5 Things that Surprised me about Marriage

Last week marked ten months of marriage, and my husband and I are eager to celebrate our one year anniversary very soon. In this relatively short time, I have come to realize that so many things I once thought about marriage are simply not true! I thought I might share some of these marriage surprises so you could commiserate – some hilarious and some not-so-funny.

Marriage Surprises | Things That Surprised Me Once I Got Married - perfect for newlyweds | graceupongracetoday.com

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Morning Breath

When I thought about all the joys of romance in marriage, sleeping in the same bed and waking up next to my sweet husband was top on my list. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to flutter my eyelids open, roll over, and peck my sweetheart on the lips? …gross. The first time I tried it, we both had such terrible morning breath that I vowed to never try that again! We still like to cuddle some mornings when have time, but definitely not kissing.

It Still Takes Work

Before we got married, we met with an older married couple from our church for mentoring and we worked through a pre-marital study book together. We also met with our associate and lead pastors, and we gleaned advice from other couples and from various books. (We spent quite a bit of time and money on our wedding, and I felt like we were spending more on our marriage!) There was a lot of effort put in up front. However, after our honeymoon and as time went on, we realized that we could not just “coast” through our marriage. When things got difficult or other obligations got in the way of our proximity and connection to each other and to God, we fought more and we felt less close. One morning, I woke up and realized that I could not simply set the car of my marriage on “neutral.” I had to continue to invest in our relationship. I realized that marriage is a marathon, not a sprint. When you put in the extra work, you get to enjoy it.

Some Things Matter More Than Others

You want to know a simple way to make your marriage better? Ask your husband what matters to him! It blew my mind when someone gave me this advice. Here’s the thing: My husband does not really care if the house is spotless or the bed is made or the kitchen floor is clean. He values having clean clothes and something to eat. When I realized this, I was able to stop trying to be SuperWife and instead be the wife that he needs and desires. I choose to focus on laundry and grocery shopping first. Yes, the kitchen floor gets swept, but I focus on how to serve him how he desires it first. Likewise, he does the same for me! I love that he picks up extra work on the weekends sometimes, because it helps the budget. I also love when he’s home on the weekends. We are able to work out a schedule each month that satisfies both of us as well as the budget.

Socks… Socks Everywhere

Since I graduated high school, I always lived with female roommates and/or housemates. I know what it is like to walk around someone else’s laundry or dishes. However, I was just not fully prepared to find socks on the living room floor that no one will pick up until I pick them up on laundry day. At first, I became angry with my husband: How dare he leave his stinky socks on my floor? But honestly? It’s not that big of a deal, and I am thankful that he is home long enough to take off his socks in the evenings. Sometimes I ask him to pick them up (which he does gladly), and sometimes I gather them up with the rest of the laundry. It’s not worth yelling over – most things aren’t.

Men are Different From Women

I know, newsflash, right? Even though we married women roll our eyes at this one, we too often assume that our husbands think and feel just like we do. Ironically, my wonderful, sweet husband is just plain different from me. He has strengths in areas where I have weaknesses, and he has weaknesses where I have strengths. Case in point: Our kitchen sink began leaking around the seal. My husband cleaned it up, examined the sink, and made a plan for how to reseal it. Then he left the wet towels by the sink. At first, I only saw the wet towels. I did not see his effort in repairing the sink. His thought-processes work differently than mine, but that’s a good thing. Did God not create man to lead woman and woman to be man’s helpmeet? We need each other in a beautiful way.

Marriage Surprises | Things That Surprised Me Once I Got Married - perfect for newlyweds | graceupongracetoday.com

What have been some of your marriage surprises?

How to Avoid Envy

I thought jealousy only reared its ugly head on the playground or in the middle school cafeteria. I never once expected it to follow me to adulthood and marriage. But it has, and it makes me feel quite ugly inside and out.

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My Story

My husband and I have talked about our family and career goals. We have plans that we have prayed about, and we are open to God’s leading in whatever direction he has for us. Yet, I can’t help but feel so jealous of stay at home moms with new babies who live in seemingly perfect neighborhoods. The grass seems greener on the other side.

