What No One Told Me: You’ll Still Be You
Editor’s Note: At risk of showing favoritism, this may be one of my favorite submissions yet. I was always able to picture my life up to the point of getting married – and then everything after. But those two lives looked completely different. I never understood how this “transformation” would take place; the miracle that would happen overnight to turn a single, pretty much broke, full-of-flaws Lauren into a put together, always-perfect, married woman with a house, career, and two brand new cars. Annie Jones did a phenomenal job of explaining the lie behind a ‘miracle transformation’ that most of us have been fed ever since we started dressing up Barbie to marry Ken. Annie blogs here and tweets at @anniebjones. Thanks for reading, and as always, if you know a woman who needs to read this, pass it along. – Lauren
In high school, if you had told me that I would be married at the age of 22, happily living back in my hometown with my very Southern husband, I would have laughed in your face. Even at 16, I had very specific images of myself in my 20s, and none of them included a spouse, a desk job, or my hometown.
Yet here I am, happy and fulfilled, despite not living in Manhattan or writing for a major news organization.
And guess what? I don’t think that 16-year-old me would be so terribly disappointed in what she sees today.
The truth is, I was lucky growing up. Lucky that my parents didn’t constantly talk about dating or marriage or shove a copy of I Kissed Dating Goodbye in my face. Lucky that I graduated high school without psychological damage from immature boys who wanted to get in my pants. Lucky that I went blissfully off to Christian college without a clue as to what an “MRS degree” even was.
Lucky that at the age of 18, I met my best friend, and that five years later, I chose to marry him, earlier than I ever could have imagined.
Our marriage has been one of the best, most satisfactory decisions I have ever made. But that doesn’t mean it was an easy choice to make.
After Jordan proposed, I had these flashes of worry; moments when I thought that although life wouldn’t end after we said, “I do,” it certainly would change. My dreams would fall by the wayside, and I’d enter into a union and have to say goodbye to a piece of myself. I came by these ideas honestly: They’re what the world and the church had told me my entire life.
The world tells you that if you’re married before, oh, I don’t know, 30, you’ll become lost. You’ll never become who you were meant to be. You’ll miss out on all those nights hanging out in Central Perk; you won’t take Manhattan by storm or score your dream job. You’ll fast become one of those mothers you see in grocery stores, dragging along your sticky children, looking longingly at the hot grocer, wondering “what might have been.”
And while the world’s telling you those lies, the church is telling you some of their own. The church tells you that marriage is the only option post-graduation. And when you do get married, no matter your age or your personality or your stubborn ways, you will magically change. You will wake up the morning after, and life will have become this new and exciting place, because you’ve got your prince by your side and an expensive white dress hanging in your closet. Inexplicably, you will be fantastic at sex. You will cook dinners that make Ina Garten jealous. You will live in a gorgeous home — that you purchased with money your husband earned — and your babies (because, of course, you will have babies) will look like they stepped out of a Crewcuts catalogue.
Neither scenario is true.
The night of our wedding, my husband and I rented a hotel room, drove through the McDonald’s drive-thru, and watched a college football game. The next morning, we woke up and played a round of golf.
It was the stuff dreams are made of, I tell you what.
In all seriousness, the first few weeks of our marriage were wonderfully mundane. I woke up and still felt like me. I thought I’d feel different, thought I’d grow up overnight into the perfect picture of marital bliss. Instead, I felt exactly like I had felt the day before, only now, I had someone else to take care of, and someone else who could take care of me. I woke up still dreaming of become a writer, and he woke up still smack-dab in the middle of law school. Nothing had changed, except our level of commitment to one another and to the God we serve.
When my friends get married, and they spend months planning their big day, I want to tell them to stop. To take a deep breath. To remember that marriage is more than a white dress or a dry cake. It’s a day to day sacrifice for someone else — not a sacrifice of who you are as a person, your goals and desires, but a sacrifice of the attitude that life is all about you.
It’s not about just you anymore. It’s waking up and realizing your dreams didn’t die, but now you have someone who can help you achieve them, and you’re responsible for helping them accomplish theirs too. It’s knowing that your last name might change, but your soul and its makeup don’t.
Your husband won’t automatically become your dad. He won’t always remember to heat up your car during the cold months or wake up before you and deliver breakfast in bed.
It might take a while for sex to be awesome, and some nights, frozen pizza will be the best meal you’ve had in days.
Dinner will burn, and you might hate your job, and money will be tight.
But a good marriage — a marriage of two independent minds and spirits, with Christ at its center — will be worth it. And a good marriage will change and grow with your dreams.
This morning, I didn’t wake up in a high-rise loft in Manhattan.
Instead, I rushed out of bed, tripped over a dog, was a little bit late to work, and left ground turkey in my kitchen, waiting to become some kind of casserole.
Marriage is better than I ever could have imagined because I am still me, and my husband is still the Star Wars obsessed, Mountain Dew drinking husband I married. Marriage hasn’t changed our makeup, but each day, it is making us a little more selfless, a little bit more like Christ.
And that, I think, is how it’s supposed to be.
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