Today Daniel and I celebrate six years of marriage. SIX YEARS. I know it’s not a shocking length of time, but I think it’s starting to sound downright respectable. Can anything prepare you for what marriage will be like? No. It is infinitely more difficult and infinitely more splendid than I could have ever imagined. Something like having children, I suppose. We’ve learned a few lessons over the past six years, many of them the hard way. I am thankful daily for the joy that our marriage brings to my life. It is better than I could have ever dreamed and far better than I will ever deserve.
- Your Spouse Isn’t Enough. Really. As wonderful and perfect as he might be, his love is not enough to fulfill you. One day you will look at him and think, “He isn’t enough. Something is missing.” And one day you will realize that you are not enough for him. This may be an incredibly painful epiphany (it was for me.) I thought our marriage might be a failure and I hated the idea that the love I believed to be so epic just wasn’t enough. What I didn’t understand for a couple of years is that no human love is enough to satisfy us. Your spouse simply cannot do it and it isn’t humanly possible for you to love him “enough” either. But don’t despair, that’s not the end. We weren’t made to be fulfilled by human love, no matter how beautiful. We were created to be satisfied only by the divine love of God. Just as St. Augustine writes, “You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you,” Christ must be first in all things. Your identity, your joy, and your self-worth must rest in Our Lord. If you expect your spouse to be able to satisfy all these needs, you are setting him up for failure and your disappointment will be bitter. When you learn, as I did (the hard way), that Christ must be first in your heart, your marriage will be filled with the grace of Our Lord’s divine love. And there will be enough love. More than enough love.
- Marriage is a kind of death. Marriage isn’t a power struggle between two entities attempting to protect their own rights. Marriage is a reflection of Our Lord’s sacrifice for his Holy Church. It is a journey of daily self-sacrificial death. (Boy, I’m making it sound really great, aren’t I?!) But, like baptism, marriage is a kind of death that leads to life—real and truly amazing life. When I was pregnant with our firstborn I was so ill. I had unbearable 24/7 morning sickness for 6 months. And Daniel waited on me hand and foot. As soon as I woke in the morning he would have snacks prepared for me to eat before my head left the pillow. When I inevitably threw them up, he would be ready with a glass of cold water to soothe my burning throat. He encouraged me, helped me, and loved me with every act as he cared for me (a whining, aching, grumpy, difficult pregnant wife) during those months. He modeled for me what marriage was: giving up everything for me when I had nothing to give back. We were no longer two individuals engaged in constant compromises to protect our own rights and satisfy our own needs, we were learning to be one flesh dying daily for our beloved. We were (and still are) learning to be like Christ and love like Christ. If your focus is yourself and the pursuit of your own happiness, you will be miserable. If you learn to die for your beloved and they learn to die for you, you will be filled with joy.
- Don’t be afraid to forgive. You will say and do things that deeply hurt your spouse. He will say and do things that deeply hurt you. Forgive. Completely. Never bring it up again. It sounds easy enough, but when the day comes that you find yourself truly hurt, you will want your spouse to suffer for what they did. Forgiveness will be hard in coming. But, if you cannot forgive and forget you will poison your marriage. This lesson was especially hard for me to learn. Still trying to protect my personal rights and be sure that my feelings and needs were never belittled or trampled upon, I made sure that I never forgot the slightest wrong, not to mention the times when I was truly wounded. Our culture is so individualistic and constantly urges us: Stand up for Yourself! Put Yourself First! You Deserve Perfection! True forgiveness is a revolutionary idea for us. I had a hard time breaking the thought pattern that by forgiving and moving on I was in some way compromising my own self-respect. What a lie. When I finally wanted to forgive I discovered I didn’t have much practice and it was hard. I also struggled with the humiliating realization that our marriage wasn’t perfect, that our love had fallen short. But, the devastation of that knowledge was followed by a new understanding of what kind of God we serve and what kind of Grace flows from his love for us. Our Lord redeems what is broken. He heals the wounded. As we watched God fill our marriage with grace, remaking it into something better than we could have ever imagined, we were stunned by our inadequacy and the unfathomable ocean of God’s grace.
Happy Sixth Anniversary to us! I can’t imagine living life without Daniel’s love and friendship. I am still stunned that this amazing guy picked me. I love him so and each year together is more wonderful than the last.
Six years may not be a long time in the grand scheme, but it sounds like you two have learned lessons that make your marriage wise beyond its years. Er, if that makes sense. 😉 A very happy anniversary to you both!
Thanks, Margaret! (p.s. I loooove SlowMama. One of the few blogs I read.)
Wise words to learn after a mere 6 years. This year will be 9 for us and we learn every single day. Happy Anniversary, to you, and may you keep learning and growing!
