This past weekend I photographed a wedding for a fella we used to attend church with. It was absolutely gorgeous, and I think I had just as much fun watching everyone else have fun. Between the impactful ceremony and the fun dancing at the reception, these guys and gals did it up right.
But one thing I loved most during the ceremony is the Pastor’s honesty about marriage. To sum it up, he said, “at some point, you might not even like each other all of the time, but with perseverance, you’ll make it, and it will be better than ever.”
Whenever I attend a wedding, I think back on my own marriage. Where we started. Where we’ve been. How far we’ve come. And what I’ve learned from being a young wife.
After five months of dating, my husband and I married. I was only 18 years old, he was 21. I look back now and realize just how immature we both were, but the fact that we’ve been able to grow up together has been a humbling experience. It certainly presented its successes and challenges.
Young women have a need to love and be loved. We want to jump head first into marriage and motherhood, without ever realizing how much growing up we truly have left for ourselves. I wanted to have babies right away, but my husband didn’t. And I am thankful we waited 3 years before having our son. It gave us time to grow, to know each other, to learn each other’s quirks. And even then, we had barely scratched the surface.
But it wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies. It wasn’t always easy. And this, my friend, is something everyone should know about marriage.
There were days, weeks, even months, that were hard. Really, really hard. As the Pastor said at this weekend’s wedding, sometimes, we didn’t even like each other. Some days, we didn’t want to even be in each other’s presence. Sometimes, we doubted. We doubted everything we had promised. We doubted everything we thought we knew and thought we wanted. We wondered how we got to where we were, when not that long ago we were so “in love” and happy.
Here’s the first thing I’ve learned by marrying young. There is no such thing as being “in love”. There is such a thing as being infatuated. There is such a thing as lusting. There is such a thing as longing to be loved and longing to love someone else. But there is absolutely no such “feeling” as being “in love”.
Because, the second thing I’ve learned, is that love is a choice, not a feeling. Some days are easier to choose love than others. Some days you wake up and love love love your spouse. Other days, you literally have to wake up and force the choice to be kind in all circumstances, and to love unconditionally. That’s real life. Real life isn’t a life of being “in love”. Real life is choosing to wake up every morning and loving the other person no matter what they can or can’t do for you. No matter what they say or don’t say. And no matter how they make you feel that day.
The first few years of our marriage were not easy. Sure, we had some pretty incredible moments and times. It wasn’t always hard. But when it was hard….it was really hard. But what we have now could not have been built without what we had before. We had to tear down walls, remove foundations, and sprinkle forgiveness and trust all over the place. Once the slate was clean, and the dust had settled, our brand new foundation began, and our brand new house of marriage gets a brand new brick every single day.
Which brings me to my next learning experience. Sometimes, everything has to fall apart, so that everything can fall back together the way it should have been. Because God doesn’t just hand over all of the good stuff all at one time. He makes us wait. He makes us work for it. He makes us wait because in the waiting our character is tested, and strengthened, and refined. Sometimes, the faults we see in our spouse are really faults we have in our own heart. Sometimes, God uses the issues that we have with our spouses to actually bring out issues in our own personal lives that He wants to clean up and work on in our hearts.
And sometimes, we have to take the fault…
Sometimes—most of the time—it isn’t just one spouses fault that the marriage is in shambles, It’s both people having so many expectations that aren’t being met, that they place unrealistic goals in each others lives, but forgetting that while we are now “one” in Christ, we are also still very much individual people with individual wants and needs. We aren’t going to be the same. We aren’t going to think the same way. We aren’t going to do things the same way. And we shouldn’t expect that of one another.
We were never meant to be the same….
We were never meant to lose our individual identity in Christ—our identity in ourselves—for the sake of another person.
Because I married so young, I forgot who I was and what I wanted to be. I forgot who and what I was called to be. Sure, goals change. Life changes. Ideas and wants and needs change.But there were certain things that never changed. I thought that being in love with someone meant doing anything and everything they wanted to do. And somewhere along the way, losing my own identity caused bitterness and resentment.
It wasn’t his fault, it was mine. He never asked me to be something different, I just assumed I had to be now that I had this new “title”.
Never forget, ladies, that your man fell in love with you for who you were as a person. Not who you were as a wife.