The funny thing is that I felt this same pang of envy when I was a college student and a recent graduate — before I started dating. It seemed like everyone else had found someone they loved, and I was destined to be an old, single cat lady. Then one day, I woke up with a sense of confidence and almost joy about that “cat-lady” life I had once dreaded. I looked forward to it. I made plans for graduate school and living with my best friends.

Not long after that, a guy I had met in college sent me a Facebook message. We chatted. Later, he asked for my phone number; after that, a date. Fast forward a couple years, and he asked for my hand in marriage.

It was definitely not instantaneous. Become satisfied with being single and God will magically grant you a boyfriend… is a terrible way to live. However, I became less jealous of others when I saw the beauty in my own situation. At that time, I worked with two wonderful, strong, older, and very independent single women in two separate settings. Their lives encouraged me to live my singleness to the fullest, and I began to appreciate them.

Today, as a happily-married woman, I find other things to keep me envious. It’s ugly, and I hate it. I know that God hates it, too.

How can I (and you) avoid it?

I already mentioned the first way: Relish what you have. Rejoice in your current place. Just as the wonderful single women in my life encouraged me to enjoy my singleness, so the married women in my life can also encourage me to make the most of these days. Are you a working mom wishing you were home? Or a homeschooling mom wishing you had a career outside the home? Maybe you’re a high school student waiting for the day you can leave home… Or a wife hoping for fertility. Who is in your same spot? Find them at church, in a Bible study, on a blog, at the gym, at school or work… The opportunities are endless. Find the joy in today and relish it. Encourage each other to celebrate today, because this too is the day that the Lord has made.

Romans 12:15 urges its readers to rejoice with those who rejoice. This doesn’t come easily. A family member of ours gave elaborate, expensive gifts to the family at Christmas time. My husband and I opted for inexpensive books, journals, and shirts. I went into Christmas knowing that our gifts were meaningful and not going to put us into debt. However, when I saw the mounds of presents this person brought in, I became jealous of the money they make and of the exuberant responses they received from family members. But the verse I had memorized so long ago came back to me… Rejoice with those who rejoice. They may make more money than we do, but they sweetly gave of what they had, not hoarding their extra money for themselves. I can rejoice with them instead of harboring envy towards them. 

Finally, a warning to take care of yourself… Obviously, the “rejoice with those who rejoice” includes things like going to bridal and baby showers, attending weddings and graduations, sending greeting cards, and buying presents. But for a person with serious pain and heartache in a specific area, it might be okay to opt out of some of that rejoicing. When a church’s young members all began to get pregnant around the same time, a woman I knew carefully selected which showers she would attend. She had struggled with infertility for a long time and was in a deep place of pain. For her, it was not the pang of jealousy, but the sharp, heart-wrenching stab of hurt. She went to the smaller showers for her closest friends, and had prior commitments during the others. In this way, she was able to care for herself and her emotions, which enabled her to more fully love and celebrate the friends to whom she was closest.

The Fruit of the Spirit

The fifth chapter of Galatians ends by expressing the results of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives: things like love for others, kindness towards those around us, and self-control in our actions and in our hearts. Just prior to that paragraph is a section explaining the desires of the flesh: jealousy AND envy, as well as idolatry, selfish ambition, and dissension. We are called to a passionate love, even towards those we think have everything we want. For in the loving, we cease to be jealous of what they have and, instead, come to celebrate the unique paths where God has placed us.

Feet on the Ground: Eyes to the Sky

Is it ironic to anyone else that we usually spend more time, money, and energy preparing for the next stage of life than living in the current one? Now, I know that’s not always the case, but consider the college years. We take out exorbitant loans in order to pay for an education that should train us for the next few stages of life. We spend (or should spend) hours in classes and lecture halls and libraries, not for the benefit of our college years, but for some future benefit. Some girls pin wedding dresses and bridal ideas to Pinterest before they even have a boyfriend, not to mention an engagement ring. In high school, we long for the freedom of college and spend hours visiting potential schools, applying for scholarships, writing essays, and settling on majors. As single people, we dream of marriage and children. We can’t wait for “real jobs” that somehow magically support a family, put food on the table, and leave a little extra for that dream vacation. Is it just that we aren’t satisfied with our current circumstances and long for the greener grass on the other side?

