The Advice We Give Before People Get Married

April 3, 2017

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…

Have a plan for dealing with the moments when your spouse disappoints you.

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.storiedstyled3years-17But 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.storiedstyled3years-18Disappointments, 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?

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  • Reply
    April 3, 2017 at 10:34 am

    Never ever take a single day for granted tomorrow isn’t promised nor is the hour past since you last saw each other.

    • Reply
      Jessica Rice
      April 3, 2017 at 1:50 pm

      So true! It’s easy to assume a person will always be there, but nothing is promised.

  • Reply
    Kate Yee
    April 3, 2017 at 11:25 am

    Marriage is a process of getting to deeply, deeply know someone. It’s more than knowing their preferences, and dislikes. It’s knowing their fears, their baggage, the painful experiences and family of origin stuff that’s made them who they are. Lean in to the opportunities to tell your story to your spouse and help them know you better. Be open, and honest on the receiving end of this process as well. With each difficult, tearful and intimate conversation you have, the walls between you will gradually be dismantled. Talk and Listen. That is my advice — and enjoy the journey of getting to know your partner in ways that no other human on earth will.

    • Reply
      Jessica Rice
      April 3, 2017 at 1:51 pm

      This is awesome, Kate! I think it’s such a privilege to know someone so deeply, and with that comes a responsibility to deal with them gently once they’ve shared themselves with you. Thanks for this!

  • Reply
    April 3, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    Thank you for this.

  • Reply
    April 3, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    Great post with great advice and a wonderful reminder for me in this season. Transition always makes shortcomings a bit more visible.

    The best advice I ever got was to remain his girlfriend, not his mom. He married me because he wanted what he got as a girlfriend (the fun, the adventure, encouragement, and then safe place to be vulnerable) for a lifetime. Not someone to teach him to clean or nag him, but a partner to stand alongside him. The advice I was given is to be his girlfriend not his mom, or he’ll look for another one. Not that it let’s him off the hook to be accountable to his actions, but it does force me to consider deeply what is worth it and to monitor my approach if it is.

  • Reply
    Sherri Curtis
    April 4, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    Excellent read Jessica! I especially love where you mention that our spouse is an imperfect human, and don’t we all deserve a little grace! Its hard to think of just one piece of advice, but one of the biggest I like to share is to learn how to fight fair and set proper expectations so you’re not disappointed. It definitely requires maturity lol

    • Reply
      Jessica Rice
      April 5, 2017 at 10:31 am

      Thanks, Sherri! Fighting fair is so important – I might do a follow up post just on that.

  • Reply
    Rosa Arnold
    April 11, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    Such a great post! After 2.5 years of marriage, grace and communication are the lessons that stick out the most. Being gracious to your spouse as well as yourself. It is a new role for both of you. We all need grace. & Communicate! It is so easy to keep things in & have an internal battle with yourself which builds up anger/frustration toward your spouse. I sometimes forget that Justin can’t read my mind. Hahaha. Then I am left being upset at him for something he has no idea about. So I highly recommend speaking your mind about how you’re feeling!

  • Reply
    Mimi Ewell
    April 19, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    Even though you’re one, and you need to focus on building agreement and intimacy as a couple, it’s important to have your own ship to sail with some interesting, meaningful and purposeful destinations in mind. When your sole vision is focused on the “marriage” and pleasing the spouse, resentment will eventually develop when they’ve gone off to sail their ship and you’re left to await the stories of their journey that you’re not invited to experience. These are the couples that usually end up growing or sailing apart. That sense of self, direction and personal accomplishment is healthy and necessary to make one feel whole and successful. Without this the emptiness and lack of fulfillment can eat away at the soul.

    • Reply
      Jessica Rice
      April 20, 2017 at 11:39 pm

      This is so great — we were talking to a soon-to-be-married couple about this just last night!

  • Reply
    April 21, 2017 at 11:18 pm

    I love it here!!!! Thanks for sharing your blog with me.

    P.S. As a newlywed, this post resonated. Thank you mam

    • Reply
      Jessica Rice
      April 25, 2017 at 10:21 pm

      Thanks so much for checking it out! :-)

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