When we got married, we heard a lot of opinions. Well-intentioned people warned us about how hard marriage is, which made it seem like the worst decision ever. And truthfully, marriage is hard. We’ve already figured that out, and we’re only nine months in! But just because something’s hard doesn’t mean it’s bad. Just ask anyone who’s ever run a 5k. It’s hard while you’re doing it, but it’s worth it in the end.
If you’re currently dating and considering getting married or engaged, here are four things we learned during our first year of marriage.
- Marriage reveals how selfish you are. All it takes is one tooth-and-nail fight over whether to binge watch Gilmore Girls or Friends to realize how selfish you really are. In marriage, it’s easier to blame your problems on your spouse than to try to fix your own selfishness. You’re in dangerous territory when you start thinking all the problems in your marriage are your spouse’s fault. Jesus showed us a different way, though. In Luke 17:33, Jesus taught if you cling to your life, you’ll lose it—but if you give up your life, you’ll gain it. In other words, clinging to your own selfishness is a bad idea. Sometimes, the right way is not getting your way. And sometimes, you might just need to be friends and watch Gilmore Girls.
- Marriage isn’t just about sex. Since we both grew up around a lot of Christians, people made marriage seem like a get-into-bed free card. However, it doesn’t take too long to realize sex isn’t the point of marriage. Sex is the by-product of a healthy marriage, but it doesn’t create one. Before you get married, you should think about why you’re getting married. If it’s only because you want to have sex, it’s not a good enough reason. Your marriage should be built on friendship, kindness, and respect, not just on your hormones.
- You have to learn how to manage money well, or money will manage you. Before you get married, it’s crucial to talk about how you’ll handle money. After all, money is often cited as one of the top reasons for divorce. Here’s the great news: you can learn how to manage money instead of letting money manage you. The best way to get on the same page is by working on a budget together. Tell your money where to go rather than wonder where it went. We’ve learned to look forward to our budget meetings because low-cost tools like YNAB and free tools like EveryDollar make it fun. (Who would have thought budgeting could be fun?) We’ve also learned one of best ways to avoid fighting about money is to realize it’s not really ours to begin with. Generosity is one of the biggest cures for selfishness, and that’s why living generously is a strong foundation to build a marriage on.
- Serving is one of the best things you can do for your marriage. The point of marriage is to glorify God, but it’s hard to do that when you’re only focused on yourselves. A healthy marriage doesn’t come from pursuing your spouse first but rather from pursuing God first. It looks different for everyone, but for us, we love serving with 2-year-olds in LifeKids every Sunday. Maybe it’s greeting people at the doors of your church or connecting with a local mission partner in your community. We’ve learned no matter what it is, serving God together centers our hearts around what really matters, which helps our marriage thrive.
These things surprised us, but what surprised us the most about our first year was how great marriage is. Yes, marriage is hard, but it’s worth it.