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Reader Responses: What I Wish I’d Known Before I Was Married

In a recent article, Dave Boehi wrote about “Five Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Was Married.” He invited readers to submit their own thoughts on this topic; following are their responses:


Always put your relationship with the Lord first and foremost!

You can’t change your spouse, only God can. 

Sometimes you will have a tough time with in-laws and understanding them but forgiveness and understanding is key.

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Because it’s not always so obvious, it might bear mentioning: even in the most loving marriage—and obviously in trying marriages—marriage is hard. It takes work. It takes effort on the part of each individual involved. Especially when kids and life come along and get in the way—it’s very easy to slip into “partners in the business of life” mode; but similar to “never stop enjoying each other” is the equally critical, “never stop improving your commitment to your spouse and your marriage.”

We struggle each year to find time to go over our life goals, reviewing how far we have (or in some cases, haven’t) come, but it is worth the effort. Just like spending quiet time with God on a daily basis, if you push it to the back burner the relationship will suffer and blessings will be missed.

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I have found that most of our heartache and tears are self imposed.  Many because of bad expectations created by our culture and expectations of our own pride.  I believe that if a true biblical understanding of marriage is presented to young people before they are married then there is less heartache and tears, everyone still has to deal with their own pride.

Second:  Marriage does not mean you get to have sex any time you want it.  This is a major misconception generated by our culture, it is quite false and creates a lot of heartache and tears.

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I understand that every marriage is different, and not every piece of advice is appropriate for every couple across the board.  So here are my thoughts, simply based on my own personal journey. And I’m not unpacking all of my thoughts and personal experiences in this email or it would be too long of an email.  So here I go.  I WISH PEOPLE KNEW...

Healing takes time.  My husband and I have a marital journey that maybe someday we will tell others.  We’ve had tons of hurt, including a separation which lasted a little more than 2 years—and both of us were homeless at different points (in our individual journeys with God) during that separation.  It’s a miracle that after 2 years of separation God brought us back together and continues to magnificently redeem and bless our marriage!  I found it interesting that after we got back together, people asked me how we are doing and seemed surprised when I did not respond with an answer of “Fantastic!”  My friends were surprised when I told them that the healing takes time.  So sad that my generation believes that they must pursue personal happiness at all costs, with instant gratification.

Your spouse has secrets that you don’t know about.  During courtship and dating, I believed I was getting to know Chris.  My hard reality was that I didn’t get to start knowing my husband until after we were married.  I definitely had my times of thinking, “Wow, I didn’t say, ‘I do’ to dealing with this, did I?”  Many of my I do’s quickly became I don’ts.  The problems and imperfections that my spouse had in life were becoming mine to deal with (and vice versa).

Parenting is important, and full-time moms rock!  I used to be the vice principal of a private school.  I decided to go back to being a full-time mom while I have the chance.  I feel the world’s pressure trying to convince me that my personal value and worth is LOW because I’m just a full-time mom.  During graduate school, nobody told me that many, many girls grow up to be stay-at-home mommies (and praise God for the husbands who work so hard to support it!).  It is a wonderful job.  I wish that people would let go of the pressure that women have to be fast-paced career-focused.  Little kids need their mommies.     

Marriage is more about our one-on-one relationship with Christ than our one-on-one relationship with our spouse.  For me it was a hard reality to learn, because for so long I was equating the quality of my marital relationship to the quality and depth of God’s love and care for me.  Now I see that the truth is that God does His work in my individual life...through marriage (and parenting). 

Becoming one does not mean it’s good to be completely transparent with each other at all times.  I used to think that marriage should mean complete transparency at all times.  I have learned it is actually not the case.  Setting good marital and good personal boundaries has brought a breath of fresh air into our marriage.

So that’s that.  Due to our separation, and getting back together, and moving, and job change, and etc., it’s been a lot of transition, moving, personal expense, financial expense, you name it.  But it was necessary for the growth.  Amen!

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Here are my 5 pieces of advice for newly engaged couples from a marriage of 13-plus years:

1. Marriage is not about being “in love.” It is about working together with a partner for the rest of your lives, in good times and in bad, regardless of how you “feel.”

2. Your marriage is not a one and one commitment, it is a one and one and One covenant between you, your spouse and God. Remember to keep Him first and foremost and He will help you weather the storms of life.