Yes… I mean… No, there’s more to it.

There is something serious to be said about constantly looking for what’s next. It’s like living as if you’re in a waiting room. God has not called us to passive waiting – he has called us to active, working, living-in-the-moment waiting, a kind of waiting that gets knee deep in the current situation until a tap on the shoulder calls us to what he has for us next. Never get so caught up in what might happen tomorrow that you neglect today and all of its unique joys, trials, discoveries, and adventures. I believe that God has us where he wants us right now for a reason. Even the in-between stages are adventures. As Anne Voskamp once wrote, “Waiting is just a gift of time in disguise — a time to pray wrapped up in a ribbon of patience — because is the Lord ever late?” He has right where he wants us.

However, I would also propose the idea that we need a mindset that is also looking forward to the future. There needs to be a balance. There is reason that we think about the future often and have all kinds of desires for our futures. I believe it would be wrong to ignore those thoughts and desires. So how can we deal with them properly? By using them to prepare ourselves.

I once attended a college group the day they decided to study marriage. A student asked the pastor why we have to study marriage if we aren’t yet married. The pastor responded with something along the lines of: “You’re in college. It’s not going to be long until you are looking to get married. This is the perfect time to be getting ready.”

Many years ago, I began listening to sermons on God’s purposes for marriage, learning healthy communication techniques, reading books on relationships, and observing positive and negative relationships. I did all this before I began dating in order to prepare myself for a relationship ahead of time. The same is true for a career. I knew I wanted to go into the field of education when I was young, so I signed myself up to spend 120+ weeks of my life studying, reading, and learning how to be a teacher, not to mention the various summer activities I participated in that further prepared me for my upcoming role. I feel like my college education has barely scratched the surface, but it was the pathway to becoming a teacher, and I needed to take the time to invest into a four year degree so I could be better prepared for what I believe God has called me to do with my life. I will never be completely ready for what’s next, but I can be a little more prepared by looking ahead.

As Switchfoot sings, “Grow, grow where you are. Anchor your roots underneath.” We should actively wait for what’s next while at the same time being knee-deep in what’s now.


On that note, let me take a moment to change direction. When I talk about stages of life, I’m also talking about identity. We easily find our identities in what we do. It’s the first question many people ask us. It’s in our Twitter pages and our Facebook “About Me” sections. For a long time, I found my identity in my status as a student and as a single person. I wrote blog posts after blog posts (including a three-part series) on singleness. I lived and breathed that identity. Singleness was something God used powerfully to bring about sanctification in my life. Then one day a really awesome guy showed up in my life and chose to pursue me.  I heard God release me from intentional singleness. In four weeks, I went from identifying as a woman comfortable in my singleness (complete with books, tea, and a cat), to trying to find my identity as a dating woman. I welcomed the relationship and I’m beyond excited about it, but it’s difficult to transition like that.

Yesterday, I read a blog post by a woman who had recently moved from a stage of infertility to a stage of having children. Her identity changed to include being a mother in the time it took to take a pregnancy test. In the midst of the realization, she wrote:

How do you say goodbye to a season that [God has] used to make you into who you are?

I resonate with that. My identity has changed, and the circumstances of my life that God uses to mold me may have changed, but the lessons I learned from those circumstances have not changed. God is the same, and his truths and his words are the same. Now God is using a different stage of life (that of a relationship) to bring about my good and his glory. In 2010, God told me he wanted to do great and wonderful things in me and through me before there was a guy in my life. And you know what, he did! I was called to teaching, developed some life-long friendships, took two trips overseas, spent a summer as a camp counselor, graduated college Magna Cum Laude, and landed what I believe will be an awesome job. The mind-blowing thing is that God’s great and wonderful plans don’t end there. He is still doing great and wonderful things, and he orchestrates circumstances to keep bringing them about.

At this moment, as my journey shifts a bit, I find myself overjoyed at God’s ability to work all things together in a way that only He can. I am saying goodbye to one stage only to say hello to another.

Thank you for joining me on this journey of discovery as I strive to keep my feet on the ground and my eyes to the sky.