I sat across from my friend as she rocked her fourth child, a baby girl. The previous three were boys and they ran wild around us as we talked about life, family, and specifically, marriage. She laughed at herself as she thought back to her initial expectations for marriage. I used to think he’d bring home flowers on a regular basis, she said, referring to her husband. But after getting pregnant on their honeymoon, their first year of marriage looked entirely different than either of them expected.
As she shared her own experience, I honestly couldn’t remember what I expected when I got married. I was not the kind of girl that grew up dreaming of my wedding day. I never really thought much about marriage either. But, when I met a handsome Ukrainian named Vitaliy all of that changed. As I planned for my future, I knew I wanted it to include him. Forever. And I didn’t mind if forever started right then and there.
Though talks about marriage began, we soon learned one of the hardest and most valuable lessons of our lives: plans and expectations do not always turn out as we envision them. But, with perseverance and grace, you can pick up the pieces and make something beautiful from the mess.
The reality is that Vitaliy and I started our marriage in a less than ideal situation. A year before we got married his entire family was in a car accident in Ukraine. His mother, father, and younger brother died in the accident, but his two younger sisters survived. The only thing that looked remotely familiar when we got married were the two of us, but even we weren’t the same anymore. We were living in a new part of the country, surrounded by new faces and places, filled with grief, and trying to manage our new roles as husband and wife, along with becoming guardians of Vitaliy’s 16 year old sister. While most couples are soaring in a state of honeymoon bliss, we were deep in the midst of the grieving process and, quite honestly, operating in survival mode. Not only were we grieving the loss of Vitalily’s family, but we were also grieving the loss of the life and future we had envisioned for ourselves.
I understand that my story may not look exactly like yours. And no marriage is the same as the next. I simply hope to ease the hearts of those who may be feeling overwhelmed that marriage has not turned out to be what they expected. You’re not alone. I promise. And there really is hope. Remember, you can make something beautiful regardless of the mess you or life have made of things.
And I know this because we not only survived, but our marriage thrived and has become something beautiful itself. Randy Alcorn paints a unique picture of marriage. The following thought completely changed the way I approached marriage and has helped me keep my expectations in perspective.
Husband and wife must be more than just lovers. They must be comrades, soldiers fighting side by side for the same great cause. They should not only lie down face-to-face, but also stand shoulder to shoulder.
The truth is that my friend’s husband does bring her home flowers just not as often as she originally imagined. Because remember, they are lovers. But the daily grind of managing everyday life will often result in them needing to be comrades – defending, serving, and sacrificing for each other. It’s not easy, but done with perseverance and grace, and you’ll find yourself building something beautiful together, one day at a time.
Originally written for the beautiful Cottage Hill Magazine.