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My husband is one of the most caring, hard-working, kind-hearted people you will ever meet. I love him so much, and I can’t say enough good things about him. But what if I told you that getting married to him didn’t make me happy? That having all my dreams come true didn’t lead to happily ever after?
Spoiler alert: I am happy. But it has nothing to do with being a married woman.
I’ve always had a very strong desire to be married. When people would ask about my ambitions in life, I’d say “I’m in graduate school right now, and I’m doing photography, and I’ll see where that leads me. But to be honest, my greatest desire is to become a wife and a mom.” I knew that if I got married, my life would change to be oriented around my husband, and that’s what I felt called to do.
I struggled with loneliness on a daily basis, and I was so jealous of my dating, engaged, and married friends. I wanted a spouse so badly that sometimes I couldn’t even hang out with friends who were in relationships. Every time I saw another friend get engaged on Facebook, I’d hide their posts from my news feed because I didn’t want to open Facebook and feel sad. When friends who weren’t even looking to get married got swept off their feet I’d think, “why does she get exactly what I want when she didn’t even want it to begin with?!” Marriage was an idol in my life, and I knew it.
Most people would tell me, “God’s got the right man out there for you, and you’ll meet him one day!” I’d think to myself, “really?! Can you see the future? You don’t know that.” Others would say, “as soon as you stop looking and become content with where you are, you’ll find him!” That kind of thinking is based on works. “If I do right, God will bless me.” False. (Ever heard the story of Job?)
In the midst of my struggle with loneliness, I met my husband out of the blue. He wasn’t in my friend group, so he wasn’t even on my radar. He swept me off my feet, and less than a year later, we were married. Could this really be happening to me?!
Dating my husband and knowing that I was going to marry him was the most exciting time of my life. We went through pre-marital counseling and were warned that marriage would be hard, that we would need to die to ourselves, that eventually the honeymoon phase would wear off. I knew that in my head, but in my heart I thought, “we’ll be happy forever.” All of my dreams were coming true. I thought that marrying him would be just like dating, but forever. Like a constant state of ecstasy. Who wouldn’t want that?
Now we have been married for nearly 10 months, and I adore my husband and am so glad God led us together. But the most surprising reality for me is that I’m not any happier than I was when I was single.
In many ways, my life is harder now. I’d never lived on my own, so I went from my parents taking care of most of my needs to caring for two people. There are bills, endless laundry, cooking for two (I’d only cooked one full meal in my life before marriage), cleaning, yard work, and so much more. We recently bought our first home, and since my husband works full time I helped out by handling a lot of the research and phone calls on my own. I have a lot more responsibilities than ever before.
My husband makes enough money to support us, so we decided together that I would devote most of my time to being his helper and a keeper at home (see Titus 2:5 and Genesis 2:18). Currently I’m only working part time, and I work from home. I went from owning a successful business as a single woman, attending grad school, and having a direct purpose with my time every day to not having a clear, set daily schedule. I went from being a social butterfly to marrying an introvert. Most of my days are spent alone managing the house, helping my husband, or working.
My nights are spent with him, but it’s not a constant state of euphoria that I imagined it would be. It’s hard. His work is demanding, so he is often worn out and stressed. I have the privilege of encouraging and loving him, but it is not an easy task. It can take its toll on me emotionally. Dating was easy, but now we have to intentionally plan our date nights and make them a priority. It’s not that we love each other less, but we are experiencing real life as a married couple, not the perfect world of dating.
Dating and being engaged is not real life; it’s concentrated. While dating, often the time spent with your significant other is so infrequent compared to the amount of real life that happens. There are so many pent up emotions, feelings, and desires that build and build until the next time you see him when they overflow all at once. Then you go home and feel dreamy and wonderful and it all gets built up again until the next time. Not to mention the fact that you can’t have sex, so your sexual desires are constantly being bottled up until the honeymoon.
Marriage isn’t like that. The feelings are still there, but rarely in such heavy doses as when you were dating or engaged because they play out over a normal day. Now that I’m married I can understand why most people in our culture just date around because dating is such a unique, fleeting, exciting phase. If you are just interested in good feelings all the time, then dating around makes sense.
