I was talking to a friend about dating the other day. And I told her that, while David and I were dating, I had spent so much time overthinking the things that would be trouble in our marriage, if we were to get married. I thought “I bet we’ll fight over this” or “when he does that, it’s going to get on my nerves” or “I think this thing about me will probably drive him crazy.” After much careful thought and consideration, I decided that none of these things were, in fact, deal breakers… and I’m assuming that David decided the same thing because he asked me to marry him a couple months later.
The funny thing about it is that, all those things I had so carefully pondered and sorted out? None of them have been the causes of any of the actual conflict or stress in our lives. The things that have caused tension these past seven months have been things that I never would have said, a year ago, “oh, we’ll probably fight about that,” or “yes, this will probably be hard for us.” They’ve been things I wouldn’t have guessed.
I think few people know what they’re getting into when they get married. I don’t mean that in a negative way at all. I mean it much the same way that I doubt Olympic athletes know what they’re getting into before their first games, parents don’t know what they’re getting into as they head into the delivery room, college freshman don’t understand what they’re getting into after their parents drive off. All of these experiences are good and epic and life altering in the best sense of the world. It’s just that we usually arrive unprepared, despite our most rabid efforts.
Some people would probably see this as a relief. The fact that, ultimately, we all enter into the next life stage unprepared means that maybe we can stop spazzing about it so much. But for someone like me, it’s kind of terrifying. Because I like to plan and prepare. If we’re going to have conflict, I’d like to know what it will be about and also have a minimum of two days to brief, please. If life is going to be stressful, I want to know ahead of time (so we can plan our way out of it, of course). This is not how life works, which is a difficult (and at times devastating) concept for people like me.
But the thing about marriage… the thing about marriage, the thing about life, the thing (I’d imagine) about parenthood, even– is that even though you get all these negative things you weren’t expecting, you get a heck of a lot of positive ones you weren’t expecting, too. All the things I thought I was looking forward to about marrying David–all those things have been nice. But there have been ever so many beautiful things I never planned for or expected. Sitting across from one another at our table, dreaming big dreams for our lives. How it feels to wake up in the middle of the night and (only half consciously) worm your way towards the other person’s warm body. The fire in David’s eyes the first time he saw someone deeply hurt me, the fire that told me this man would go to bat for me in heartbeat. Coming home to a clean house on the most stressful day. The heart-melding intimate-beyond-belief power of reconciliation. You don’t think about those kind of things when you’re dating. You mostly just think about wedding planning, sex and how moving in together will be cheaper.
Really, for me, I think all of this comes down to whether I want to live in my head (with all my preplanned joys and sorrows) or if I want to live in the real world. Whether I think my plan is superior or whether I believe God’s plan for me is good. This is hard. But I’m learning to trust. And I’m learning to be thankful for this life, both where I’m handed bad things I didn’t expect and good things beyond my wildest dreams.
When I think about reality vs. fiction, I always think about the scene in 500 Days of Summer where the guys are talking about girls and one character says that his dream girl would “probably have different hair… be a little bit more into sports. But [my girlfriend] is better than the girl of my dreams. She’s real.” I don’t want to constantly compare reality to the blueprint in my head. I want to believe that this life is better than the reality of my dreams. Because it’s real. Because God gave it to me. Because I get to cry & laugh & breathe through every bit of it. Even the parts that weren’t on my list.