The best piece of advice a friend whispered to me on my wedding day was “Your marriage is unique. It is as unique as the two of you.”
At first, I thought this was an odd sentiment to offer on my wedding day. Everyone else just told me how lovely I looked or how sweet the ceremony was (all nice things).
No, she took an uncommon route. I’m so glad she did. In that moment I was reminded that my husband and I have the power to determine the essence of our marriage.
For most of my life I dreamt about my wedding day and secretly cringed at the thought of marriage. No, I never said it out loud. But I was terrified.
You see, I grew up in a family where tension was thick in the home. A husband didn’t trust his wife. A wife frequently degraded her husband. I witnessed physical, emotional, and verbal abuse between a couple who took vows to love and honor one another.
You can imagine how twisted marriage became in my mind.
It’s not entirely my story to share, so I’ll keep the details minimal. Please know that I share this part of my history to let you know how scared I was to commit to spending the rest of my life with someone.
What if he changed? What if I change? What if he loses his temper? What if I carry resentment and create a sense of tension our home? How could I trust? How could we function and be happy when ALL marriages have negative tension?
For a long time I lived with the expectation that I would always feel frustration with my spouse.
Well, many of my fears were misguided. The fears were legitimate based on my experiences, yes. Nevertheless, I didn’t see the full picture of marriage. Heck, I’ve been married three years and I probably still don’t know the full picture.
What I do know is that my understanding of marriage has expanded and been transformed.
Marriage is what you make it.
I thought marriage would be so hard and so lonely and so frustrating. To be honest there have been hard, lonely, and frustrating moments. But I attribute those to simply being human, not necessarily my marriage.
My husband and I decided early on to implement intentional healthy practices in our marriage. We regularly communicate and check in about fears, dreams, needs, frustrations, and expectations.
One question we often ask each other is “how can I serve you this week?” This question allows us to communicate our expectations and sends the message that we care about each other. It’s like a magic eraser for tension and fear.
We’ve made this marriage our own. Every day WE make our marriage what WE want it to be.
Friend, if we can have a thriving marriage, you can too.
A couple of months ago we were at dinner celebrating something that had very little to do with our marriage. Even so, I thanked my husband for his support. He leaned over to me and said, “Celia, I think you’ve enjoyed marriage more than you thought you would.”
What? As you can imagine, this was another statement that stopped me in my tracks because, well, he was right.
Marriage IS so much better than I expected it to be. As it turns out, we have so much fun together every day. I even find peace in disagreements with him because I’ve learned that 1. We always work together to resolve the issue and 2. That mutual desire to work for resolution deepens our trust.
During that dinner I learned that my husband wasn’t fooled by my external Pollyanna-esque approach to marriage all these years. He saw through it all. He knew my fears, my negative expectations, my frustrations.
He also saw how determined I was to make our marriage good--to partner with him in that way.
Don’t allow someone else’s choice to become your only option. Even if a thriving marriage wasn’t modeled for you, you can have a thriving marriage.
No matter your experiences, your history, your negative beliefs, know that your marriage can be whatever YOU want it to be. You have to put in the work to make it what you want, but YOU and YOUR PARTNER get to choose.
I hope you choose something really, really good.