Jennifer's books

Goodbye, Vitamin
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land
Mrs. Hemingway
Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir
The Princess Diarist
Watch Me Disappear
Hello, Sunshine
Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success
A Man Called Ove
The Heirs
Our Souls at Night
White Fur
Confessions of a Domestic Failure
The Map That Leads to You
The Little French Bistro
Love the Wine You're With
Always and Forever, Lara Jean
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore
The Party
New Boy

Jennifer Curry's favorite books »

Friday, August 10, 2018

To the Woman Getting Ready to Say “I Do”

Marriage is sacred and holy…and hard.

Right now, you are in a state of bliss and cannot even imagine that you will ever feel less than the intense love you are feeling right now for your fiancé. I’m writing to you as a woman who will be celebrating her 12th wedding anniversary this month to a man who made her feel the same exact way (and still does some days).

We are solid most days, but other days we are about as dysfunctional as you can imagine. I am also a woman who has learned quite a bit about marriage not simply from being married but also from being surrounded by married women and being involved in women’s ministries.

Here are 12 things I have learned from my own marriage and from listening to other women that I wish I could tell every woman before she walks down that aisle to say her vows.

1. Marriage won’t solve your problems. It will only make those problems bigger.

Slipping a wedding band on does not magically lessen those fights. It actually enlarges them. The things you are fighting out today? Chances are you will still be fighting about them in the future. Fortunately, the things my husband and I are still fighting about are petty, but they are truly the same types of arguments we had when we were dating.

2. It is easier to quit, but it is worth it to fight.

Right now, you can not imagine ever wanting to “give up” on your spouse, but there will be a day when the thought pops into your sweet innocent mind. Or, you may have a series of days when things truly feel terrible, and you begin thinking about divorce.

Before you walk away, choose to fight. I have many friends whose marriages have ended – and many rightly so – and divorce is much harder than it looks to outsiders. It is not a quick fix.

(Side note: There are some cases where instead of fighting you should run.)

3. There will be seasons when you love your spouse more than others.

When you walk down the aisle you are so full of love you see hearts (or geez, I sure hope so), but believe it or not, there will be times in your marriage when you just don’t feel quite as lovey-dovey. You will go through seasons where your love feels exciting and seasons when your love feels more forced. And, that’s okay.

4. You will say and do things that will hurt your spouse.

Of course, you know you will fight with your spouse and say things that are hurtful. But, you will say and do things that you cannot even imagine. I will be the first to admit that horrible, hateful things have come out of my mouth.

Your comfort level with your spouse will be a wonderful thing – and a not so wonderful thing when it comes to fighting dirty. Be prepared for this – and then shut it down.

5. Only the two of you (and your children) will know what actually goes on in your home.

Time and time again, I am surprised to hear about a couple who has divorced and heard the real reasons why. It only confirms that no one really knows what goes on in a couple’s relationship except the couple themselves. Be careful which couples you put on pedestals.

6. Be clear with your expectations or be prepared to be let down.

So many fights can be avoided if you are clear about your expectations. For example, we joke about our first married Christmas. I was very excited to give Derek a PlayStation, and I was incredibly hurt and letdown when he calmly said, “Thank you.” I had expected him to hoot and holler and jump around because that’s how my family Christmases were growing up. I later learned that Derek’s family Christmases were much quieter and tamer. If only I had let him in on my Christmas morning expectations, we could have saved a lot of fighting energy.

Expectations cover a wide gamut. For instance, I hear women complain all the time about their husbands not meeting their gift expectations during the holidays. Well, tell him what you want! When it comes to holidays, vacations, or date nights, be clear with your expectations or be prepared to be let down.

7. Pre-marital counseling is important.

It makes me sad to know that many couples no longer participate in pre-marital counseling. It’s 12 years later, and we still refer to the lessons we learned in pre-marital counseling. For instance, it was in pre-marital counseling where we learned about each other’s love language and the differences in how we communicate. Pre-marital counseling gave us some important tools that have come in handy through the years.

8. Believe what he shows you – even if you don’t want to.

The unfortunate truth is that most of the time what we are seeing is what we are getting. So, if your man shows you his true self before the marriage, you better believe that is who he says he is. I have known too many women who avoided the signs because they were in love. And now they are in bad marriages or going through terrible divorces. It is much better to break up now when there is no paperwork involved. Marriage doesn’t instantly turn a sinner into a saint.

9. Be sure you like your future spouse.

Yes, you love your fiancé, but do you actually like him? Don’t get it confused. For example, Derek and I struggled when we moved from Baton Rouge to South Carolina because we could not find a church or meet people for a long while. It was just the two of us. All the time. Thank God, I actually liked my husband and enjoyed spending time with him because we were all each other had.

10. Start making date night plans as soon as you return from the honeymoon.

Here’s a secret no one tells you before you get married – sometimes marriage is boring (and also comfortable). You get caught in a routine of dinner, tv, pajamas, and bed. While there is nothing wrong with this (and our favorite kind of evenings), you still want to feel pursued by your spouse – especially years into the marriage. Date nights give you a chance to go out of your way to flirt and connect with your spouse like you did before you were wearing those rings.

11. Things to talk about before you say I do: money, family, and sex.

According to counselors, those are the big three fighting topics for married couples. Before you say I do, you need to talk about money, family, and sex with your fiancé.

Talking money involves discussing debt, budgeting, and spending habits. If you talk about your money expectations beforehand, you can save a lot of time fighting about it later.

Family is also a big one – this means your family, your in-laws, and children. Marriage involves blending two family traditions together. And no two families are alike. Talk about your differences up front. When it comes to children, talk (and talk some more) about what parenting looks like to you.

And, finally, sex. People’s expectations about sex are varied and according to therapists one of the biggest triggers for couples fighting. You should be able to comfortably discuss your bedroom expectations, respect your spouse’s expectations, and compromise.

(Side note - These were all things discussed in pre-marital counseling as well.) 

12. “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." – Romans 12:10

As Christians, Derek and I have always tried to honor the institution of marriage as a holy one. The best way for us to understand the sacredness of this holy commitment to one another is to look towards Jesus Christ and the way he loved. We fail often, but we do try to be more selfless than selfish. This makes all the difference.

***I feel like it is important to say Derek and I do NOT have a perfect or even a model marriage. Like every other couple on the block, we are just two sinners who love Jesus and each other.***

What other advice do you have to pass along to women getting ready to walk down the aisle?

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