The lies we tell about marriage.

Sometimes James and I feel overwhelmed that we have been married a WHOLE SIX MONTHS (almost) because it feels like just yesterday and I still have a couple thank you notes left to write. How long do I get to claim that we are newlyweds?

Obviously, I am far from knowing everything about marriage. In fact, my knowledge is still only slightly above knowing nothing about it. Still, in these first months, I have come face to face with some of the fictions that I held of marriage, some of the lies I fostered and believed. And here is the biggest one:

All you need  is love.

Pretty sure anyone who has a happy marriage could tell you that this is ridiculous. Loving someone doesn’t mean that you will pick up your dirty laundry and put it in that special basket designed for the express purpose of holding dirty laundry, or that you will remember to change the toilet paper roll, or that your spouse will suddenly become someone perfectly attuned to your slightest mood shifts.  I would say that these first six months have showed me that respect is just as important as love, that laughter is more useful than romance, and that common interests often trump romantic prattle.

But here is the second lie I fostered about marriage, one that might seem to be the contradiction of the one above:

Marriage takes work.

Don’t get me wrong – marriage does take work, just like any relationship. You get out of it what you invest in to it, and it isn’t always going to be easy nor will it fix things. But somehow our world has developed a perception of marriage that is based in extremes. Either it is “all you need is love” or “marriage is so hard and often miserable and not at all about romance.”  Is it possible that both of these could be simultaneously right and wrong?  My big problem with the “marriage takes work” philosophy is how much it emphasizes the negative aspects of it, just like my problem with the “all you need is love” business is that it completely ignores the negative aspects.

Many people told us about all the work that marriage would be, for which I can’t really blame them, as our culture seems to have forgotten that truly good things (like marriage) are not always easy. But they also shouldn’t always be hard, always be work. I think than in our zeal to remember that marriage is something that requires a continually active investment, we have often painted it as long-suffering drudgery.

The best thing I have every heard about marriage came from one of the pastors at our church in our first premarital counseling session. He spent almost two hours going over all sorts of details about our life and our dreams for our future together. Then he told us this:

“After the Fall, the first thing that was broken as a result of sin was the relationship between man and woman, husband and wife. Through a God-centered marriage, God is able to undo the Fall one couple at a time.  Marriage is another model of redemption. Your job is to not get in the way of this redemptive work.”

This seems to me to be the good balance between all love and all work. The work of marriage is to love, not in the mushy romantic comedy sense, but in the striving to put the other first. And in this way, the work of marriage fosters greater love.

Maybe it was because we went in to it fully aware that marriage could be difficult, or maybe it was just the serendipity of life this year, but our first six months of marriage have been surprisingly and blissfully easy. Yes, James makes more laundry than I thought was humanly possible, and yes I have the world’s most high maintenance sleeping needs that we have to cope with, but those things only make marriage hard if we let them.  And for now, we’re not going to.

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33 Responses to The lies we tell about marriage.

  1. Wendy says:

    I love your words.

    also your hair. damn, woman!

    • Hannah says:

      Thanks : ).

      But I do need to be real: upon seeing my ends this week, my hairdresser told me that they were SO BAD that even when my hair was wet, they were dry. Thus my hair is now a couple inches shorter. Must do a better maintenance job.

  2. Sharongracepjs says:

    I am not married that I know of, but some of the same complaints apply to roommates – I cannot fathom WHY full-grown college educated adults don’t change the toilet paper roll. I really just don’t understand. It takes 20 seconds, is mechanically simple, and is always obvious when needed. Seriously, what’s the problem.

    • Hannah says:

      : ) Hey — there are lots of similarities between roommates and spouses.

      Confession: I am the one who never remembers to change it. BUT, I do get out a new roll and set it on the toilet… for some reason the effort of putting it on the little bar thingy is just too much. Maybe that will be a new year’s resolution.

      • Sharongracepjs says:

        I will study you and learn the answer to this deep mystery.

      • Heidi says:

        Alex noted to me one day that since toward the end of my pregnancy, I stopped changing the toilet paper roll and just set a new roll on top of the holder. I don’t think I’ve changed one since he said that. :)

  3. bkjergaard says:

    Thank you (and James) for letting those of us on the other side of things know that it is good and fun. For a whole it seemed pretty dismal.

    • Hannah says:

      Perhaps you are being sarcastic, but if not: glad we could save the image.

      If you are: come visit.

      Ok, really that second one didn’t make sense at all, I just want you to come visit. : ) : ) : )

  4. essayistin says:

    My husband and I were just talking about this tonight, particularly that marriage so far has been much more awesome than it was made out to be. I certainly prefer that to the reverse :) And I think the good balance of the two extremes is perfectly summed up in your pastor’s words. Yes. Also, yes, putting the toilet paper on the bar thingy is way too much work.

