point is that it is too easy to make the words of others our standard of truth when it needs to be Scripture).
So, as a newly married woman, I want to try to clear my mind of clutter as much as possible and seek out truth regarding my marriage, my actions, and everything in between. Some of the questions that I am currently working through are: what does day to day life look like in marriage? Once the wedding hubbub is over, presents are done being delivered and you are back from the honeymoon, is marriage really what everyone dreams of? How can I change my expectations of Andrew and marriage so that it can be a beautiful thing instead of a constant discouragement. To be honest, I know I have expectations of Andrew and marriage that will NEVER be met, and instead of living in anger, hurt and frustration, I want to develop an attitude of optimism, joy, thankfulness and excitement for even the smallest parts of my newlywed life.
Let me bring this around to where I began. Is marriage the happily ever after that I’ve dreamed of or is it hell on earth as many have come to believe? Maybe, just maybe is it something completely different? What are dreamers of marriage supposed to expect? What about those who don’t daydream like sappy little me, but who do still look forward to it? What is a realistic expectation of marriage? Take a journey with me. Lets figure this out, one mistake, one laugh, one kiss, and one day at a time.