My wife and I had a not typical dating relationship and romance. We met during my last semester at college, and within three weeks were talking about getting married. I had the “talk” with her father in Shreveport, but wisely waited until the evening’s televised baseball game was over. I proposed to her while we were driving from Shreveport back to Baton Rouge, and I believe were about 30 miles from the LSU campus, somewhere in the Atchafalaya River Basin, when I officially asker her (she said yes).
I graduated in May and left the next day for Beaumont, Texas, to start my job as a copy editor on the Beaumont Enterprise. She returned to Shreveport to do a summer internship at the Shreveport Times. We saw each other several times that summer (Shreveport was about a five-hour drive from Beaumont), and then got married in August at a church neither of us attended. Pre-marriage counseling might have been around at the time but it wasn’t common.
We were married on a Saturday, returned to Beaumont on Sunday, and then both of us went to work at the newspaper on Monday (a two-journalist family).
We were young (she was 21 and I turned 22 two weeks after we were married). We didn’t know any better. All we knew was that we loved each other.
All of us bring stuff into marriage – personal history, lots of “baggage,” lots of expectations, a bunch of advice, and two starry-eyed kids.
Most of the advice you ignore, and, to be honest about it, most of the advice is useless. Marriage is one of those things that you can’t really explain completely to someone considering it. Some things have to be experienced. Once you have children, you can (and will) be a model for marriage – and that’s all the good and bad stuff combined.
There is one thing I wish someone had told me about marriage, but I most likely would have nodded like I understood and went on about my business. That one thing, though, is something critical, something hinted at in the wedding vows but never explicitly stated.
That one thing is this: marriage is not about me.
It’s not about my desires and wants. It’s not about my needs being met. It’s not about my “happiness.” (It’s not about anyone’s “happiness.”) It’s not about “romance,” although romance can play a facilitating role.
Marriage is about two things, one practical and one spiritual.
The practical point of marriage is family – providing a structure (even if we manage to screw it up) for the creation and upbringing of children.
The spiritual point of marriage is that great mystery – the symbol for Christ and the church.
It’s about “us” – a new creation, a oneness. We have a earthly purpose – family – and a spiritual purpose – to be (however imperfectly) and to reflect Christ’s love for the church.
But it’s not about me.
To read more posts on “what I wish someone had told me about marriage,” please visit Bonnie Gray at Faith Barista.
Photograph: Cheers by Jeff Klisares via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.