3. You will have bad times as well as good. It is in those bad times that you can turn to God to help you stand as a couple and bend in the winds of trial.

4. Always remember that your spouse is human, too, and prone to the same faults and failures you are. We all make mistakes and we can all learn to forgive.

5. Bless each other daily. It may be as simple as pouring a cup of coffee for him/her, making a breakfast when they don’t have time, or giving him/her a big hug/kiss when they come home from a hard day, but bless each other in both big and small ways every day.

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I have been a widow for several years, but have some thoughts to share with young people who are planning on marrying.

First and foremost, marriage is a full time job ... it must be always tended like a fire in the fireplace so that it will keep burning well.  Each person should do their best always—I believe believe relationships are 100/100, not 50/50.  I must give my all to make it the best that I can.  There are times when one or the other will not feel well or is having some job stress or some other problem, that is when the spouse will step forward to give more so that all will go well.

Second, foreplay does not begin at the bedroom door.  If you wait until then, it is already too late.  Foreplay involves all the special touches, edifying words, smiles, special glances across a room, holding hands, sharing tasks in the kitchen, secret pats ... for all the time you are together during the day or evening.  That makes the time in the bedroom—or wherever you choose to enjoy each other—so much better.   One cannot expect someone to “turn on” just because you turn the light out...it’s a continual giving and sharing that makes it all wonderful.

I must admit that I miss the tenderness and closeness.  Perhaps God, in His wisdom, will provide that for me again.  

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Hosea 6:6 says, “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice …
Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Matthew 9:13: says, “But go and learn what this means; ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’…

Just as God wants us to LOVE being loyal to Him; therefore we have to start any relationship with this in mind:

I have to LOVE being loyal to my spouse,
I have to LOVE being loving to my spouse,
I have to LOVE being respectful to my spouse,
I have to LOVE being faithful to my spouse,
I have to LOVE being obedient to my spouse,
I have to LOVE being considerate to my spouse,
I have to LOVE being married to my spouse,
I have to LOVE being  … you get the picture.

Not out of obligation only, but out of LOVE for my spouse.

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I wish I had known:

  • My husband would turn out to be so insensitive.
  • I would be so lonely.
  • Passion means more than knowledge.
  • I would be so lonely in my marriage.

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What I would tell couples or young couples who are preparing to marry:

1. Do not think that marriage will change your partner to whom you want them to be. If who you fall in love with isn’t who and how you like when you marry to spend the rest of your life with. Don’t expect them to be. You can’t fix them. You cannot change that person. This fact will never change

2. It is very important to always lift up your spouse in every way. To know that a true relationship means that you will always support your spouse and be there for them when tough times roll around. Because they do.

3. And to know how very important it is know your potential spouse’s love language and utilize that love language to the fullest. Having this wisdom is profound in a lasting marraige. Whether it is physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, doing tasks for them. This love language information is pivotal in a long lasting relationship. This kind of love is received to the fullest. This fact will never change.

4. Always study your partner and learn their likes and dislikes. Never stop giving your time and attention. Never stop courting your bride or groom. Do the special little gifts and flowers and little love notes to one another. Remembering how these little things make you feel during a courtship and continuing them all throughout your marriage will pay huge dividends to each other. People and the world say that love dies down and life becomes a routine. Always know that your spouse is a precious gift from God, knowing this and living it will build a very strong foundation of a lifelong commitment.

I could write many more as I live these in my marriage and wish the world would catch on to these simple concepts that do nothing but bring us closer to our spouses, a oneness towards one another that always keeps our Lord at the center of our marriage.

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I would advise not to forget about manners between each other. “Please” and “Thank you” go a long way to getting along. Also, try not to use the accusations, “You never do this or that” or “You always do that.” And the word “whatever” is so annoying! Try not to blow each other off. Give value to what the other is trying to say to you. The biggest thing is to listen to each other. You married each other, why would you not want to hear what they have to say?

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I would tell them to remember that neither one of us is perfect. Only the God we serve is perfect. So don’t expect perfection from him or her accept the fact that they are doing their best with what they have.

I would also tell them to keep their minds focused on one another at all times. Don’t let the distractions of this world gain their attention. When you think something looks good on the outside you have to begin again to find out what’s really on the inside.

