This weekend marks the beginning of wedding season for us. By the time summer is over, we’ll attend seven weddings. Jordan will officiate five of them. We’ll toast and eat and dance and be really grateful to witness them all.
Because of Jordan’s work as a pastor, we have regular opportunities to sit down with engaged couples and hear their plans for marriage. And inevitably, these couples ask us what advice we’d offer up as they prepare to make what’s arguably the most important commitment of their lives.
Here’s the first thing we share…
This is not the fun stuff to talk about, especially as there are so many other pressing questions on the table like:
“Roses or ranunculus?”
“Who will sit next to Aunt Sheila?”
And “Which honeymoon destination will incite the most envy as folks scroll through my Instagram feed?”
And you might be asking why talk about this not so fun stuff when things are pretty good right now, and he/she that I’m marrying is such a good person at their core, and quite frankly, I don’t want to read another article that tries to scare me into taking marriage seriously by telling me it’s hard work. I get it.But listen, here’s what Jordan and I have learned about ourselves and about lots of other couples (married and engaged) that we find worth sharing: So many of us enter marriage believing — often subconsciously — that finding a partner will heal us and take away the dissatisfaction we have in life.
We know intellectually that our spouse will be a flawed human being, but we might not realize our spouse will disappoint us in greater ways than leaving their slippers out or the cap off the toothpaste. They will, in fact, have some character flaws. Flaws that saying ‘I do’ won’t magically fix. Flaws that marriage quite possibly will magnify. You’ve, of course, got your flaws too, but when we expect our spouse to be a solution to the problems inside and around us, the pressure for him/her to live up to a standard much higher than the one you’d place on yourself becomes pretty easy.Disappointments, caused by both of us, have had their place in our marriage — not the salacious kind to make the internet go wild, but disappointments nonetheless. And when life is pressing in on me, when I’m feeling less than whole, Jordan and his flaws can become an easy target — or an easy cause — of blame for what’s not right in my life or dissatisfaction with marriage.
And so if disappointment in marriage is inevitable, by virtue of being unable to marry a perfect human, the question becomes: What’s your plan for dealing with the moments when your spouse disappoints you?
Here’s what has worked for us (and I have Jordan to thank for modeling this so well):
Start with vulnerability.
Instead of just blaming your spouse or detailing how they’ve failed you, start with vulnerability and express how their actions really make you feel. We tend to default to anger when we’re actually feeling hurt. Instead of protecting your ego, try honesty. Take time to examine if their “failure” taps into some deeper fear or insecurity, and don’t be afraid to admit that.
Follow up with grace.
Remind yourself of your commitment to an imperfect person. Consider the unrealistic weight you might be placing on your spouse to be perfect or just like you. Consider your own flaws and ways you’ve disappointed others. Make a decision to forgive. Choose to not recount what your spouse did over and over in your mind. Cancel whatever debt you think they owe you.
Neither of these is easy. But your spouse is certainly worth both. And disappointments don’t have to be crushing if we have realistic expectations and plans to process the harder stuff that marriage brings.
What’s the first piece of advice you’d give to people who are getting married?