“I Married Up”
This term always carries with it a subconscious pressure to find someone so much better than yourself that if you don’t, you messed up or settled. Yes, it’s important to hold your spouse in a very high regard (Paul tells spouses to submit to and honor each other in Ephesians 5:22-23) but the term “marrying up” implies you have to make sure to find someone so completely out of your league to be happy. It also has a physical connotation to it, implying the person you marry has to be categorized as way above-averagely beautiful, otherwise you somehow missed it.
Instead, the Bible talks about a husband and wife being “equally yoked” together in 2 Corinthians 6:14. Contextually, Paul is talking about those who believe and follow Jesus and those who don’t, but some of the best relationship perspective I’ve ever heard came from my friends Bill and Treva who, in counseling engaged couples, would always prayerfully discern whether a couple was equally yoked, rather than simply looking at the black and white “letter of the law” in their relationship.
The person people chose to commit the rest of their lives to should be someone who is their equal. Again, not that husbands and wives can’t or shouldn’t think extremely highly of their spouse (because they should), but pre-marriage, there shouldn’t be this pressure to marry Superman or Superwoman. Instead, it should be about finding someone who loves God, becomes your best friend, and that you choose to love forever. Then through that, a spouse will be the most amazing person on the planet.
Instead of feeling a pressure to find someone who is way above you, spend your time finding the person who is right for you.
Happy Wife = Happy Life
I don’t like this because, as a husband, this phrase indicates that I should do anything and everything to make my wife happy. Granted, its a wonderful thing to want to make your spouse happy and something people in marriages should strive for. But this phrase can make it seem like husbands should do whatever, just as long as their wife is happy. Or worse, that husbands should passibly not do anything that might make their wife anything less than happy.
The truth is that a spouse’s immediate happiness isn’t always the most important thing. The most important thing is loving them. Sometimes loving someone will make them very happy, such as giving them a gift or speaking encouragement to them. But other times, loving someone won’t make them immediately happy. Bringing a child to get a shot won’t make them happy in the moment, but in reality is the parent loving them by helping their body stay healthy.
There have been many times when Lindsay has challenged my heart or behavior and in the moment, I didn’t feel happy. I felt hurt and defensive. But the truth is that she loves me enough to help me be the best man/husband/father that I can be, even if that means feeling unhappy for a moment or season. And I want that to be something my spouse does! I don’t want a wife that won’t speak her mind or be herself, just to keep me happy. Nor do I want to be that kind of husband. I want a marriage full of happy love but also tough love.
So, instead of just focusing on doing or not doing whatever in order to ensure a spouse’s happiness, a better focus is doing or not doing whatever to ensure a spouse is truly loved.
Happily Ever After
Fairytales are accurately named, because they aren’t real. Finding prince charming and living happily every after is only true in Disney cartoons from the 90’s. And modern movies (see: Chick Flicks) generally paint a picture of love and romance that indicates that feeling loved and happy all the time is the end goal and sole indicator of a good relationship.
But life won’t always be happy. Jesus even said so (John 16:33). Therefore, relationships (including marriage) won’t always be happy. That doesn’t mean a marriage should end or even that there’s something wrong with it. Entering into marriage with an expectation that everything is going to be perfect and all our emotional needs for joy will be met is unwise at best and destructive at worst. Emotional happiness isn’t the most important goal. Instead, we should strive to find joy in the mundane and even painful times. Speaking of which…
“The Honeymoon is Over”
I get it. There’s usually a literal honeymoon post-wedding that fits into the “fairytale” category of reality. It’s usually somewhere tropical with very little responsibility except having fun and putting on sunscreen (for us pale people). Then it’s back to marriage in real life, which is generally viewed as less glamorous and (therefore) less good.
But I don’t think this true. I’ve found that the best parts of marriage are found in the normal, everyday parts of life. Eating cereal for dinner while watching Friends, people-watching as we’re stuck at the airport, Netflix marathons, singing 90’s music in the car, and too many inside jokes that are so dumb, they’re only funny to us…and sometimes not even then!
This phrase sets up marriage as being great at first…then a slow decline. I think that’s not only false, but a really unhealthy expectation. Sure the honeymoon and first year or two of marriage can be especially fun since they’re filled with so many firsts. But sometimes the first year or two can be really difficult as two separate people learn how to live together, make decisions together, and love each other. And ideally, a marriage will get better over time! A healthy, growing marriage will only get better as a couple learns more about each other and grows closer in how to love each other. To me, the honeymoon being over is great! Then we get to be married and in love during real life and not rely on amazing circumstances to be our source of joy.
Marriage is 50/50 or 100/100
The original saying was: “Marriage is 50/50.” Then, more recently, it became: “Marriage is 100/100” meaning: both the husband and wife need to give all their 100% for a marriage to be successful.
However, over the course of my marriage, Linds and I have discovered that as each person goes through seasons, their spouse can often times step up to offer more support when needed. Last year, I went through a journey of discovering, through counseling, that I was experiencing depression and getting on the correct medication. During that time, I probably gave more like 80%, instead of 100%. The good news is that during that time, Linds totally stepped up and gave 120% to love me and our family. Similarly, when she goes through difficult or busy times and can’t quite give her all, I step my game up and make up the difference to support and love her.
I’m not sure if marriage is supposed to equal 100% or 200% or 633%, but either way, as the seasons of life ebb and flow, each member of a marriage can give more when their spouse has to give less.