I remember how just seeing your smile would fill me with butterflies, and every time you saw me your eyes lit up like stars! What happened to those two people who were so wrapped up in each other’s company? What happened to those two people who were CERTAIN that this must be love? What happened to us…?
When facing challenges in your marriage, it’s natural to reminisce. To think of where you began with this man or woman. To think of a time when your love seemed so much more evident – more smooth, even. This comparison can easily lead to a place of despair, and sadness at the fact that what your marriage looked like then is not the picture that you see before you now.
I remember one particular day where I was feeling the weight of what I was facing, and I began to do exactly that; compare my situation with a time when things seemed so light and breezy for us as a couple. Naturally I became increasingly frustrated, and it was then that I learned a significant lesson that I will always remember:
The couple who we were, is no longer the couple we are now.
Negative experiences can make you feel like you are on the wrong road, and that you need to somehow get back to how you used to be, but going back discounts everything that you have gained since then. Going back erases your story, dismisses your experience, and removes the chance for you to keep growing together through both the better and the worse.
It’s easy to look back and long for how it used to be, because back then your marriage journey was just beginning for you both as husband and wife!
Think about the excitement of that holiday feeling when you arrive at your accommodation and find the room immaculate, ready and waiting… The furniture intentionally arranged, the towels neatly folded, and the crisp linen of the bed tucked in to create a tempting focal point for the entire room. As the days go by and you get familiar with your surroundings, that feeling of awe isn’t the same as when you first arrived. The contents of your suitcase are spread throughout your room, your towels are no longer neatly folded (or in the shape of a swan), and that big beautiful bed doesn’t look so neat anymore. And to make matters more interesting, you find out that housekeeping isn’t an option! Both you and your spouse will have to maintain the room yourself…
The newness of your marriage can feel exactly like that immaculate room. Unfortunately, none of our marriages come with housekeeping either!
It is up to us to maintain what we have if we are to continue to feel that love and excitement for one another, and that takes work. Life-long work.
So many people underestimate this, and commit to marriage for all of the wrong reasons. Even if you are feeling lonely and all of your friends are married and you’re getting older and he or she has just always been there and you want your happily ever after, the bottom line is this: are you ready to work? If your answer is no, then marriage probably isn’t for you. At least the kind of marriage that you would be happy spending your life in anyway.
When you begin married life, the immaculate newness of possibilities and potential can stir up an overwhelming sense of excitement. It is normal for this to fade as you settle into a sense of routine and build your life with each other, but we don’t factor in the need to provide our own “housekeeping”.
When was the last time you checked in on your spouse to find out how they are really doing?
To take the time to listen to find out what they are struggling with especially. To determine if there is anything that you can do differently to offer them more love and support.
When was the last time you checked in with yourself to be honest about how your marriage is affecting you? To sit down with your spouse and approach them in love to talk about an issue that affects you both. To remind each other that you are in this together.
When was the last time that you spent time with just the two of you? To have some child-free space to connect. To do the things that you enjoy and have some fun together? (If you’ve safely achieved this despite the pandemic then ratings to you!)
I could go on, as there are so many delicate parts of our marriage that require an intentional effort from both sides. That is the beauty of marriage – it really is what you make it! But please don’t be under any impression that you will be able to grow with one another if you aren’t willing to put in the work. When we sit back and just expect happiness to be a guaranteed factor in our marriage experience (“happily every after” is not an accurate representation of a healthy marriage), we’re in for a rude awakening. That and the fact that we end up stunting our marriage of essential growth.
The amount of us that end up outgrowing our marriages is sad to see.
We learn how to create our own personal foundation for survival in the face of division, and our marriages end up empty and neglected.
In truth, we don’t just arrive at a place where we are considering separation the day after we get married. There is a process of discontentment and neglect, and the two combined without a willing effort will lead to distance where there was once an inseparable desire to be together. So inseparable in fact, that you chose to commit to spend your life with one another. For better or for worse.
As I write this post at a place of far greater appreciation, respect and understanding for what marriage is, I can say that I am thankful that myself and my husband are not where we used to be. Of course, back then it felt like our worries were minimal compared to what we have been through since, and who wouldn’t want less worries! But facing the battles of life together has and continues to help us both grow and learn in ways that we need to. This growth often doesn’t come easy, but change demands a willingness to leave your comfort zone.
Next time you find yourself reminiscing about the way things once were, instead think about just how much you have experienced together since the day you said “I do”. If the picture of your marriage right now isn’t something that you are proud to look at, then consider what needs to change to allow you to build a bond that is a stronger representation of the marriage you would like to have. The first step is a willingness to work for what you have. Intentional effort can lead to an inseparable connection, which should be the ultimate goal for all of us in marriage.
If this post resonates with you, then hopefully it will encourage you to know that you are far from alone in feeling the way you do right now! Countless couples underestimate just how much is required to maintain a healthy marriage, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t start to build from where you are while you learn these truths. The following questions are a good place to begin in giving yourself a better sense of direction for the benefit of your marriage:
- When you think about the way things used to be, what stands out to you?
- What experiences have you shared since you got married, that make you feel grateful for your spouse?
- What might currently be missing from your marriage, that is making you miss the way things used to be?
- Name one thing you need from your marriage right now, and give a reason why you think this need isn’t being met?
- Consider ways that you can benefit from external help if you haven’t already, and ask yourself what is stopping you from seeking that help?