Recently my wife and I celebrated the 8th anniversary of our wedding day. It wasn’t so easy to celebrate in the shadow of the COVID-19 quarantine we were still under, but we had a good time all things considered and like every year we took out the photo albums and looked at the pictures of the year we spent dating before our wedding and the first year or two we were married.
These pictures, as they always do, brought to mind many happy and funny memories and also a fair number that are kind of embarrassing and even painful. We both made a lot of “rookie mistakes” in those early years we were together, and it made me think about what advice I could give to young couples who are just starting out in their lives together.
First, in dating and marriage, as in so much else in life, much of what happens depends not on the circumstances we encounter, but rather our reactions to those circumstances. Following on that is the fact that many of our reactions to circumstances depend to a large degree on what we were hoping for and/or what our expectations were going into it.
So if you are in a relationship with someone and you think this could be “the one” or if you have recently gotten married (or if you’ve been married for awhile and you’re having problems that you didn’t anticipate) than it’s a very good idea to sit down and think about what your expectations for this relationship are. Write down your thoughts, then ask the other person to do the same and when you’ve both got your expectations written down, talk about them together.
This will be a fun experience which will bring you closer together, OR it might be the beginning of the unravelling of your relationship. If it ends up being the second thing, THANK GOD! Thank God you found out BEFORE you got married rather than afterwards that this person you thought was “the one” actually wasn’t, and you weren’t “the one” for them either.
In any case, it will bring clarity to your situation and perhaps help you find solutions to problems you’ve already encountered or will soon encounter. It’s definitely very important for you to have a firm grasp, in your own mind, of what you’re hoping for and expecting from the relationship and from the person you’re in a relationship with. It’s also very important for THEM to know what your expectations are and for YOU to know what THEY want and expect. That way everyone knows what they’re getting into and no one has to guess and/or make any incorrect assumptions, both of which can lead to very bad outcomes.
A short list of topics that it’s good to clear the air about as soon as possible includes sex (of course) and money, children, living arrangements, relationships with extended families (especially parents), work and career paths, hobbies, ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends.
There are many other things, but this list includes the things which are, in my own personal experience and my observation of other people’s experiences, the biggest issues in the first few years of marriage and which most couples wish they’d talked about more before getting married.
Last but not least, I would like to tell you a simple but profoundly important truth.
If you’re with someone and want to marry them because you think they’ll make you happy, you need to think again. What the World describes as “happiness” is a feeling and like all feelings, it’s temporary and will change with circumstances. When the circumstances change and you’re not happy with this person anymore (or, more accurately, you’re not happy with them at the moment) you’re still going to be married to them and you will still have taken a vow before God to stay married to them for life.
REAL happiness is a side effect of contentment, which is a VERY long-term phenomenon closely tied to the issue of expectations.
I can’t tell you everything you need to know to live a contented and by extension “happy” life because I’m still figuring that out myself. But I CAN tell you, and I hope I’ve made this point in this blog, that one of the first steps you need to take on that journey is to figure out what your expectations are, compare and discuss these expectations with your significant other, and then together set goals and make a plan in order to get where you want to be.
That’s what I’ve got for you this week brothers and sisters, I hope it blessed someone.