Over the years, I have heard many lies about marriage. In counseling couples, the lies I hear are often justifications of what the person really intends to do or a pleading for the other person to step up and show their love. There are two lies I have heard most often though.
- Marriage is hard work.
- Marriage shouldn’t be so hard. If it’s this hard it must mean we’re not meant to be together.
Both statements are lies…half-truths at best. Let me explain.
- “Marriage is hard work.” Marriage is not meant to be “hard work.” You’re not meant to go to bed tired because you “worked on your marriage all day.” In reality, we do not need to work on our marriage; we need to work on ourselves. We need to do the personal work necessary to grow in our ability to be aware of our spouse’s emotions, needs, and desires.
We need to work to grow more humble—humble enough to allow our spouse to influence us, humble enough to admit when we are wrong, humble enough to change in ways that will please our spouse and make us more mature individuals.
We need to work at developing an attitude of adoration for others (including our spouses) rather than become jealous of others (including our spouses). We need to work on practicing gratitude for even the smallest gestures of love and the smallest gifts of life.
We need to work at improving our ability to listen…deeply and intently listen. That will require listening to ourselves as well as others. Which means we need to work at becoming totally honest with ourselves as well as others. It’s hard to be honest with others when we can’t even be honest with ourselves. Self-honesty demands work.
Growing more mature, becoming a person of greater integrity, is hard and demanding work. But, when you do the hard work of becoming a more mature individual, you have more to offer your spouse and your marriage. You can more easily manage disagreements and struggles as they arise. You can respect and maintain boundaries. You can communicate. When you do the hard work of maturing as an individual, marriage is not so much hard work. In fact, the best marriages are made up of two people who have done, and continue to do, the hard work of personal growth. For them, marriage is a blessing, icing on the cake, the joy that makes the hard work of personal growth well worth the effort.
- “Marriage is easy.” It may sound contradictory after I just said marriage is not hard work, but marriage is not “easy” either. Marriage is not “easy,” it’s an investment. No investment is “easy.” Investments require sacrifice. A good investment means we have to give up one thing in the moment to gain a greater dividend in the future. For instance, we may give up the short-term pleasure of a weekend hunting trip or a weekend with the girls to gain the long-term security of an intimate marriage. That kind of investment requires us to do the personal work of growing as an individual. Marriage is an investment that requires sacrifice.
Marriage is not “easy,” it’s intentional. In healthy marriages, both partners intentionally determine to invest in their marriage. We intentionally invest in becoming a team with our spouse. We operate as a team. We communicate as a team. We think like a team. It’s no longer “me” and “my” but “we” and “us” in life.
Marriage is not “easy,” it’s a lifestyle of commitment. In marriage, we commit to our marriage and our spouse. We develop a lifestyle filled with routines that elevate and prioritize our marriage. This lifestyle becomes our “norm.” That’s not hard. It’s “normal.” Sure, it comes with its share of struggles now and again. Those struggles point us back to our need to work on our individual maturity, our growing ability to intentionally invest in a lifestyle of nurturing our marriage. Ultimately, marriage is not hard nor is it easy. It is an intentional investment that becomes our lifestyle…and ultimately it becomes our greatest joy.