Forget Everything You Knew About Marriage And Start Working On Your Expectations Before You Say ‘Yes’


When I was young I imagined that I’d be married by 20, have kids by 22, and that my husband would be a dream. Well that timeline didn’t play out and on any given day I’d say he’s closer to a night terror that permeates my waking hours.

Yesterday my husband said being married to me was, and I quote, “exhausting.” Again, when I pictured my life, that’s not the script I imagined my partner would be reading from. But here we are, fam.

He hurled that descriptor at me just after I accused him of having a victim blaming mentality. We were discussing current events, which included a school shooting and a debacle on United Airlines. Also things that weren’t accounted for in my fairytale.

Some days, our legs rub against each other on the couch and I reposition mine so quickly, you’d think he was a stranger on the bus.

That might read like a preamble to a divorce announcement, but I’d like to think that my everyday misery is the cornerstone of a goodish marriage. Of course it’s frequently punctuated by happiness, but that’s not really what we learn from, it’s there to revive us between battles of our mind and heart. The happy times keep me in a marriage that my 20-year-old self wouldn’t have lasted two months in; they’re like water stations set up along your marathon course.

When I was 20 I thought marriage was about fun, now I know that marriage is the institution that brought two unlikely people together and asked them to serve something greater than themselves. (I realize that might appear to be oozing of Jesus and holy water, but it’s not, not for me at least.)

So if you want to be happy, don’t get married. Happiness is a byproduct of marriage, but it is not the purpose. Find your greater purpose and then find a person who can help you fulfill it. What can the two of you do together that you couldn’t achieve on your own? There are children to raise and a world that’s on fire. Children will grow and move on, or they might never be a part of your story, but I think any marriage can work as long as you set your intention on something other than yourselves.

Find something to do together other than moving into a new house every few years and upgrading from a car, to an SUV, to another SUV. I’ve learned that contentment isn’t correlated to square feet. When you’re growing your wealth, don’t forget to grow your heart. It’s fine to advance your lifestyle, but what about your mind? I’ve been tempted to move my problems from place to place, and confused adding things with adding value. If I married a man that was just like me, I might have a larger house, but it’d be full of the same issues.

You don’t have to be the same. Not in politics, not in religion, not even on abortion. Lord it will be easier if you are. Your happiness won’t ebb and flow with election cycles and Supreme Court nominations, maybe you’ll get through more than 4 days without an argument. (My guess is probably not) The truth is, having someone who makes you think about, fight for, and defend your beliefs does more for you than the person who smiles at everything you say. Someone who says no to you will prove to be more valuable than someone who says yes.

Yesterday I wanted to kill my husband. He’s not the supporting actor I imagined he’d be in my life, an accessory that came with a nice car and house.

He’s not even the accomplice I pictured I’d stay up late scheming with. There’s not a check next to every quality on the “future husband” list I made, back when marriage made me think of centerpieces and an expensive white dress. He possesses qualities I didn’t have the foresight to know I’d need.

If you have a list, burn it. The only nonnegotiable should be heart. Make sure it serves someone other than the two of you. Replace good job with hard work, confidence for humility, and similar hobbies with passion. Then ready yourself to fight often, because life is hard, children are challenging, and the news is awful. But rest easy knowing that you two will be fine, because you’re prepared for more than make believe. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Scarlett is a stay at home-ish mom who moonlights as a writer and bartender.

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