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Thank you for giving me this opportunity to write to you about this topic. My husband and I have been married 30 years and now our daughter, who is 26, is newly engaged. My husband always stressed that we go away without the children every year. We were fortunate enough to be able to do this most years because of our family. That the children needed to see their parents investing in their marriage and for them to spend time with their grandmother / Aunt which has turned out to be such a positive for them as well. Also to have a united front as much as possible when disciplining them. Especially teenagers because the children will try to come between you both.

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This may sound silly, but I wish I had known that he wasn’t going to change stinky diapers. What I didn’t know about my husband was that because of a failed previous marriage where he was expected to do just about everything, he entered our marriage with the idea that he would do absolutely nothing (nothing inconvenient, at least.)

For instance, he puts up a fuss if I ask for something, but as long as it’s on the way to something that he is planning to do, he will oblige. We’ve been married eight years now, and I’ve lowered my expectations in some areas, but it is a source of constant frustration that he struggles in this selfish way.

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#1 - I wish I had known that there were marriage conferences that specialize in encouraging growth within the marriage.

#2 - I wish I had known how to resolve conflict without saying the wrong things or hitting below the belt.

#3 - I wish I had known exactly how to put God in the center of our marriage by praying daily together and reading the Bible daily.

#4 - I wish I had known how to communicate effectively with my spouse by being respectful.

#5 - I wish I had known how to forgive generously and quickly.

Fortunately, I do know these things now and as me and my husband put them into practice, we are learning how to have a wonderful, thriving marriage. 

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A. Get to know your partner’s top 5 needs and share your top 5 needs with him/her.  That way you can work on always meeting those needs first since they are most important for your spouse.

B. Marriage is an ongoing commitment that one has to constantly work at.

C. Keep this priority in order: God first, my spouse second and then the kids.

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Forget perfect.

Need to celebrate the goods things that you have together as it is all too easy to get caught up in the not perfect life situations.

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My husband and I were in ministry and waited for many years to find “God’s will and best.” When we married my husband was 43 and I was 47.  It has taken us 2 years of marriage to understand that people’s opinions and suggestions are just that … opinions and suggestions.  We knew about that in ministry, but overlooked that our marriage had to take on its own culture and norms that we as a couple would create.  It took us 2 years to undo all the suggestions and subtle hints [from people who said that marrying] later in life would make our marriage and lives together more difficult as we were “two strong people used to doing everything by ourselves.” We are so in love and none of the things people told us has proved true … we have found our path, our love and our “family culture.”

If I were to add one thing more to your list, it would be listen carefully to advice that comes from the outside of your own home and relationship.  Talk together, hold on to the good, discard the rest.

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Be truthful—don’t keep any secrets. The other person should know everything about you before marriage. A person falls in love with what they see and know. If you hold back (even the ugly stuff) you’re deceiving the other person—they fall in love with someone they didn’t truly know.

Eventually the ugly stuff will surface even if it’s many years later and the other person will be terribly hurt and confused. We must learn to trust God and take that leap of faith and just be truthful with one another. “Love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8.

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Say I love you to each other every day.

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I think another important thing is that time together needs to be treated as sacred time.  It should come second to only God and that all others (including family) take third place.  The time does not have to be long or over a weekend, but it should be dedicated to focusing on each other.  This was lightly touched on in premarital counseling, but after attending a Weekend to Remember Conference, it became clear to us that we needed to devote more time to each other and focusing on our marriage instead of just letting time pass by without growing.

When we look back at the past 5 years of our marriage, what comes to mind are the happy times we have spent just the two of us, focused on each other. 

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As little girls we are conditioned on the idea of a fairy tale life: “…and they lived happily ever after.” I think too many times those little girls grow up expecting the fairy tale they heard so much about when they were little. When reality hits and they realize life (marriage) is not really the fairy tale they thought it would be. They think that something went wrong and they made a mistake: “Maybe I didn’t really marry ‘Prince Charming’ after all. Maybe I married the wrong person.” So the marriage ends in divorce and she sets out to once again look for the Prince Charming who is supposed to make all her dreams come true.

Marriage is WORK! Marriage is compromise and sacrifice. It can end in happily ever after, but not without a lot of heartache and tears in between. Please tell young women this—start at the teen years.

