My wife and I dated for a little over a year.
We were also engaged within that timeframe.
We got back from our honeymoon and she began her studies at UCLA Medical School the following week, while I geared up for my 2nd year of seminary.
We were 23 years old.
Now 8 years, 8 moves, 2 kids, and many mistakes later, it's safe to say we see the past with greater clarity.
There's a pile of stories we could tell, and we'd tell every one of them with a laugh, a cringe, or a tear.
Here's part one of a two part series on a few things we wish we had known before we got married.
1. "Self-awareness" is limited in dating
Remember being in High School and feeling so certain about what you wanted for yourself and then you went off to college and you couldn't help but laugh at your High School self?
Maybe it's because we dated for such a short period of time, but that's actually how we felt about our dating selves once we actually got married.
We acted out of so much presumed assurance of self-knowledge during our dating season.
I remember so many conversations where one of us would say something along the lines of, "I'm the type of person...."
Now to be sure, there were things we did know about ourselves that still ring true to this day. But marriage held up mirrors we didn't expect to see of ourselves.
We saw reflections of our personal idiosyncrasies, behavioral tendencies, and relational default modes which were hidden in terms of degree, if not altogether, during our dating season.
If you're single or in a dating relationship, I'm not saying there's something wrong with your season.
I'm just saying we're all stuck in a particular life stage, which facilitates specified and limited growth opportunities, and it's really helpful to know that.
Being self-aware means acknowledging the inability to be perfectly aware.
2. You marry an individual, but you marry into a family.
You ever hear stories of a dating couple trying to move forward but can't because a parent(s) on one side is adamantly opposed to the other's side family?
Don't we all think the parent(s) is totally crazy? Cause what does the family have anything to do with the individual, right? Isn't the individual his or her own person?
And the parent(s) may be a little crazy, but the reality is, no one is simply just an individual.
Everyone is tied to various contexts and in most cases, family happens to be the biggest knot.
This means when we say "I do" to an individual, we're inviting in his or her family too. Yes, the family with all their personal, familial, financial baggages and blessings.
Think about it. Who do you think you'll be celebrating Thanksgiving and New Years with?
Isn't it funny how when a dating couple daydreams about their 1st Christmas together as newlyweds, they always imagine hot chocolate in the quiet morning or steak and wine in the evening with Bing Crosby in the airwaves but the scenarios always conveniently exclude the people they can't in reality?
And once you have kids? You will find grandparents in places you never expected, at times you never wanted.
"That's why we're gonna get married and move to another state!"
Have at it! Just know that your parents' marriage blueprint, their personality, family culture and values are in your bones more than you could ever imagine.
Oh, and the same for your future spouse.
We are all byproducts of our upbringing and surrounding, of which our families played a central role, no matter how present or absent they were.
I'm 31 and it frightens me how often I find myself mimicking my parents. Help me..
3. YOUR PAST ECHOES THE PEAKS AND VALLEYS
In many ways, marriage is a new beginning with a "fresh start."
But more often than not, marriage is an amplification of the past.
Yes, all the good stuff and the bad, echoing forward with greater intensity and focus.
Why? Because we are wherever we are. And marriage is the collision of two people being where they are, together, like, all the time.
So an individual has a certain pattern or tendency, like a lifelong struggle with insecurity or personal anger? He or she will carry that over into the dating relationship and then subsequent marriage. Those things don't just disappear once he or she ties the knot. It will just show up in different ways
But if a dating relationship was marked by truthfulness and high levels of vulnerability, that will also most likely be amplified in marriage because we are wherever we are.
Oh, and baggage from past relationships? Things like emotional baggage and sexual history can have their gnawing effects.
The good news is that God has a way of using time, grace, and intentionality to bring redemption into those spaces.
In fact, in weird ways, God can utilize the echoes of the past to keep a relationship down to earth, centered, and strengthened.
4. Your Friendships change after marriage
You may be thinking, "My friendships? Never..."
But "change" can mean different things.
It could be a change in dynamic.
For example, a guy who gets married suddenly finds that he can't play ball with his boys whenever he wants to anymore. One Saturday morning after playing a few games, his friends begin joking with him that his "hands are tied" and he quietly wonders to himself if his friends are starting to see him differently.
As he gets in his car to leave the park, tears begin rolling down his face as the video shot slowly pans out to show his car as the only car left in the parking lot, tragically mirroring his new reality...
Ok, that was an over dramatization.
But these dynamic shifts are real. Don't believe me? Go ask a married person if they still hang out with their entire bridal party. If they say "yes," chances are they got married last year.
Marriage can even end friendships.
For example, a girl may have had a lifelong guy friend but finds she's no longer comfortable meeting him alone for dinner after the wedding.
In fact, don't a lot of guys lose their female friends once they gets married? Correction: Don't a lot of guys have to lose their female friends once they get married?
I'm not saying this is a good or bad thing, I'm just saying it happens.
But there's more than a silver lining.
Marriage opens a wide door for growth in existing friendships since it forces friends to navigate through new terrain, while also creating opportunities for brand new friendships.
5. Friendship is more powerful than sex.
Dating and engaged couples are often excited about having sex once they get married.
And they should be, unless they're already doing it.
However, what most married couples won't tell you is how overrated sex can be if your expectations are too high.
You may not believe this, but some wives will just do it out of love for their husbands. And there are men who are either too tired on most nights or they personally dread it because it invokes their insecurities.
But here's what I've discovered - a genuine friendship, not a wild sex life, is what really makes a marriage sing.
In fact, I'd argue that a healthier friendship generates a healthier sex life. Why? Because sex is mental and emotional, not only physical. Traditional thought said that only applied to women, but I don't think that's the case.
Friendship is the powerful bridge that unites the physical to the relational/emotional.
Scientific studies have shown sex as having the power to rewire the brain. I can't help but believe that friendship has the power to re-wire sex itself.
Looking back on our years together, we can say marriage has been everything the church had advertised it to be.
They said we would experience hardships and there were some really hard times when we felt hopeless.
They said we would never love and hate anyone more than each other at certain moments, and that's been true too.
They said we'd be amazed witnessing the life God would build, and we really have been amazed.
They said we would reach new depths of forgiveness and see gospel joy, and we're humbled and grateful for Jesus holding our marriage together.
Next week, I'll share the second half of the things we wish we knew.