I was sitting at a small round table with my husband and one other man when I felt the tears coming. I tried to hold them back. We were, after all, in a public setting. Coffee was grinding and steam wands were hissing and people were talking all around us, even if I wasn’t paying attention to what they were saying.
We were talking about newly married life and he told us a piece of information that, for some reason, surprised me —
At my church, he said, couples in their first year of marriage are only required to work 4 days each week, and they still earn their same salary. Suddenly, something occurred to me in that moment that should have occurred to me sooner.
I had underestimated marriage.
I knew marriage was going to be hard. I mean, everyone always talks about how hard it is, and there are all kinds of books written on the subject, and at least half of marriages end with bitterness and lawyers, so it couldn’t be easy.
But I wasn’t prepared for it.
The worst part is that I thought I was. I kept a blog about dating and relationships for heavens sake, so I read books and blogs about marriage all the time. I talked about it with everyone (I really mean everyone) who would talk to me. I even live-blogged a marriage conference where I spoke with 150 different married couples about the best/hardest parts of their marriage.
If anyone was prepared for marriage, it was me — wasn’t it?
But when Darrell and I made the decision to move across the country, away from our friends and family, to take on church-planting, running an online magazine, and work part-time jobs in our first year of marriage, it didn’t occur to me that it was going to be too much. Or maybe it did, but I didn’t heed my own concerns (or anyone else’s).
And now, nine months into marriage, I was sitting in this small, bustling cafe and my mistake was so clear to me. So clear that I felt like crying.
I underestimated marriage.
I under-estimated the ability of marriage to draw to the surface old wounds and insecurities. I didn’t anticipate how much time and emotional energy it would take to un-pack those things, to deal with them, not to just gloss over them and pretend like I was okay. You can do that, by the way, but if you do, they’ll just be back again later.
I underestimated the impact these wounds would have on my husband.
I under-estimated the way that my old patterns of relating would show up in this new relationship. I thought I was a new woman. I had changed. Hadn’t I? I didn’t realize how angry I still was at men, for the way they had treated me, and how angry I was at myself, for letting them.
I didn’t think about how I would take that anger out on my husband.
I didn’t think about the sense of urgency I would feel — that this needed to be dealt with now, not later, or things would get worse, not better.
I didn’t anticipate how all of that takes time, so much time that some church, somewhere, tells their newly married couples: “We’re going to give you a whole day each week.” They aren’t underestimating marriage.
Since that day at the coffee shop I’ve thought a lot about my mistake, and I wonder if there isn’t a bright side.
I wonder if, since I underestimated the difficulty of marriage — not the amount of difficulty so much as the type of difficulty, but difficulty just the same — maybe i also underestimated the power of it. Maybe I underestimated what marriage can be when, like God intended, it’s walked-out over a lifetime.
The more we fight for what we have, the better it gets, every day.
What if that keeps happening for a decade? Or two? Or five?
If that’s the case, I’m glad I underestimated marriage, because it means each day, when I wake up, I get to explore new depths of love and adventure fullness with my husband. I’m glad I underestimated marriage because it means that I never know what is coming.
But chances are, it will be better than I ever expected.
Question: Are you married or single? Have you ever underestimated marriage? To leave a reply, click HERE.