Since the day that diamond appeared on your finger, everyone has had advice for you. The world, your church, your family, your friends. Everyone has an idea of how to make your marriage a success.
But I often find their advice to be incomplete.
And so, dear bride, I bring to you my own marriage ‘advice.’ But instead of things you need to do, these are things to accept. Here are four ideas I believe you need to understand about marriage – and if you tuck them away they will help temper the unmet expectations and little disappointments that can add up to devastation in a marriage.
1. Oneness does not equal sameness. You’ve heard that ‘two become one’ more times than you can count. And yes, in many ways you will be one – one flesh, one family, one future. But in the church we often confuse oneness and unity with sameness.
You will not, nor will you ever be, the same. You will always be autonomous, uniquely created individual beings. And that really is a beautiful thing.
So even though it’s tempting, your job is not to change him. Your job is not to long for him to be more like you in certain ways. Your job is to respect, love, and honor him in his differences. He may not enjoy your hobby. His political ideology may differ from yours. The issues may be big or small, but none of this threatens your oneness. Your unity is found in Christ, and while it will take effort to cultivate and maintain a healthy relationship, the goal is never to be the same.
2. It’s not his job to make you happy. Happiness is the ultimate pursuit in our culture these days. And today, you are happy.
But I promise you that one day in the not-too-distant future, you will open your Facebook feed and see a heartfelt, loving tribute from a wife to her husband who seems to do all the things and you will look at the man sleeping next to you and wonder if you made a mistake.
This is the beauty of marriage. That sometimes things aren’t perfect, but you are still there. That he’s looked at you and thought the same, but he is still there. That seasons change, and together you weather them. You are both still there.
Marriage is wonderful, but if you expect your husband to be the source of your happiness, you have mistakenly made him your God. Your Christ. He can’t live up to that. You will be disappointed.
3. It’s not your job to make him happy. This is not to say you won’t do nice things for him. Of course you will.
But you cannot carry his happiness, just as he cannot carry yours.
People have bad days. People have bad months. If your husband goes through a hard season, this is not a reflection on you, or your failure as a wife.
Your job is to pray for him. To continue to love him. To support him. To do all the things wives do for their husbands.
But not because you’re trying to make him happy. It’s because you promised to – for better or for worse.
4. Sometimes being a help-mate means knowing when NOT to help. In the church, we talk an awful lot about women being a help-mate to their husbands. But we don’t talk about what that looks like in real life.
A lot of women assume it means they pave the way for their husbands. That they carry any burden that may weigh him down, or remove the rocks that may cause him to stumble.
That they ‘take care of the finances’ when he makes poor money decisions, or that they clean up every mess he might make so he doesn’t have to deal with it.
I don’t know about you, dear bride, but some of my biggest personal growth experiences have come from failing miserably.
And if you’re working overtime to keep him from failing, might I gently suggest that you are robbing him of an experience he needs to have? A life lesson he needs to learn?
Being a help-mate means knowing when helping might actually be hurting. Sometimes being a help-mate means allowing him to fall on his face. But when he does, you’re not standing over him, hands on your hips, saying I told you so.
Instead you’re the one stooping down, putting your arms around his shoulders, and gently helping steady him as he stands up of his own accord.
Congratulations, dear bride, as you begin this sacred journey with your beloved. I wish you all the best in your new life together!