They Do Exist.

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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23 Responses

  1. What a helpful collection of thoughts, thanks so much for sharing from your experience. It connects to what I've been thinking about and wrestling with lately. I appreciate your acknowledgement of the difficulty amongst the joy of a committed relationship… and that it truly is worth the effort. To expect only joy is setting ourselves up for disappointment! There is no "easy way" sometimes. We have to live into the answers for these questions of how this marriage thing will work so that in marriage each person can become more of who they are, not less. It is a challenging and delightful journey!

    May 21, 2011 at 4:50 pm

  2. Julianne

    Annie, this article was every bit as good as I thought it would be. You write in such an honest and relatable way, and I can't wait to hear more from you! :)

    May 21, 2011 at 5:07 pm

  3. Amazing post, thank you!

    May 21, 2011 at 9:45 pm

  4. I've heard from Roc and Bev Bottomly (Focus on the Family) that marriage isn't designed to make you happy, it's designed to make you holy. The happiness just comes naturally and ebbs and flows and such. What you said about becoming more like Christ every day, it seems like it supports this idea about holiness.

    May 22, 2011 at 1:47 pm

  5. My husband and I got married on a Friday. The next day he had to be back at work and I was walking around our tiny little home in a daze. Where was the romance? The honeymoon? That night when he got home we were scrounging through the furniture to find change to buy pizza. We were laughing and having a great time. That memory is awesome. I'm so thankful that our lives started out that way because it was reality. We didn't have a fancy wedding…. we didn't want one.

    I agree with you; spending more time on the MARRIAGE than the wedding is vital. The dress will one day no longer fit. The cake will be eaten. And several of the people will no longer be in your life. But your spouse will still be there… every single day. Great insight Annie!

    May 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm

  6. Thank you guys so much for such encouraging words… The truth is, it's a little scary to put out there your thoughts on marriage — especially your own marriage — what you'd change, what you wouldn't change, what you wish you'd known, what you're glad you didn't know. It's a comfort that so many people out there have had similar thoughts and are realizing that marriage doesn't change who you are, but it is designed to make you better… more selfless, patient, sacrificial. It's definitely a work in process, but it's worth every minute.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:35 pm

  7. So encouraging. 5 months into marriage, it is certainly not what I thought it would be, but this is a great reminder of what it could be and should be. I really appreciate this post.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:43 pm

  8. kaleighsomers

    This post gives me so much hope. I love that marriage can make you selfless. It never occurred to me before, but it's so so true. Giving more of yourself out of sheer love. Fumbling through life's missteps together. Thanks for the hope and inside look into what it's like to be young and in love and on the path toward what you dream about.

    May 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm

  9. I loved this Annie. You and I have VERY similar stories. I would have laughed at how things turned out. I thought I’d be done with seminary by now and out on the mission field. Instead, I’m happily married to a good, but very human man. My dreams are still there. I’m still the same person. We just get to be ourselves together. Marriage is great.

    PS: the church does make you think that honeymoon sex is going to blow your mind. Haha. It’s kinda funny how they make such a big deal out of it.

    May 23, 2011 at 7:46 pm

  10. Tammy

    Conservative Christian familyism is a good thing in many ways it encourages commitment to marriage and family and helps set high standards for ourselves, but it also perpetuates a lot of unrealistic ideas that ultimately could do anyone a great deal of damage.

    Nowhere in Scripture does it say that 2 broken people come together to create perfection…they are still broken "works in progress" on a good day.

    As an older poster, over celebrating 25 years of marriage this year…Im honestly surprised that younger women would say that marriage making you selfless would not have occurred to them. REALLY? wow. In marriage you will have need for selflessness and forgiveness daily…sometimes hourly.

    There is sweetness, there is love, there is shared faith, but there are meltdowns and disasters with nowhere to run or hide. If you are too idealistic, it is too easy to decide that the marriage "wasn't God's will" and bail. While I dont advocate anyone staying in a marriage in danger or abuse, I still see too many marriages sacrificed to pride and idealism.

    May 24, 2011 at 1:04 am

  11. fantistic. sometimes i wonder if i'm the odd ball out. i did something different. i didn't let my husband complete me. i didn't expect him to be the provider. i didn't expect babies. i didn't want a white picket fence in a suburb with a ford explorer in the driveway. i'm not interested in my 401K or my stock options or propery holdings or whatever it is the rest of the world believes a marrage should be. i just want to love people and i just want to do it with someone who loves as much as i do. i want to be 100% in christ complete. along with my 100% in christ complete husband. to make a 200% stronger super power team that knows only love. i'm glad i'm not the only one :-)

    May 24, 2011 at 6:02 am

  12. Nicely put. You are a great writer.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:59 am

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  14. Alison

    Absolutely wonderful post! Such truth. I’m not even a little bit surprised that such a great post came from Annie :)

    June 29, 2011 at 7:44 pm

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  16. Pingback: What No One Told Me: You’ll Still Be You – Annie Jones, via Good Women Project ***shared by Tammy « iwokeupyesterday

  17. Grace

    This post changed my marriage….and it hasn't even happened yet. Thank you. I think of this every single day and attempt to put as much effort, love and joy into my future husband as possible. I can't thank you enough.

    July 3, 2012 at 1:55 pm

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  19. s.a.

    thank you for this post.

    January 12, 2013 at 11:43 am

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