This is the final article in my love series. Have a happy Valentine’s Day!
Before I got married, many people told me life was about to drastically change. So I prepared for it. I said goodbye to my bachelor ways. I made an inventory of the weird quirks and habits that would probably annoy my wife, and then I worked to get rid of them. And I focused on fixing—to the best of my abilities—all my character flaws so we would enter into marriage on the best foundation possible.
But then, something crazy happened: not much changed.
Based on the stories I heard from other married friends, I was expecting a tidal wave of change to come and knock me on my feet. Yet instead, quite the opposite happened.
I say this because whether you realize it or not, there is a large divide in our culture between singles and married couples.
From the single end, we look onto the married side of the fence as if it’s an entirely different world. It’s like an Amish person viewing a nudist colony, wondering how they could be so different.
From the married side of things, we look back on our single days with nostalgia, like they were a distant memory.
There is a divide between the two worlds that, if we’re honest, doesn’t need to exist.
Yes, life is different being married versus being single. But it’s not that different. Understand that I’m not suggesting that just because life didn’t change so much for me, it shouldn’t change for everybody. I’m not the best example to follow. Rather, what I am saying is, there are a few things that no matter what you do, stay the same.
Here are just a few things that haven’t changed for me, and possibly won’t change (or haven’t changed) for you either:
1. I’m still not anymore enlightened with my new relationship status.
For the past year, I’ve been talking a lot about marriage and relationships. But my changed relationship status does not make me any wiser on the subject. I know many singles seek advice from married couples, and married couples sometimes adopt this role of being the wise guru dishing out wisdom, but just because I’m now married doesn’t mean I have all the answers to love and relationships. If anything, I’m probably more confused now.
What this means is, for singles, you don’t have to aim to be like me or any other married couple. And for married couples, you don’t have to sound like a wise guru. Instead, let’s both be teachable and learn from each other.
2. I still need community.
There’s this weird idea out there today that since I am now with my wife, I don’t need community. It’s as if married couples only need each other to fulfill their social thirst. But this couldn’t be any farther from the truth.
I still need community, the same as I did when I was single. That longing for friendship and brotherhood does not change with my relationship status. The truth is, we’re always going to deal with loneliness. It’s a fundamental fact to being human. Being with my wife helps, but I still need friends to give me what my wife can’t.
So for singles: invite your married friends to your get-togethers more often. They still need people in their life. And married couples: don’t try to fool yourself that your spouse is enough. Find friends and keep them close.
3. I still want a better life.
Many romantic comedies today pin marriage as the end goal the characters work up to. I feel that sometimes, we can act this way in life. We can feel as though marriage is the ultimate fulfillment, like after we’re married nothing else will matter anymore.
Well, that simply isn’t true. I’m happily married, but getting married didn’t complete my life. Love didn’t complete me. If anything, it made me want more in life. It made me want a secure job to support my family (one with benefits, please!). It made me want a strong character to model for my kids. It made me want more things in life.
This means, we shouldn’t expect marriage to fulfill us. We will still want and need despite our relationship status.
4. I still do really, really, really stupid stuff.
Many couples talk about their single days as the time where they did reckless actions. So naturally, I assumed that once I got married, I would somehow stop doing stupid things. But alas, some things never change. I still make weird remarks, some that cause people to whip their heads around in surprise. I still act on decisions out of my own self-interest. I still have this me-mindset.
So for married couples: stop talking about your single days as the time you were stupid and careless. You’re giving singles the wrong impression of what it means to be single.
And for singles: don’t expect to be smarter and more responsible when you get married. You’ll still carry your flaws with you into your marriage. The only difference is, hopefully you’ll learn to spot them and improve on them.
5. I still can’t understand my friends’ problems.
When I was single, I imagined that once I got married, I would be able to tell all my single friends, “I’ve been there before.” And then I would tell my married friends, “I know what you mean.”
But once I got married, I found this wasn’t the case. In fact, I learned that I don’t know what my single and married friends are going through. They have problems that are unique and different from my life. Yes, there might be some similar threads, but I’m learning that each problem in life hits people in different ways, and the only way I can fully understand what they’re going through is if I were them. But I’m not.
So now, I don’t pretend to know what my friends are going through. I now try to be a listening ear instead of a been-there, done-that sort of guy.
6. I still struggle with my faith.
In the evangelical 90’s youth groups and Sunday schools, premarital relations and impure thoughts were treated like the capital punishment of the Christian world. But we struggled to keep our minds and hearts pure. We struggled in our relationships, no matter what we learned in Sunday school.
As a result, we looked forward to marriage, where faith would be easier because we could have all the sex we want and not be penalized for it. Marriage, to us, would cure the questions of “how far is too far?” and “is to okay to pray with my boyfriend/girlfriend?” All our boundaries would be erased.
But the truth is, once one problem leaves, another gets added on.
Marriage does not result in a problem-free and faithful life. Marriage does not make living out your beliefs any easier. You will still have problems living out your beliefs. In fact, you might even have more questions about your faith after marriage.
The solution then becomes: stop looking for a future chapter to solve the tension you feel with your faith. Look to always be faithful in the present. Doing so will build a resiliency within you, a spiritual foundation that’ll hardly be touched after you cross the many bumps in your life.
So you see, my life hasn’t changed all that much. I’m living with my best friend, and she does make every day better, which is great. But I still have a handful of problems and oddities that make life no different.
Maybe, you’re reading this and you realize not much has changed with you either.
If this is the case, it’s time to bridge the divide between your single and married friends. Realize that our relationship status does not empower us or make us more advantageous than the other. The perceived differences we hold against the other can be overshadowed by the many similarities we tend to overlook.
And in the end, we are just people who love in different ways.
So reach out to your single or married friends. You have more in common than you think.
Photography by Mikaela Hamilton