Written by Juli Vesiania, Indonesia, originally in Bahasa Indonesia
“And they live happily ever after.”
That’s what I gathered from the movies how marriage would be like. Two people unite and start their married life together. Marriage was supposed to be something beautiful, wonderful, and heartwarming.
The other reason why I looked forward to getting married was because I wanted to be close to my children in age. I wanted to be a friend to them, just as my mother was to me.
However, when the opportunity to get married finally came at the age of 24 years old, I wasn’t so sure anymore.
My struggle before getting married
For one, I wasn’t sure my boyfriend was “the one”. How could I know for sure that he was given to me by God? Am I sure I can live with him? Am I the right person for him? Can I be his helper? I had so many questions and they overwhelmed me.
That’s when I had to remind myself why I started dating him in the first place. At the start of the relationship, I had asked my boyfriend some basic questions. Does he fear God? Is he responsible? What if this relationship progressed to marriage?
When I remembered his answers, the commitment we made to each other when we started dating, and after getting to know him better through our relationship, I became assured that he was the right one and finally agreed to marry him.
My struggle after getting married
After getting married however, I realized that marriage was not always beautiful, wonderful, and heartwarming; it was certainly not a party. Marriage was in fact, life after the party. Married life involves two people with different backgrounds trying to live life together—and that can be very challenging.
Before we got married, my boyfriend and I only met once a week, so our differences didn’t really bother us. But after getting married and having to live together, our differences have become a lot more noticeable.
I like savory food. My husband likes sweet food. So now when we go out for dinner, we must consider each other’s preferences. And when I cook at home, I need to cook two different meals to fit both our taste buds. Our differences have become something that we have to deal with for a lifetime.
Another conflict involves our sleep schedules. I am an early bird, and I’m full of energy in the morning. So I go to bed early and wake up early. My husband, however, is a night owl. This is a problem because we sleep in the same room. My husband might still want the lights on in order to work on something, while I just want to hide my face under my pillow, cover my ears, and yell, “Turn the light off! I want to sleep!”
These might seem like simple problems, but if they are not resolved well, they can be detrimental for the relationship.
One day, I came across a prayer by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. It was a beautiful prayer which inspired me to deal with my marriage problems wisely:
God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
Reading that prayer reminded me that there are things we can’t change. Instead, we need to adapt to and accept those things. I can’t change the fact that my husband likes savory food and is a night owl. What I can do is to learn to adapt and accept his preferences.
Sometimes, it can be a challenge when my wants differ from his wants. But if it’s just about what I want, I need to compromise—to do something just because it’s important to my spouse. If I want to guard the peace in my relationship (Romans 12:18), I need to learn to give in.
When we learn to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21), we are able to build a harmonious marriage. The little differences don’t bother us anymore.
In the first five months of my marriage, I felt God refining and shaping myself through every good and bad experience with my husband. Though we still face differences in our characters and habits, I am reminded that the purpose of marriage is not the pursuit of happiness.
Instead, as American author Gary Thomas writes in his book, marriage is a means through which God refines us, so that we become more like Him. When someone gets married, they go through God’s refining and shaping process. Happiness is not the purpose, but an extra that God gives to us when we go through the process.
So, is marriage wonderful? Yes. But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be any problems, or that everything will be peaceful, or everyone happy. Marriage isn’t like the movies. Instead, it is beautiful because my faith and knowledge about God grows, and also my character.