There’s a marriage myth that if you date, or court someone long enough, your marriage will be just like when you were dating. This idea is so dangerous, and so wrong. It’s the reason why so many people get baffled and bail when their marriages seem to be declining. They start to think that maybe they made a mistake, or that the person they married has completely changed into someone they no longer want to be with.
I remember times when Jono and I felt the same way about each other. There have been moments when we’ve had to admit to each other that we’re disappointed that some things just aren’t the same as when we were dating: the amount of affection we show one another, the romance, the admiration we once felt for one another. It just seems like a cloud of disillusionment settles over the relationship when you’re constantly under the pressures of day-to-day living: getting the kids ready and out of the house on time, budgeting, career changes, and a myriad of things that couples go through.
The truth is, dating usually takes place under very idyllic circumstances. When Jono and I were dating, we both lived with our parents, had very minimal bills to worry about (cell phone and gas for the car), and had lots of time to spend together. We’d go out to eat all the time, walk (and make out) in the park for a couple of hours, and then go home and spend a couple more hours on the phone that night. When we got married, things were wonderful for a few years, but as time went on the pressures started piling on.
The first hurdle was the birth of our first child. It’s given us so much joy, but at the same time the emotional roller coaster of pregnancy and the first year after giving birth really took a toll on our relationship. I was in a slump for a very long time. Not exactly post- partum depression, but definitely some sort of mental and emotional funk that made it very difficult for my husband and I to connect the same way we used to.
By the time our daughter was nine months old I was pregnant again, so I worked while pregnant for the next school year. During that time my husband was in school again, which meant that I was on my own with our daughter in the evenings after being on my feet all day. I stayed home with our two kids for 8 months after giving birth, which was a huge adjustment. Then we went through another period of adjustment when I went back to work and we had to juggle our jobs, my husband’s evening classes, and caring for our two kids.
Yes, we look back at the time when we were dating with yearning. From where we stood then, married life seemed like it would be great. We had such a deep connection with one another, and we felt like nothing could ever come in the way of that. We were so wrong.
I think that those times are meant to be a sort of standard that you hold your relationship to, something you strive for throughout your life with your partner. Jono and I may not be able to spend all day alone dining in restaurants and walking in the park anymore, but we can definitely aim for our communication to be as open and honest as it was then. We may not be able to make out for hours, but we can be intentional about keeping the spark of romance going by being creative about how and when we spend quality time together. Marriage is basically about keeping the connection with your partner throughout all the hurdles life throws your way- illness, tragedy, career changes-all these things change you as a person. The challenge is to keep learning each other at each stage, with unconditional love as the foundation for each season of change.
So, if you think your marriage was a mistake, think again. Do you feel that way because you don’t recognize the person your partner has become? Don’t be so quick to bail on your relationship. Do everything you can (and I mean EVERYTHING) to get to know each other again, instead of comparing who they used to be to who they are now. Learn to appreciate the positive, and be patient with the negative. Be open and honest, and most importantly, be willing to accept them for who they are instead of who you want them to be. If you’re both doing this, you will make it through this season.
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