My Best Advice About Marriage (As Someone Almost Married)

A photo by Felix Russell-Saw.

After becoming engaged, I  discovered people have a lot to tell you about marriage.

They want to talk about everything that will be hard. Maybe it’s not hard now, but it will be (just give it time).

They want to talk about what they did right, whether it was their wedding or the way they prayed or how they thought about each other or their future, and they will be curious to know which of these areas you haven’t figured out yet.

They want to reassure you of the joy of marriage while reinforcing the extreme, mind-wrenching, soul-crushing difficulty of it.

They will question your long engagement and try to hide their confusion when you say that yes, actually, our wedding isn’t until next year (the people who don’t know you very well will ask you pointed questions about this, and the people who do know you will break into a genuine smile that embraces you with an excitement for all that is to come).

This is real, actual advice I have received about marriage:

“Well, he’s on his best behavior right now so be prepared for that to change down the road.”

“You should pay off every single loan before you get married.”

“Good luck thinking you’ll have the opportunity to ever go on trips or adventures again.”

“You should have a short engagement.”

“You should have a long engagement.”

“Your spouse will change so much that it will be as though you are married to five different people over the course of your life.”

“Don’t marry someone thinking they will change. People don’t really change.”

“You should have a similar calling on your life together. You both know what your vocation is already, right?”

Holy, moly.

The amount of research, advice, personal essays, lists, articles, and general twitter out there about marriage has been enough to send me into a tailspin more than once about what this decision is actually going to mean for my life.

Already a recovering perfectionist, the idea that there may be a formula to doing this whole engagement and marriage (and wedding) thing in an almost flawless way felt overwhelming to me. I knew I could not achieve perfection, but I thought I could at least minimize the chance of problems or drama.

But here’s the truth, friends: You will not have it all together before you get married.

There is no freaking way. In fact, marriage is going to exaggerate all that you don’t have together now that your life and choices directly impacts another human being who lives in the same home as you.

You will also not have everything together before marriage because, as a human being with wants and needs and faults, what you previously had together before marriage may very well change down the road. This could be in the form of completely altering your career path, gaining weight, becoming depressed, losing money or a job, etc.

These things suck, and just because they may not have happened before marriage (when it was “safe” to have really hard, big things happen) does not mean they won’t happen after marriage.

I got engaged in January. By May, I had made the decision to quit my job and become a full-time writer. That was a really big, freaking deal, and was something that would have been nice to have all sorted out before the big day (it might be by then, but not likely).

One of the biggest lies I believed growing up (and still wrestle with) is that both you and your significant other have to have it all together before you tie the knot. Free yourself of this. It’s not going to happen.

Should you both be healthy, sane people? Should you both be committed to pursuing God? Should you have a general sense of who you are so you can pick someone you can do life well with? Absolutely.

But you will both change. You will come upon new challenges or joys or struggles or sins you couldn’t have predicted back before you got married.

The beautiful thing about marriage is that it is a safe, sacred space of refinement. Marriage has the power to act as a vessel to bring people closer to the person they were created to be. That’s what I hope for my marriage, and that’s what I hope for yours.

I am not going to have it all together before marriage, and neither will my fireman.

What I will have is the courage to free myself from thinking marriage can only exist after everything about my life is figured out.

Whether you are married or unmarried, what advice have you encountered about marriage? What was the worst advice? What was the best? 

3 replies »

  1. Dearest Julia, as usual, your post made me laugh, snort, and tear up a little. Such insight and honesty! I am in awe, but not surprised. I can tell you that although I thought we had our poop in a group before we were married, we most certainly did not! Yet we managed to muddle through. Together. And honestly, I think that life is an almost constant string of situations that require muddling through. I will also tell you that after more than 34 years of doing our messy, imperfect lives together, I still get that happy, excited flip flop in my tummy just from looking at him. You will too. 🙂

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