A friend of mine asked me last night what marriage advice I had to offer if someone was getting married or new to marriage. It didn't take me long to come up with my answer because this is something I think about a lot and have thought about a lot over the years. I thought maybe I'd share my thoughts here.
My biggest piece of advice would be to allow love to look different at different stages. Love always starts with the romantic, giddy stage. But it grows and changes over time and I think we have to be willing to flow with that change. There will be days or even seasons where love looks more like friendship, more like partnership, even sometimes like roommates. Working to develop your relationship beyond the lovey-dovey, romanticized phase will prove beneficial over the course of your marriage.
It's also important to allow yourself the freedom to not fear the sucky stages. And also to not deny them. As much as I didn't want them to come, the crappy stages came, just like everyone said they would. But with the commitment and relationship we had developed beyond the romantic, the crappy stages also went away. Life changes and people change and I think it is important to be prepared to allow those changes.
It's important to recognize that fighting or arguing doesn't mean a marriage is bad. And on the flip side, never fighting or arguing doesn't mean a marriage is good - in fact it could mean quite the opposite. There is no one-size-fits-all, other than the fact that the good and bad will come. Your good and bad and the way you choose to face it will just be different than others.
I think the overall idea with marriage is that it's hard even on the best days. Because it's life. And life is hard. But I have also found that anything great in my life has always been hard and has always required work. Absolutely anything rewarding I have ever done has always come with seasons of difficulty or pain or questioning my purpose and my ability. Marriage is exactly the same.
So make the commitment to talk through the junk, to push through the difficulty, to allow each other to change. Communication is the thing that will allow changes in each other to not change the focus and commitment in your marriage. Prayer. Forgiveness. Service. I could go on and on, but it ultimately comes to this idea of allowing marriage to be imperfect and to be messy and to be wonderful and holy, but to also hurt sometimes. To know that committing to walk through life together means committing to continue even when you don't "feel" like you want to.
After 10+ years of marriage, yes it sounds like I just have the bad stuff to talk about, but that's because it's the bad times that make so many people question if they want to keep going. You'll love marriage when everything is wonderful, but you'll question it when everything hurts and everyone sucks and when you're angry and tired. I'm here to say that the bad have got nothing on the good, but you only get to the good if you continue walking through the bad.
So if you're at the beginning of your marriage and everything is romantic and full of joy, enjoy that. Love every minute of it! Know that there will be so many seasons of your life where you feel like that. And it's a wonderful, beautiful, God-ordained thing. But continue developing and communicating and building your relationship so that when life is hard and marriage feels more like work that you're prepared to keep going. Because there is beauty in that as well.
Hard, even on the best days. And that's okay.