The title should probably say, “One of the many weird things about marriage”, because marriage, as cool as it is, is pretty weird. I mean, two people who are as different as night and day in many ways are coming together to live, work, play, and be a family. We want it, but when we get into it, we sometimes think to ourselves, “Seriously? This is the ‘for worse’ part they told me about!'”
Why is that? Why is it a relationship unlike any other?
Because it’s all our relationships balled up into one.
Think about all the relationships we develop with others. Friendships, co-workers, family, romantic, teammates, roommates…we build different types of relationships with lots of people based on how we know them.
Then, when we get married, there is one person who is our friend, our co-worker in the home, our family, our lover, our business partner, our support and backup, our companion. All of those relationships are rolled up into one person. That’s a lot of relating! It means that all the joys that come with each of those relationships are found in our relationship with our spouse.
It also means that all the frustrations and things that bug us in those relationships are found in our marriage as well.
We will have conflict with every person we know if we spend enough time with them. Every person we know will get on our nerves at some point. When you get married, and all of those relationships are represented in this one person you are committed to, conflict is inevitable.
The difference is, we don’t expect to have conflict with our spouse.
I mean, we know we’ll disagree here and there. But conflict? It’s hard to see that coming through the rose colored glasses we put on. During the engagement, wedding and honeymoon, we’re so excited about being together and our expectations are of years of joy and happiness.
Then, in the face of conflict, we’re disappointed because our marriage doesn’t look like what we thought it would look like.
If I can encourage anyone, especially young adults starting out, but even people like me who have been working at marriage a while…please let me say that you have permission to lower your expectations. Please expect the conflict. Please anticipate your spouse getting on your nerves. That doesn’t sound encouraging, but I really mean it to be. I can’t tell you how many people have told us, “We really don’t foresee any problems with ____.” Our expectations are for all of our relational needs to be met in this one person who represents all of the roles people play in our life. But all of the people in our life can drive us nuts! So it’s okay to assume that your spouse will, too. There is freedom in lowering your expectations and knowing that there will be conflict.
And the cool thing about conflict is that in dealing with it, you become stronger. Conflict has a wonderful way of bringing about intimacy. There are a million metaphors I could use here, but you’ve heard them all. We assume that intimacy is built through a lack of conflict. It’s actually the opposite. Working through conflicts yields intimacy. Basically, if your expectations are lowered, then your relationship will grow to a higher level of understanding. It’s weird how that works, but I told you…marriage is weird.
Weird…and worth it.