When we met with Debbie in her office for premarital counseling, Kristen and I nodded our heads up and down. We agreed with her assessment of our relationship and affirmed her concerns about our future. But we didn’t really understand what we needed to know before marriage.
- “Sure, we’ll probably have some challenges with communication and unmet expectations.”
- “Yes, I’ll struggle with people-pleasing and busyness.”
- “Of course we know Kristen will seek to avoid conflict and hard conversations.”
But as soon as we got in the car and left her office, we laughed. There was no way we were going to struggle in our marriage. We were going to be different than all other married couples. I don’t care what our premarried assessment said, married life would be a piece of (wedding) cake for Kristen and me.
Now over 17 years into marriage, I wish we had paid more attention in those premarital counseling sessions! Some things you can learn before marriage, but others you learn the hard way—through experience. While we love being married to each other, over the course of the last 17 years, I’ve come to realize there’s a whole lot I wished I’d known before I got married. This post could be a full book, but to keep it brief, here some of the most important things I’ve learned along the way.
7 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Marriage
1. If you want a great marriage, then grow in your relationship with Jesus.
I knew before marriage that my relationship with Christ was significant. I just had no idea how much it would affect my marriage.
The number one way to grow a great marriage is to grow in intimacy with Christ. The more you become like Christ, the better the spouse you’ll become. Even though Jesus was not married, He still epitomized the characteristics of a godly spouse: holiness, purity, kindness, patience, love, and so much more.
When you grow in your relationship with Christ, you learn how to show grace, mercy, and forgiveness to one another (Ephesians 2:4-9). An in-depth explanation of how to grow in your relationship with Christ is beyond the scope of this article, but many of the classic spiritual disciplines can help us grow in our knowledge of and love for the Lord (i.e., bible study, prayer, service, scripture memory).
Every day you can take steps to become more like Christ, and this will in turn help grow your marriage. I knew I needed to build my life on the rock foundation of Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:24-27), but I had no idea how much intimacy with Jesus would help me to become a better husband.
I talk about building your marriage on a solid foundation in my new marriage book, Ready or Knot? 12 Conversations Every Couple Needs to Have before Marriage. Click here to find out more about Ready or Knot?.
2. Great marriages are forged in the daily decisions of life.
Most days as a married couple are, frankly, mundane. You wake up and head out in different directions. You pay bills, change diapers, and fold laundry. Most days are filled with the mundane, daily tasks.
In a way I didn’t grasp before marriage, I never knew how significant the little tasks are in building a great marriage. In reality, great marriages rise out of the small steps of faithfulness married couples must take every day.
Daily, Christian couples must learn to ask for and offer forgiveness. They must make time to communicate and resolve conflict. Great marriages are built with servant-hearted husbands and wives. If Jesus didn’t come to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45), then we must do the same.
Before marriage, I never realized how much faithfulness in the little things every day would matter.
3. I’m not as great as I think I am.
I know I have quirks and annoying habits, but marriage helps reveal these traits like no other relationship. It’s been said that marriage is like a full-length mirror that lets you see exactly what you look like. For example, I quickly realized how lazy and selfish I can be at times. In his book The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller discusses how marriage doesn’t create problems but rather helps reveal them in our lives.
While this indeed can be painful, I’m grateful for the ways marriage helps me become more aware of my faults and sin patterns.