Marriage isn’t easy. If there is anything a newlywed couple needs to understand it is that marriage will stretch them in ways they cannot imagine. They might feel a love they have never known, but those feelings will change and frustration is certain to be a part of marital life. It’s vital for couples to approach marriage with a healthy expectation that it will often be difficult.
While marriage is hard, very rarely should it be the hardest thing we’ve ever faced. In situations where adultery or long-lasting illness occur, marriage might be the most difficult thing a person has ever faced. However, in most marriages a couple will face a thousand other difficulties which outrank the struggle of being husband and wife. (See: The Easy Road to a Bad Marriage)
But marriage is hard. And it is for many reasons:
Different People. Any two people interacting with each other for a long period of time will experience tension. Even if we see the world through the same lens, we will experience conflicting emotions, have diverse perspectives, and will simply struggle to relate at times. If we frustrate ourselves, we must know that we will also frustrate others.
The Sorrows of Life. Marriage is hard in part because life is hard. Things change. People die. Time passes. We grow old. Even good events–weddings, having children, the first day of school–can cause stress and sadness. Coping with life’s struggles is hard enough and doing so with another person is guaranteed to create tension.
Unique Backgrounds. Everyone makes assumptions. Because we all come from different backgrounds, our expectations of what marriage will be like can be worlds apart. Whatever your mom and dad did that you liked, you will naturally assume your future spouse will do it as well. Even if they came from a radically different background and would never assume that would be part of a marriage. Differing backgrounds lead to differing expectations which causes stress in marriage.
While there are a variety of causes which make marriage hard, there is one unique characteristic of marriage which leads to the most stress.
Marriage is difficult because it exposes your greatest wound.
Whatever that wound may be–and we all have them–marriage will touch it. I guarantee it.
- Your parents never complimented you as a child
- You grew up feeling the weight of the world was on your shoulders
- You have a fear of abandonment
- You assume all men are evil
- You think women are inferior
- You were you taught sex, even in marriage, was dirty
Whatever the issue, marriage will expose that vulnerability. And the exposure will hurt. It will create doubt, fear, and uncertainty. It will cause you to blame your spouse or question the institution of marriage. It will tempt you to run from conflict, intimacy, and struggle. (See: The Sorrow Only a Mother Knows)
Marriage is hard because it brings to the surface our most hidden wounds and forces us to either deny them or deal with them. Far too many people deny them. Unwilling to confront past hurts and current habits of coping improperly, many couples miss one of the greatest blessings of an intimate relationship.
The process of exposing our deepest wounds is painful, but it’s also a great opportunity. While marriage isn’t the only way to confront our greatest sorrows, it is one of the best ways. Within the context of a life-long, committed relationship built on the foundation of love, we are given the opportunity to admit our greatest fears, confront our greatest failures, and work through our greatest struggles. In brokenness and with imperfection, we can begin to reveal what we quickly hide in front of others.
Sadly, many couples never understand the opportunity before them. Instead of realizing that marriage is supposed to hurt, they assume the pain is a sign that something is wrong. Like someone working out for the first time and assuming the next day’s soreness is a sign they shouldn’t work out, many couples experience the natural soreness of growth within a relationship and mistake the pain as a sign the marriage isn’t working. If they will simply continue to do the work, they can see great gains both individually and as a couple, but instead they run from the pain and blame their spouse in the process.
Marriage is supposed to hurt. Because it’s guaranteed to include pain, we should do everything in our power not to add to that pain. Wise choices are necessary so we don’t suffer the unnecessary sorrow of betrayal, crushing debt, addiction, or many other sorrows which can happen by foolish choices. However, some of the pain of marriage can’t be avoided. It needs to be accepted and appreciated.
For many, the potential for marital success is determined by their willingness to endure pain. If they have a high pain tolerance, they have a great opportunity to have a good marriage. If they run at the mere threat of pain, they will never experience true intimacy.