Fellas, that’s something you should never forget either. While your wife certainly has wifely duties, she is still that loving young woman you fell in love with. Sometimes, she might need coercing to bring her back out. But never forget that your wife still wants to be just as pursued 30 years later as she did when you first started dating. Women never want to stop being pursued…..ever.
What else did I learn by marrying young?
I learned that sometimes, you need you time. And that’s ok.
I learned that when a problem arises, you fix it together.
I learned that going to bed angry happens, but that it’s easier if you fix your problems before bedtime.
I learned to leave my yesterdays exactly where they should be left….in yesterday. Not today. Not tomorrow. Yesterday.
I learned that you fight with your spouse and for your spouse, not against them.
I learned that each spouse should be a teacher and a student.
I learned that my husband’s heart needs to be pursued just as much as mine does.
I learned that just because God makes you wait for your marriage to get better, that there is beauty in the waiting. And sometimes, refining fire is necessary to burn out the old so that the new can flourish.
I learned that a gentle and quiet spirit is much more beautiful than a harsh and belittling one. (1 Peter 3)
I learned to stand up for myself. Women were called to be gentle and loving, but we were never called to be walked all over. Whether it’s in marriage or in daily life relationships.
I learned that we are being trained every single day in our marriage.
I learned that stopping and waiting before you react is smarter (and less hurtful) than reacting in anger or hurt.
But I also learned that when you’ve been hurt, you should tell that person.
I learned that communicating is a necessity, even if you’re scared of the answer.
I learned that marrying young can be a lot more challenging than marrying in your late twenties. Know who you are in Christ before diving head first into a serious relationship.
I learned that just because you have a big fight, doesn’t mean its the end of your marriage.
I learned that the only way to make it work and to get to the “best” parts of marriage is to understand that divorce is never an option (unless, of course, you’re in an abusive relationship).
I learned that forgiveness is essential to loving unconditionally.
I learned that sometimes my mind over analyzes and makes things up that weren’t really there to begin with.
But I also learned to listen to that still small voice.
I learned that prayer is key to a healthy marriage.
I learned that when you are uncomfortable with a situation, you talk about it, even when it’s hard.
I learned that I am not any better, or any less, than my husband. And the moment I think either, is the moment I need to fall into the arms of the Father to be reminded that I am the daughter of a King.
I learned to never stop falling into the arms of my husband who loves me more than I ever realized.
I learned that people can give you their opinions, but they don’t have all of the information about your marriage that you do.
I learned that by being diligent in my prayer life, and serving faithfully, God blessed me with a marriage better than I could have ever imagined when we first married—with a little waiting and elbow grease.
I learned that the hard times might not be over, but I am stronger now because of what we’ve walked through before….and come out of victoriously.
I learned to be silly. When all else fails, laugh. Don’t take yourself so seriously.
I learned that I will never stop learning.
I learned to never post our marriage issues on social media. Ever.
I learned to put God first, husband second, child third, and then everything else will fall into place.
I learned that marriage is a team effort, not just a me effort. But that even when it is just me….I learned that I was still responsible for fulfilling my duties and promises, even if he wasn’t.
I learned that we had to work our problems out together, not with our families.
I learned that the grass is greener where you water it, not in someone else’s yard.
I learned that money issues can cause stress, but never forget that the root of a marriage isn’t money, it’s faithfulness, understanding, and unconditional love.
I learned that sometimes, you don’t have to have an answer, you just have to be there.
I learned that physical touch is one of the most important things in a marriage. Without it, there is no intimacy. And intimacy is so necessary in a marriage. It is what sets marriage apart from every other relationship on earth (if done the Biblical way).
But most of all, I learned that marriage isn’t a destination, it’s a journey.
Marriage is something that grows each and everyday into something amazing and incredible, if you allow it to, and if you diligently stick with it.
And even though I married so young, I wouldn’t change it for anything. There have been times I’ve thought to myself, “if we would have married later in life, we could have skipped the heartache.” But the reality is that sometimes you have to go through the hard times to get to the better times. Sometimes, the heartache and rubble is the very foundation that makes your marriage stronger. In the words of Hemingway, we are stronger in the places where we’ve been broken. And we’re all a little broken…that’s how the light gets in.
So instead of throwing stones at each other, place them on new foundations and walls.
Instead of saying “it’s over”, say “this isn’t how our story ends”.
Because if I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that we get what we put into something. And sometimes marriage isn’t fair. But it is always, always, worth the wait.