If you were a fly on the wall during many of my single days (especially as I was in my early twenties) you might have thought that I believed that marriage would solve all my problems. In some ways, I was right. My main problems at the time were not feeling loved or wanted or chosen. Marriage, at least thus far, has generally solved those problems. While I might not be aware of it all the time and might occasionally drift into old ways of thinking, my husband makes me feel very loved and wanted, and he did choose me.
When Zach and I were dating, we had another problem. We were super long distance (he was in Oregon, I was in Ohio) for almost the first year we were dating. Then, even after I moved to Oregon, we were 30 minutes to an hour apart (depending on traffic). One of the reasons I wanted so very desperately to get married at that point was so that we could live in the same place. Marriage solved that one too. There are some problems that marriage will fix.
However, marriage will not solve all of the problems that you think it might. Generally, I think I had a pretty realistic understanding of the problems that marriage would and wouldn’t fix when I was single. However, there are a few things that I’ve found that marriage won’t fix. I’m sure there are other things (feel free to comment below if you have some others), but here are five things I’ve come up with.
I had a friend in college who started dating someone. They seemed pretty serious and I was slightly in awe of her because I had not yet been so much as been asked out by anyone, much less in a serious relationship. We were on a road trip and listening to some oldies tunes and the song “Chapel of Love” by the Dixie Cups came on. You know the one, “We’re going to the chapel and we’re going to get married.” It has another line, ‘We’ll love until the end of time and we’ll never be lonely anymore.” She turned to me and said something like, “That’s totally not true. You can still be in a relationship and feel lonely.”
This was a complete surprise to me at the time. I had always assumed that if I were loved and wanted, I would never feel lonely. That was one of the reasons I wanted to be in a relationship in the first place.
She was right though. No relationship, not even marriage, will completely save you from loneliness. In fact, marriage can make loneliness feel worse. There’s nothing worse than feeling alone in a crowded room, except maybe feeling alone sitting next to the person you love.
Loneliness is never completely overcome this side of heaven. Marriage can lessen the amount of time you feel lonely, but it will never completely banish loneliness. Honestly, that’s okay. God uses our loneliness to draw him to himself. If marriage did completely overcome loneliness, that would be one less tool for God to draw us closer to Himself.
2. Self Esteem
I am under the impression (and I may be wrong) that pretty much every woman struggles with self-esteem, especially when it comes to her looks and/or body. When I was single, I often felt that if only I could be wanted and loved by one person I wouldn’t care about the rest of the world anymore. My self-esteem issues would be over.
I’ve found that’s not true. While being married is a self-esteem boost (I definitely have a more healthy view of myself now than I did, though I’m not sure how much of that has to do with being married and how much has to do with just being older), those demons are never completely driven out. I still find myself worrying about my weight or about if I look pretty enough or if something fits me right.
Just like with loneliness, marriage can make this whole self-esteem thing worse too. I don’t want to “let myself go” now that I’m married and pull a bait and switch on my husband. There’s also the fear that we women seem to have that the men in our lives will grow tired of us if we don’t continue to measure up. Marriage can calm those fears for a bit, but they always seem to creep back in, at least occasionally.
3. Full Contentment with Life
Marriage was a goal for me for so long, that I kind of didn’t know what to expect when I finally achieved it. That had been my biggest and greatest dream for a long time. I think I expected to feel like I had finally arrived, like the movie had come to its conclusion. That was the goal, I had accomplished it, and now I could just coast through the rest of life.
Looking back, that seems silly. While I am so thankful to be married and so happy with my husband, that’s not the only thing I want out of life. I still have other hopes and dreams and visions. Some of them are dreams that my husband and I have together. Others are things that are just for me.
It’s simply a truth in life that until we’re with Jesus for eternity, we’re always going to be striving for the next thing. Whether that thing is marriage or a dream job or a child or a promotion, it doesn’t matter. As soon as we get what we want, there’s always something else to look forward too. In some ways, it’s kind of depressing. We’re never 100% satisfied where we are. On the other hand, it keeps us constantly longing for more of the good things God has in store for us. It gives us a reason to keep trusting in God and the plans that He has established for us.
4. Uncertainty about the Future
If I’m honest, one of the reasons I really wanted to get married in my early twenties was because I wanted some kind of foundation for my life. My life was in a state of uncertainty. I had made no consensus on what I should do for a job or if I should go back to school or where I should live. All I wanted was some sort of tangible foundation to base my life around. I thought marriage could provide that.
To some extent, marriage does provide you with stability. You have this one person that you have pledged to walk with through the ups and downs of life. There is a least one constant in your life no matter where you go or what you do.
At the same time, this stability is kind of a lie. As I’ve written in a previous blog post, ultimately, marriage is temporary. That’s not to say everyone is bound to get divorced. I don’t think that at all. However, I do know that we’re not guaranteed our next breath and our spouse’s next breath isn’t guaranteed to us either. All it takes is one accident, one diagnosis, and all the stability you thought you had could be gone.
Even on a slightly less sad and depressing level, things in your marriage could change. Your spouse could lose their job and your income could change dramatically. You could have to move. You could have kids and that could turn your life upside down. My point is, marriage provides only the slightest improvement in stability, and even that is subject to change.
5. Your Spouse (Or You)
I feel like this is so obvious and yet it’s worth repeating. Marriage won’t fix your spouse, or you. If your spouse struggles with something before you get married, they’re still going to struggle with it when you get home from the honeymoon. If you’re unhappy about something before you get married, that unhappiness is going to follow you into marriage. Getting married is not going to automatically make you or your spouse a better person or make you feel more grown up or actually make you more mature.
Don’t get me wrong, marriage is one of the many tools that God uses to make us more like himself. It’s a training ground for how to love and live well. However, just like with any other training, it takes time. Marriage is not a cure for your relational issues or your personality issues or any other types of issues. You are still you after marriage and you bring your issues with you. Your spouse is still the same person after marriage. The two of you will be the same people after you tie the knot.
Once again, marriage can actually make things worse on this front. If that annoying pet peeve drove you insane before you got married, how much worse is it going to be when you’re living together and seeing one another more? We all tend to put our best faces forward while we’re dating and engaged. After marriage, a lot of the masks start to come off. There’s nowhere to hide all the time. You get to see one another at your best and at your worst. If you think that marriage is going to solve any of your issues, you’re bound to be disappointed.
And the Point Is?
The point of all this is not to say marriage isn’t great. Honestly, I think it is. I wish everyone who wasn’t married and wanted to be could be married right now. However, I also know that sometimes marriage isn’t everything we make it out to be. It won’t solve all the problems we think it will. Let’s look at marriage for what it really is: a God-ordained relationship that God often uses to show us our weaknesses and to make us stronger people.
If you have other ideas about problems marriage won’t fix, feel free to share them in the comments below. If you have questions about this post, feel free to ask those too!