A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away, I got married. Okay, that’s not exactly true. It was only eighteen and a half years ago, and it was in Ohio, where I live. But sometimes, it does seem like a long, long time ago, because at age forty, I’m in that odd place where many of my friends or acquaintances are getting married for the second time, and some of my friends’ children are getting married. My BFF is just a few years older than I am, and both of her daughters are married. I have a married niece and a married nephew already…they were the flower girl and ringer bearer in my own wedding, respectively. It’s pretty mind-blowing to see the girl who toddled down the aisle at your own wedding walk gracefully down the aisle in a white wedding dress and veil at her own. And oh, for these darling loved ones of mine, I do wish a very happy marriage.
But I don’t want their happy marriage to be like mine.
I hear it said all the time by young kids getting ready to wed who are fortunate enough to have parents who still love each other. “If my marriage is as happy as my parents’ marriage is, I’ll be so blessed.” And it’s not untrue. But I don’t want my kids to have a marriage that is as happy as mine is.
I want them to have something better.
My husband and I have a very happy marriage, but I don’t want my kids to strive to be exactly like us.
My marriage is good, but is imperfect. My children will, no doubt, have an imperfect one, too. My marriage is happy, but it has had unhappy times…and I thank God for them. In truth, I want my children’s marriage to be even happier than mine is. I want them to learn not just from their mom and dad’s example, but from our mistakes. I want them to hold us up not as a couple to be emulated, but as a couple to be surpassed: surpassed in selflessness, surpassed in service to one another, surpassed in communication skills, surpassed in commitment.
My husband and I produced our children, but they are not us; they are their own unique people. They will bring their own strengths and weaknesses into a marriage, and I pray that by being open with them about what marriage truly is, they will go into it with eyes wide open. Because when I was a new bride, I did not know what marriage truly is: two imperfect people struggling to die to self and put each other first every day. It’s beautiful, and it is hard. It is hard because putting your spouse first is hard.
When I married my wonderful husband, my high school sweetheart, I hit the jackpot, I did. He is the greatest gift God has given me besides my salvation. But I also naively believed that marriage to him would make me happy, and I had no idea how selfish I truly was.
Young Person, if you are reading this, you can have a very happy marriage, but please don’t get married thinking that marriage is going to make you happy. Because it can make you equally miserable if either you or your spouse can’t figure out how to sacrifice for the other, how to compromise, how to sometimes just give up your own desires.
A happy marriage comes with hard times
And another thing: you will have suffering in marriage. Maybe it will be job loss, child loss or disability, the death of a parent, financial or health struggles. But I can promise you at some point there will be suffering. So my loves, please marry someone you can suffer with, and who can suffer with you. Not alongside you, but with you.
I have been blessed by a very happy marriage, that has also seen its share of hard and unhappy times. And I pray for my children, a happier marriage than mine…not because I suppose that theirs can be truly “happier,” but because I hope that they will handle the hard times better, at least better than their mom did as a young bride.
I pray that the happy times will buoy them up. I pray that the sad times will make them stronger. I pray that I’ll have the wisdom and bravery to use examples from my own life to prepare them to do and be better than my husband and I have done.
I don’t want them to be as happy as Bobby and I are, even though it may seem to some that we’ve got it figured out. I want them to be happier. Stronger. Better. Even more loving.
My marriage is pretty great, and to be honest, I couldn’t and wouldn’t ask for anything more. But as most parents do, I want even more for my kids, and I am praying now that if God leads them into marriage, they will go into it with His full armor, and His heart for sacrificial love.
Happiness, after all, is a choice. As is marriage.