When I ran a similar series on my blog several years ago, I was thrilled to get guest posts from some of my favorite bloggers. But one blogger's response stopped me in my tracks. When I wrote asking for a guest post from this particular lady, who'd only been married a few years at the time, she wrote back that she couldn't contribute a post because she honestly couldn't think of anything that she wished she'd known before she got married.
I was surprised and a part of me didn't believe her… until Christina asked me to write a post on this same topic for her fantastic continuation of this series. Suddenly I understood what she'd meant. I have learned so much, changed so much, and grown so much since I got married—even though I've only been married for two short years.Yet I'm not sure that I would have wanted to know in advance what marriage would be like since I don't think my former self would have understood.
Don't worry, I still managed to answer the question. :) I thought for a long time about it and gradually managed to distill what I've learned so far about marriage into a few simple truths.
First, I've learned that marriage holds up a mirror to your truest self—and you won't always like what you see.
I thought I was a relatively "together" person until I married a very organized and orderly husband. In our first year of marriage we clashed frequently over little areas of organization; he couldn't understand why I let messes grow, while I couldn't understand why it mattered. For the longest time I thought it was all his fault for being impatient about the house being clean, but gradually I came to see that he had good reasons for his tidy ways. I needed to change and improve. Now I make a much greater effort to clean up little messes as I make them rather than letting them build up to a giant breaking point—and he is working on being more patient when I can't get to them right away.
I wish I knew before I got married that any personal growth I could do (whether in orderliness, patience, fitness, financial responsibility, or anything else) before getting married would result in a happier and more peaceful life after I got married.
Second, I've learned that marriage will lead to great growth in maturity.
It's really crazy to look back on the past two years and see how much my husband and I have grown and changed. I don't think we were THAT immature as newlyweds, but we were still pretty unfamiliar with the lived, day-to-day reality of learning to put another person's needs before your own. Of course we are still working on it (and always will be!) but I can see real evidence of tangible growth in both of us, and that makes me really happy and excited for what the future will hold. I had heard that being married for many decades is like being married to various different people at different times because each of you will change so much, and that thought used to scare me—until I realized that actually, we were both changing for the better.
I wish I knew before I got married that I was a lot less mature than I thought I was and that both my husband and I still had plenty of growing up to do—but that marriage was the perfect place for us to grow in maturity together.
Third, I've learned to trust in second chances.
Forgiveness is a huge part of marriage—no matter how much you love each other, you will inevitably hurt each other; the sooner you learn to forgive and give each other another chance, the happier you both will be. (The Sacrament of Confession is a great help here!) But more than that, I've learned that you don't have to put too much weight on doing things "perfectly" right off the bat, because you will have other chances to handle situations differently.
I wish I knew before I got married that it's ok if you don't get things right the first time. That's the beauty of this relationship: you are committed to each other for the rest of your lives. You have time to grow, and change, and mess up, and make mistakes—and come back stronger for them. You can try again.
For good measure, I asked a few of my friends if they would share their responses to "What I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married". They had so many great things to say that I couldn't narrow it down, and had to share them all with you!
"Marriage is a vocation, not a vacation. It takes work and constantly making the choice to put someone else before yourself."
"Learn to discern together whether you need to use NFP to avoid pregnancy, and if you do, how to connect in those times of abstinence."
"I wish I knew that it was possible to love someone so much that you feel like your heart could just burst on a regular basis."
"Foster shared hobbies and activities you can do together at home. Find new ways to keep that spark and fun alive in the free time you have after the kids go to bed and before you go to bed."
"Striving for holiness as a single person helps you be a better spouse once you are married. I wish I knew how selfish decisions I made as a single person now affect my marriage and spouse."
"Maintain an attitude of gratitude! Take time every day to consciously do at least one kind thing for the other (there will most likely be lots of kind things, but I mean one you have to go out of your way to do) and at the end of the day, think of at least one thing your spouse did that day that made you feel loved/appreciated. Then THANK YOUR SPOUSE for whatever it was they did. 'Honey, thank you so much for noticing and taking out the trash.' Or maybe he didn't notice and you had to ask him. 'Honey, thank you so much for being gracious about taking out the trash.' Please and thank you are magic words."
"This is kind of crass, but... Sex is messy!"
"One of the most important realizations for me was that after the honeymoon stage fades over time, my husband is a human who falls short just like I do and will hurt my feeling sometimes. And when it happens, the only thing to do is take that pain and disappointment to the foot of Jesus and tell him how it feels so he can heal those hurts and they don't cause any enmity between you and your spouse."
"I always hear how hard marriage is but honestly, other than little things (like putting laundry in the hamper), it hasn't been all that difficult! (Thankfully!) I never knew how much more I could love my husband! I love seeing him go to work everyday to provide for us, I love taking care of him in ways like- laundry, making his lunch, getting him his favorite cookie when I see them on sale... It seems like every year brings more love for each other. I never knew that would happen."
"Never stop dating."
Tess is a textbook editor living in Chicago with the two loves of her life, Frank and Frankie.
You can read about their adventures and ideas for living life the "Little House way" in the big city at her blog, Little House in Chicago.