    • Hannah says:

      It really is all about the balance!

      As for the toilet paper, our bathroom is sooooo small that sometimes it just seems not worth it to put it on the bar when I could just throw it on top. : )

  5. My favorite word to describe marriage is sacrifice. I love the idea of a melded expansion and contraction of identities. There is a healthy amount of growing and pruning within marriages centered on redemption, and I feel you and James have a great future.

  6. All so true, and beautifully put. Sometimes I get a little tired of being told marriage is such hard work, though I know what they mean when they say that. I always want to meekly raise my hand in protest that I am actually quite blissfully happy to be married. Even with the things i have to choose not to get annoyed by and the even more things I have realized I need to change in me. Thank you for sharing the words from your pastor; I am certainly going to keep them.

    I vote for claiming the newlywed excuse as long as possible. I mean, there are couples who have been married for fifty years. Six months, seven months, even a year or more counts as new in that perspective ;-)

  7. Lacey Elliot says:

    Thank you so much Hannah. I needed to read this. Especially the quote from your pre-marital session. So choice and shot straight to my heart. After a year of marriage, my husband and I still laugh more together and argue more too! Over dumb things. But after a while it can really wear down on the friendship. So this was refreshing. Gotta go share it with him. You’re a gem.

    • Hannah says:

      So glad it could be a well timed word. : ) I am sure that the times of more arguing will come for us too, but for now we are trying to save up on the laughing times and remember the “calling” of marriage.

  8. Laura Mannarino says:

    I must agree with all you’ve said. Marriage is the most fun work I’ve ever had to do. And laughter is everything! When the rough times come, and they will, just remember that it will pass. Weather the difficulties, be willing to laugh at inappropriate times, and persevere until the smooth times resume. I woke up this morning being so grateful I married my husband, and this is after 27 years of marriage. God did a wonderful thing when He came up with this plan.

  9. Kelly says:

    Elliott and I have been married for quite a while now, 4 years and we have a 2.5 year old. We still love being together and I think it’s a lot easier being married than single. For one I no longer have to kill any bugs while he is home. I don’t feel like marriage is work in the slightest. I still love spending time together with him. (From Elliott it may be tough sometimes, but it’s not work, except for the work you give me). It’s a great adventure, and being married to your best friend makes it even better. I’m glad you found the man of your dreams, Hannah.

  10. Megan Brown says:

    Marriage sure is a wonderful gift, isn’t it? I simply love reading your blog despite the fact that it was now nearly 10 years ago (WOW?!!) that we spent 2 weeks together in Ecuador. Regarding the toilet paper issue, I sometimes find myself leaving a single sheet (sometimes two) on the roll in the hope that I won’t have to be the one to change the roll after all. :)

    • Hannah says:

      Oh those special two weeks!!! : ) Glad to see that we can keep in cybertouch! : )

      I just don’t know why the toilet paper roll is so tricky…but I just. can’t. master. it.

  11. Leslie says:

    This blog made my day. I was just wondering about those two exacts phrases that I hear all the time. Beautifully written. Also, your hair. Gorgeous. Also, when are you home!!?

  12. Becky says:

    Robbie and I were discussing a while back that the same things get said about having children. “Oh, they’re so wonderful, make sure you enjoy every moment with them because it won’t last”, etc. And then the other side: “Enjoy your free time now, your date night now, your (fill in the blank with whatever) now, because once you have that baby, it all goes downhill!” Ok, that last was a little bit of an exaggeration, but we’ve heard similar negative things. We knew having a baby would be hard work (and it is!), but she’s worth it, and we can still enjoy ourselves with and without her. We also know we can’t spend every moment with her because we still have to get dinner made or papers written. Balance! :)

    Oh, and Robbie and I both change the toilet paper roll. But, like a previous poster, at the end of my pregnancy, I too just got a new roll out and left it on the counter. And, like another poster, I am also guilty of leaving only a few sheets left on the roll so I don’t have to change it. :-P

    • Hannah says:

      Happy to hear that life with baby is still happy and possible (if tiring… which I’m sure it is!)

      Maybe we (meaning women) are like sisyphus and the tp roll is our boulder…

  13. Leslie says:

    I was reading another article today and I came across this C.S. Lewis quote: love is “not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit.”

  14. E. Henry says:

    Beautifully put! We can relate… we’re at almost nine months. ;-)

  15. theracie says:

    Reblogged this on please reside here. and commented: :D I like this and I agree!

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