One of my favorite things that I get to do is help couples prepare for marriage. Inevitably, when I sit down with an engaged couple, we get to a point where each one is telling me the things that the other needs to change.
It is like they have become each other’s mini Holy Spirit—but that job has already been filled. So I ask them this question: “Could you live the rest of your life with each other just as you are today? That means no one changes. It means you are willing to commit to a lifelong marriage knowing all you know about the other person. It means you love each other enough to move forward and never look back.”
Marriage is not about changing the other person. Marriage is not about coaxing your spouse to fit into the mold you have created for them. Marriage is about loving someone just the way they are for a really, really long time.
Before Nancy and I were married, there were some things that we did not particularly like about each other; but we made the decision to get married anyway. I remember thinking that even though Nancy wasn’t perfect (actually, I thought she was very close), I really loved her and I wanted to spend my life with her—and that trumped everything else.
Honestly, it wasn’t too long after we were married that we began to regress. We had expectations of each other that we never shared before our wedding, and we began the task of trying to get the other person to change. That process went on for the first few years of our marriage and literally brought us to the brink of divorce, but divorce was the last thing either of us wanted. We needed to persevere. What God did in our lives next was truly amazing—but that’s a story for another time because right now I want to share with you what He taught us.
We actually had the first part right. No one should go into marriage without accepting that person, warts and all. This means that to the best of our ability we commit to love this person unconditionally for the rest of our lives. I think what Nancy and I did not really understand was the fact that marriage is not a get-it-right-and-coast-for-50-years deal. Marriage is a journey with your spouse that begins at the altar and lasts a lifetime. Marriage is about good days and bad days and walking through them together. Marriage is about being good friends, and then better friends, and finally best friends. It is the essence of perseverance.
As a marriage counselor, there are two things that really sadden me. The first is a husband and wife who just exist together. They never really connect; there is no passion; they just live their lives under the same roof day after day after day.
That is not persevering. It is more like coexisting.