Most people enter into marriage believing that it will be good—that he will be true, and that you will find happiness together. Why would you get married if you didn’t believe this is what you were stepping into? But once the big wedding day ends, once you return from your honeymoon and settle into your life together, whatever disillusioned bubbles you had in your mind about marriage are going to burst. If you’re married, you know this.
A friend of mine told me how she thought that being married would mean having amazing sex all the time. She thought it was strange that her fiancé wanted to plan some activities for the honeymoon. Wouldn’t they just be in the hotel room 24 hours a day having sex? Turned out being married was different than she thought it would be. That’s disillusionment.
Sometimes it takes more time before we become disillusioned about marriage. Sometimes the disillusionment is based on larger issues and bigger problems. Sometimes we can be disillusioned about marriage even before we marry.
I remember in my twenties thinking about what my marriage would NOT be like. I was sure that it would look nothing like my parents’ marriage. They had been married more than 30 years when they decided to call it quits. Together they had been in a constant collision of wills and ways that over time turned to mountains of trouble. I think they tried every way to deal with conflict except actually resolving it. Most catastrophically, they repressed major issues.
My dad’s own baggage from his parents was never to talk about the hard things. Also, they resented one another or the way things were, or work was hard, and that would build up and then my dad would react. He would blow his stack. I remember my mother coaching us to be quiet because Dad was tired. We had to walk around carefully, to avoid upsetting my dad.
I used to joke around about it to make my sister laugh. “First you take a bowling ball; then you roll it down the hall; hit your dad; make him mad, oooooh.” I was the funny one; lightening up the tension. I put the “fun” in the dysfunction I always say.
My mother spent hours and hours talking through her marriage problems with her friends, or her sister. That was not the best move either. (See No. 12 Keep Other People Out.) The only thing most of her friends and family said when she finally left the marriage was that they were not surprised. It had always sounded horrible. (Of course it wasn’t always horrible.)
Anyway, when I contemplated marriage in light of this relationship disaster I resolved that my marriage would be different. I wasn’t resolved to address conflict well, or talk about issues as they came up. I think I just decided I wouldn’t have conflict. So I unwittingly fell into the same pattern my dad had for issues—piling up problems like so many dirty dishes, and ignoring them. Oops.
Of course we may all be condemned to repeat history when it comes to our family patterns. We bring our own baggage into marriage. So we will have trouble. Jesus knew this. At least, he knew that suffering is part of life. He told his followers in John 16:33, “… You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
Relying on Jesus to help me through hard times is a much better plan than relying on myself, my conflict resolution skills (or lack thereof), my husband, a paycheck, or anything else. Of course paychecks, husbands, conflict resolution, and lots of other things can help, but nothing will bring more peace than the understanding that a loving God is over all of it and cares deeply about me. He knows about my struggles and he knows how they will resolve and what my life will look like. He wants me to trust him—with everything.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Relying on Jesus, putting my trust and faith in him and giving him my life so that every decision I make goes to him in prayer first and is guided and directed by the Bible, makes me different. It makes my marriage different. It makes my view of life different. I’m not in charge—God is.
However, this brings us to the final disillusionment—that if you follow Jesus you will have a great marriage. Doesn’t always work that way. Didn’t work that way for my parents. God never promises us a trouble-free life, just promises to walk beside us all the way. For believers that means a marriage made up of three, rather than two; husband, wife, and Jesus. Sometimes people mention Ecclesiastes 4:12 in Christian weddings for this very reason: “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”
Why wouldn’t you want to upgrade to three strands if you can? Why wouldn’t you want a stronger marriage—or help from someone who conquered the world? That’s bigger than any disillusionment.
Rebecca Barnes is the director of curriculum for Summit Kids Ministry at Flatirons. She’s been married to Ron Barnes almost 25 years and has three daughters. Her oldest daughter will be getting married this year, so she’s been thinking a lot about marriage lately.