Recently, I was getting lunch at a bakery and the line was moving extraordinarily slow. I began to people watch and then I overheard a conversation between the two women behind me. They were discussing marriage and relationships. One woman lamented that she didn't have a man around the house to fix things and she idealistically said, "If I were married, things would be so much easier."
Hearing that conversation really made me think, "Does marriage magically make your life easier?" Does having a life-partner inherently ease the daily burdens of life? I reflected on my own expectations about marriage before I tied the knot. Truthfully, I had imagined daily back rubs and candle-lit dinners. And I expected to be showered with flowers, candy and jewelry. It was a totally romanticized view of marriage and very unrealistic. Contrasting those expectations with my daily role as a wife and mom, I realize how far my dreamy ideas were from reality. Eventually, I concluded that marriage costs -- a lot. And, I'm not talking about the price of the wedding or the ring. I am referring to the daily sacrifice to stay married and the commitment required in making marriage work. The woman in the bakery was correct that marriage can help to lighten the load, but there are many things that one also has to give up.
Marriage costs your independence
For starters, the very essence of marriage is two becoming one in unity. That implies that you will give of yourself to make the sum of all parts greater. This leads to a push and pull as you negotiate how to make a union work. And it will likely require you to relinquish certain rights and privileges. Prime example: "my money" is now "our money" and my plans concerning finances must now include the input and consideration of another person. In all fairness, I can't make major decisions alone anymore. I have to check in with my husband and solicit his thoughts. So, I've given up a certain level of autonomy.
I remember being single and traveling whenever I wanted, spending my money however I wanted and epitomizing the essence of an independent woman. That mindset doesn't work in marriage. I had to make a paradigm shift to re-align my priorities and focus on one-ness for a successful relationship. If you plan to retain your complete independence, there will be conflicts in marriage. It's important to realize the price of what you must give up before you enter into the union.
Marriage costs your agenda
Despite classes, marriage counseling and words of wisdom from tons of well-meaning people; some things you have to learn by experience. I knew on an intellectual level that marriage would require service to my spouse, but sorting through how to make that happen on a practical level was a different story. As a newlywed, I struggled with balancing my old life with my new role as a wife. I felt overwhelmed and underprepared those first few months of marriage. Eventually, I realize the true underpinnings of marriage are service and giving of yourself.
When I was single, I remember my cute, little condo that often went un-cleaned, was frequently filled with carry-out food boxes and was regularly subject to bare cupboards. If I didn't want to cook, I ordered food. If I didn't feel like cleaning, I wouldn't. It was only responsible for myself, so I did what suited me in the moment. This is not even remotely possible anymore. My husband loathes a disorganized house and his one request of me is that our household shelves are stocked and that food is available. In responding to his needs, I had to reign in my whimsical spirit and make some adjustments in order to make our marriage work. So, it cost me my self-focused mentality. Take a page from my story: if you plan to hold onto a singles mindset with dear life, it will cause friction in your marriage.
Marriage costs your selfishness
I've always been a caring and considerate person, but I have never had to prioritize myself in any position other than first. These days, as a wife and mother, I am no longer responsible for only caring for myself, but also the needs of my household. My one load of laundry as a single person increased to four and my nightly routine no longer consists only of TV surfing and shooting the breeze with friends. It includes dinner, bedtime stories, bath-time and checking in with hubby. Then, I get a moment to myself. My needs are no longer my singular focus. It's not about me anymore, but about all the people in my home. If you expect to walk into marriage and take more than you give, you may be in for a rude awakening.
I wish I could find that woman from the bakery and offer a dose of realism to take the rose-colored glasses off marriage enough to communicate that being married is real work -- and sacrifice. Yes, it's great and you stand to gain tremendously. However, you should also plan to give -- substantially. Unrealistic expectations lead to conflict. An unwillingness to bend leads to divorce. But being sober about marriage will compel you to adapt to a "new normal" to modify selfishness or an overly independent mindset. So, the conversation I overheard may have been completely valid. If she were married, things might be easier. Then again, they might be harder in other ways because marriage costs and I hope that she is prepared to pay in full.
D. S. Coleman is a love, dating and relationships expert who did the dating scene, experienced heartbreak & lived to tell the story. Find more at www.courtshipchallenge.com and keep up with her on Instagram and Twitter: @courtship101.