Anyone who has been married for several years or more will tell you that there is a big difference between getting married and being married. As you date, fall in love, and build up to the wedding, you are often seeing the very best of one another. You are pursuing each other in the relationship. After the wedding, you are more likely to “let your hair down,” and be less presentational in your actions toward your spouse.
Marriage, then, is sometimes about learning to know and love the person you married, who is going to be slightly different that the person you fell in love with. Marriage is the first of all earthly relationships you have. Which means in marriage, no other person, except for Jesus, is more important or deserves a higher place in your life than your spouse. He or she is not one of many people that you know, or just your “best friend.” It’s impossible to fully know your spouse on your wedding day—your vows are an exercise in trust toward one another.
The Bible says in Ephesians 5:31 that, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." The verse specifically instructs that marriage is the creation of a new family unit. The two people are made one in more than a physical sense, they are now “one unit” and each of their decisions affect the other. As you learn more about your spouse, use these three “reality check” questions to think through how you will act and react through your marriage.
Is this a non-negotiable? Issues of character and fidelity are non-negotiables in marriage. You should expect your spouse to be faithful to you, be honest with you, be loving toward you, and be committed to you for life. If your spouse breaks a non-negotiable, handle it immediately and seriously. If your spouse is repentant and willing to change, put checks and balances into place to ensure you are helping them rebuild their trust with you.
In cases of abuse or infidelity, never try to handle these on your own. Physical abuse should always involve stepping away (physical distance) and contacting the authorities. Infidelity should involve professional counseling. In either of these cases it is possible to save the marriage, but personal and emotional safety must be assured before the salvage work begins.
What can you let go of? Some aspects of your spouse that you learn about in the course of marriage are things you can really let go of. The odd noise they make from their nose. The faded favorite T-shirt they like to wear to ball games. Maybe a political view that you don’t hold. There’s a difference between a habit, opinion, and deeply held belief. Some differences even enhance the relationship. When you come to a trait in your spouse you disagree with, before making an argument, consider whether this is something you can live with.
What can you hold on to? In any marriage, just as there are annoyances, there are reasons that you married your spouse that they remind you of every day. How they look at you. The words they use. How they make you laugh. How they are committed to and care for your children. How they put your interests before your own. In these instances, remind your spouse of those traits they have that fire your passion to be married to them. Too often in marriages, spouses become so used to each other that they forget the reasons why they got together in the first place. Yet these are important, because they formed the foundation of your relationship and can be built on for years and years as you grow closer to one another.