I can’t believe it’s already been almost 10 years since my marriage ended. When I got married in 1999, I just knew it was for keeps. Divorce was never an option. Or so I thought. After coming through the most difficult season in my life, I was able to eventually step back and understand where and how things went so wrong. I hope these lessons help you take stock of your own marriage (or divorce) and help you to grow as they did for me.
1. Marriage is not about your spouse completing you. If you’re not already complete before entering a relationship, you’re holding someone else accountable for what you should be responsible for. So many of us come into relationships as broken people hoping that this person will fill the hole only God can. Sometimes, God will use that person to help you heal; but more often than not, you end up setting yourself up for failure.
2. Marriage is not about you. No, really, it’s not. This was best said in this post about how my parents made it to 47 years of marriage. One of the things that kept them together through the most challenging times was the fact that they understood their end goal was to get each other to heaven.
3. Love is a choice. Even when my marriage was hanging on by a thread and my then-husband had done some unforgivable things, I still chose to forgive and love because that was the vow I had taken. This does not apply to abusive relationships.
4. Let a man be a man. Us independent women have a hard time learning to lean on and trust that our mate will be there to “take care of business.” I can tell you from experience that emasculating a man—whether in public or private—is a sure way to alienate your mate.
5. Just because you’re good friends, doesn’t mean you’ll make great spouses. I think sometimes we end up with someone because they’re comfortable and predictable. But once you get married, those traits become annoying, and even suffocating if you didn’t get married for the right reasons.
6. If you’re not ready to accept your mate as they are before you marry them, then you shouldn’t be saying “I do.” In my marriage, both of us were hoping that once we slipped on those rings, the other person would magically change to become the person we really wanted them to be. It never works out that way.
7. Before you consider whether this person is even marriage material, know your non-negotiables. What are the 3-5 characteristics that this person absolutely needs to have in order for you to be compatible? Only compromise on those things that won’t become deal-breakers down the road.
8. Decide if it’s more important to be right than it is to be happy. As a typical Type A(+++), I always had to have things a certain way in my marriage. This left little room for appreciation of the things that my ex had done right.
9. Be the person that you want your mate to be. That whole thing of “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t cut it. If you want your spouse to be fit, fabulous and financially-savvy, then you better be right there along with them. What was that thing the Bible said about being equally yoked?
10. Speaking of being equally yoked, my last lesson is: Don’t settle and don’t overlook the “little” negative things while you’re dating. In our urgent quest to check marriage off of our bucket list, we often rush into unions that—had we listened to what our spirit was trying to warn us against—we would never have gone through with. In my case, being equally-yoked meant being on the same page spiritually. We were not, and it eventually became glaringly apparent.
There are so many things you don’t and can’t learn about marriage until you’re in it. But I’ve realized that the first step to a successful marriage is marrying the right person to begin with. And that, you can do a much better job, when you’re complete, happy, and clear about what you want in a life partner. Then leave God room to work.
BMWK – What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about marriage?