Thank you! And congrats on almost 9 🙂
Molly Makes Do says
Great lessons – I’m glad there’s someone out there willing to share the more realistic side of marriage, especially #1. It was advice, but something my grandmother told me when I was a teenager – she and my grandfather have been together since they were 14 and 17 and have a love and marriage to be envious of – she admitted to me that there were multiple times in her marriage where she woke up and wanted nothing to do with my grandfather for days, she didn’t even want to see him. I learned right then that a good marriage isn’t perfect 100% and when I woke up on my first day where I wanted nothing to do with my spouse for a little while I automatically knew that it was temporary and had nothing to do with the grand scheme of things other than a big ol’ sign that I needed a little alone time. Best “heads up” I could have ever received.
Congrats on 6 years! In this day and age it is something to be proud of!
Molly, I think my parents have told me something similar–that there times each of them felt like leaving but that those are the times they were glad to have the commitment of marriage holding them together so they could enjoy all of the wonderful times. Thanks!
Love this meditation….I was surprised how much the first couple years of marriage revealed to me what a selfish sinner I am!
also, I love the marriage you and Daniel have. Living in your home for a few months gave me a pretty up-close view, and I was so often challenged and encouraged by your example of loving & serving each other. I love the way Daniel sweetly and quietly does things for you. I love the way you always talk about him like he is the most amazing guy in the world. I love the way you raise your kids together. grateful to be your friend & (temporarily) housemates.
Aww, thank you, Lois! You are so encouraging. And I feel the same way about you and Brian. You definitely see people’s true colors when you live with them and having you for housemates revealed only good things 🙂 I demand to at least buy you a cupcake and get 10 minutes to chat before you move! In general, I’m trying to forget that you’re leaving so I don’t have to deal with it 🙁 Love you.
Scott Moore says
This is really wonderful. Well done. And Happy Anniversary to both of you!
Thank you, Dr. Moore!
This is a wonderful post! I am not yet a married woman, but I hope to use the time I have before marriage to become more humble and ready to constantly change throughout marriage, as I know it will be necessary to progress with my spouse and with God. Although I know it will be difficult, beauty always grows from pain when it is worked through with faith and the grace of God. Thank you so much for being so truthful and honest and sharing this beautiful post.
Thanks, Jenny! It sounds like you already have a good sense of the essence of marriage. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.
This is amazing, thank you for sharing your insight and knowledge!
I stumbled upon your blog on Pinterest and saw this article. As a woman getting married in 6 months this really touched me! I immediately shared with my fiance. Wonderful advice for those of us who are starting out in marriage. We can all benefit from these lessons. Congratulations to you and your husband! I can’t wait to read more of your blogs!
Just saw this comment, sorry for the delay. Thanks for the congratulations and encouragement, Jackie 🙂
Great words!! I have been married almost 2 years and we have had some extremely difficult and trying times. Many days I have wondered why we are even bothering…this encourages me to keep going, even though we still have a big obstacle to overcome. Thanks for your insight.
I’m so glad it was encouraging to you, Sara!
It’s so true! When we were newly married, my husband said something about I was the person he loved most after the Lord and that idea really bothered me at first! Then I realised that that is how it should be, and by putting Him first in our lives, our marriage will only grow stronger. Like the triangle idea, I’m sure you’ve seen it…marriage as a triangle between you, your husband and God. By ascending closer to God, you grow closer to your spouse at the same time. I hate it when people say things like “You complete me.” Or “I need you,” because that implies that you are an incomplete person coming into the relationship. If you ‘need’ someone to complete you, what are you going to do when someone comes along that fills that need better? It isn’t about need, it’s about being a whole and complete person and choosing to be with someone else because despite the fact that you could live without them, you don’t want to.
It was definitely a difficult shift for me to make, too!
Rachel O'Neal says
Such a beautiful, poignant, and truthful post. I’m so glad to have found your blog! As a fellow Baylor grad and lover of literature, theology, and L.M. Montgomery especially, I am so loving reading your blog! You have a beautiful family!
Thank you, Rachel! So fun to connect with another Baylor grad 🙂
I love this. You put into much more eloquent words exactly how I feel about marriage. No one can love me the way God does, and it’s unfair to my husband to expect that of him. I didn’t really understand that until I gave birth to our first child, and then it kind of hit me that my love for my son is closer to what God feels for us … and spouses can’t feel that way for each other. Not having anyone in my life to model what a good marriage is, and what marriage means, meant that I had to learn the hard way. Both of my parents and all four of my grandparents have been married and divorced multiple times. We are still always learning, but the wonderful outweighs the hard.
Thanks for sharing. I am definitely going to continue reading your blog. 🙂
It’s our 3 year year anniversary today too! Married life is difficult and beautiful and oh the death you have to die. 🙂 It’s so worth though. I look forward to 3 more years and many more after that.