When I Said “I Do” — I Didn’t Know What I Did

Twenty-four years of wedded bliss. This is the story of my marriage. At least, one version of it.

My wife is amazing. We both came to our marriage with wide-eyed idealism and lots of expectations about what marriage was and how it was going to play out. That isn’t all that uncommon, but the problem was while we both had our list of expectations, we didn’t really take the time to compare those lists or even accurately identify each of our expectations for ourselves. That became a major issue as we found where those expectations didn’t line up. We discovered we had way more places where our expectations weren’t just different, but WAY different, and we had very few places where we were on the same page.

I believed then and still believe today that God brought us together. The question I have asked Him a million times is, “What were You thinking?”

Opposites attract. That is a truism of life and especially in relationships. What I have discovered in my own marriage and through the years of marriage counseling I have done is that people fall in love with the parts of a person that are different than they are. If we are not careful, the very things we fell in love with can become the things we start to resent.

I thought when I said “I do,” I was in for a life of someone dropping their agenda on a dime to run to me and meet my needs with deep and abiding love, coming away with the joy and satisfaction that comes from knowing they helped me become everything I wanted. Somehow, even at 20 years old, I was stunned to learn that she had ideas and dreams and hopes and expectations, as well. Often what I wanted was not just different than her, but even in direct contradiction.

So, now what?

When I said “I do,” I meant “You do,” and therein lies a major problem.

When I said “I do,” I should have meant that I will dedicate my life to understanding who you are and how I can serve you and help you become a better version of your truest self.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7, ESV)

What was God thinking? Not that I presume to know the mind of God, but this might give me a perspective to help me stay the course: I think God always intended for the person we marry to be the opposite of us. I think perhaps the reason is because it forces us to lay our own agenda down in order to keep the relationship together.

Who would want to do that? Well, Jesus.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus who, being in very nature God, didn’t consider equality with God something to be clung to. But He made Himself nothing, taking on the very form of a servant. (Philippians 2:5–7)

He was God, and laid down His own comfort to become nothing important, so I could see how much I matter.

Husbands, love your wives the way Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:25)

Maybe her being opposite of me allows a better version of Jesus living in me. And maybe that is what marriage was designed for from the beginning. Being willing to lay my own life down for her is a particularly strong statement to her and to the world about who my God is. That is what my life is all about — telling the world who my God is.

May you live with your spouse in an understanding way. May you find the joy of a mutually sacrificial relationship. May you find a better and better version of Jesus living in you. And may you understand that true fulfillment comes from serving, not being served.