I feel like the same person that I was as a single woman. I guess I thought I would somehow feel different. I’d feel happier. But I struggle with the same sin problems that I had before, but now they are laid bare before my husband and can’t be swept under the rug. Selfishness, discontentment, laziness, lust, pride, anxiety, it’s all still there. Marriage did not fix any of it. It actually made it worse because I can’t hide it from my husband. Since my sin doesn’t just affect me anymore, I have to deal with it. And dealing with sin is daunting and scary and difficult.
Being married is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I cry more often now than I did when I was single. The weight of responsibility is heavier, and our sin is divisive. Satan is constantly trying to pull us apart. Life is hard, and it’s even harder living with another person. We have to constantly fight to put down ourselves, and we fail more often than we succeed.
Yes, some aspects of my life are better. Yes, sex is great But it’s not like I thought it would be. I honestly thought we’d be in a constant state of euphoria and every single night would be incredible and full of passion or whatever. But sex can sometimes be very frustrating. While it is beautiful and wonderful, it can easily become just another part of life. And being able to have sex did not cure my lust; only Christ can do that. Yes, my husband is a wonderful companion and a wonderful man, but he didn’t cure my loneliness. Only Christ can do that. My husband does not complete me; only Christ can do that.
So why am I telling you all of this? I want to encourage you that where you are right now is wonderful and hard. Where I am right now is wonderful and hard. And the two most important things that I need as a married person are the exact same things that anyone needs:
My husband is not my community, he is someone in my community. He can’t fix all of my problems simply by living with me. I need the Word and community now just as much as I did when I was single.
Marriage is not better than singleness. I know that when I was single I would have thought, “sure, it’s easy for you to say that since YOU’RE MARRIED!” And I get that. I know. Trust me, I was there. But I can honestly say that some parts are better, and some parts are harder. In the end, it’s just different. And my commitment to Christ is what’s ultimate.
When I would hear my married friends talk about their struggles, I would think, “Hey, well at least you’re married. At least you have someone that loves you. At least you can have sex.” I thought it was impossible to feel like your world was caving in if you had someone to love you. But I am living proof that that’s just not true. If you are looking for prince charming to come in and make your world brighter, you’re looking in the wrong place.
Only Christ can make your world brighter. I am seeing now that the reason I’m married is not my happiness. It’s to grow in Christ, to be sanctified, and to serve and help my husband. What a privilege! It’s about me loving him sacrificially, which I am still learning how to do, and it’s really really hard. I think that’s the beauty of Christian marriage. It’s countercultural. It’s not about me.
The majority of what we are fed about marriage is so unrealistic. We hype up the wedding and the honeymoon as if that’s what marriage will be all the time. It’s easy to forget about the weight of lifelong commitment and its implications. The memories of my wedding day are already fuzzy, and the honeymoon was over in a breeze. Real life with my husband is my current reality.
Let me be clear that I have a wonderful husband, and he hasn’t disappointed me. He works very hard, he loves me well, and he is extraordinarily kind. But I had false expectations and unrealistic dreams that needed to be shattered. I know there are some that are still lingering. As Christ changes my heart and breaks down my idols, then I am free to love my husband biblically.
If you are single, I know that it’s really really hard and lonely. I was right there with you. And now? My life is still really really hard and it is still lonely if I don’t spend time actually talking to my husband and other believers.
I had people tell me before I got married that marriage wouldn’t make me happy, but I didn’t believe them. It didn’t click. I still just wanted to be married more than anything. And that’s ok!!! God knows where you are, and He knows your thoughts. Just stay in the Word, stay in community with other believers, and encourage your married friends to do the same thing. We are all in this fight together, and we all need to lean on Christ moment by moment.
The most beautiful aspect of marriage is not that it has made me happy, but that I’m seeing my love grow and stretch in ways I never thought possible. And I’m seeing my husband walk with me and love me despite my sinfulness. My wicked heart is being exposed piece by piece, and Christ is making me new.