It’s okay to disagree and it’s okay to argue. This is normal!

Thank you for the thoughts on selfishness. This is so true and a very hard one to accept in a marriage. It’s definitely one that I wish I had known before hand.  

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I wish I had known how much work marriage was going to be, so I wouldn’t have approached it so casually.

My wife and I are blessed to come from two very strong marriages—our parents are married 50 and 49 years, respectively, and still going strong. The problem is that I didn’t see the work that went into it. I just assumed you’d come together and things would just ... happen. It took a lot of grinding and colliding -- and finally arriving at #4 -- before it began to really make sense.

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Personally, I wish I had known that the person I was about to marry was not telling me the truth and that all of my hopes and dreams for the future were about to be crushed.  I had made it clear what kind of life and ministry I wanted through my home and family and he pretended to want all of that too. All of the pretending ended abruptly as soon as we were married.  Now I know he not only lied about all of that, he continually lies to me about things large and small.  It is really difficult to be married to someone you just can’t believe.

I also wish someone had told me that it was okay to back out [before the wedding].  I had a funny feeling, but nothing to base it on.  Hindsight tells me it was probably the Holy Spirit saying “don’t do this.”  But I felt like too many people had invested too much for me to back out for “no good reason.”    I thought it was probably just cold feet. 

I have been married 10 years and I’m not going to leave, but I am sorry every day.  I’m sure that’s not the kind of answer you were hoping for, but it is what I wished I knew.

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What I would tell a couple on the verge of being married is this:

There will be times during your marriage that you can and will be so discouraged, or so angry, or so heartbroken that all you want to do is give up.  Don’t.  Surrender yourself and your marriage completely to Jesus. 

Do not hold anything back.  Adopt a mantra and brand it into your mind.  Thanks to a wonderful pastor, mine was, “divorce is not an option.”  If that is your mindset, you’ll find your way. 

Stick with your mate even when you don’t want to, and even when your “friends” tell you that you should leave or you “have a right to leave.”  You absolutely do not have such a “right.”  And, you will learn that those who urge (tempt?) you to leave aren’t your friends.  Not in Christ, anyway. 



If you’re courageous enough to stick it out—and I promise you that you will be in Christ who will strengthen your every thought and step, you will find your reward on the other side of the discouragement and pain.  What waits for you is a bond made stronger through adversity, a love made sweeter by your unwavering commitment and your sincerest efforts to make your marriage work, and an added bonus of a completely different perspective about yourself.  You’ll find that it really isn’t about you at all.  Instead of praying, “Lord, please change my spouse,” you’ll find yourself praying, “Lord, please change me.”

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Remember, you are a role model. In our culture we forget that it is NOT just about us.  When you commit your life to your God and your spouse there are people looking - parents, grandparents, friends, coworkers, neighbors and eventually your children, your legacy.  They are watching.  Ask our Lord to lead, bless, provide and sustain your commitment and love for each other, not only for you, but to be a beacon in this world.

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This is my second marriage and I wish I’d known and/or recognized that she is codependent with her 30-something, irresponsible son.  In the little over five years of our marriage, she has separated from me several times for a total of over three years to “help” her son because I finally told her that I was not going to support him financially or allow him to live with us every time he lost his job, which was frequently.  She refuses to get professional help and is currently living with one of her sisters, is unemployed, and calls or comes by on a weekly basis to get money for gas and other things.  I suspect that some of that money, although small amount since I don’t give her much, is still getting funneled to him.  She is constantly taking care of her grandchildren because both the parents (divorced) are irresponsible. 

I have read Boundaries and now Boundaries in Marriage several times and am making progress on the areas of myself I need to fix, including stopping being a “rescuer,” a character flaw I seem to have.  I have also recognized that I failed to confront her own irresponsibility early on because of the home environment I grew up in where my parents were constantly arguing and fighting, which has made me shirk from confronting people, whether in my personal life or at work.  It’s going to be an extended process but, with God’s help and leading, I feel that I will “fix” my own character flaws.  I can only pray for my wife at this point that God will send the Spirit to bring her back to Him and me.

I wish I had taken the time to examine my expectations for marriage, future and roles and discussed them with my future spouse. And I wish I had been brave enough to face changing my wedding plans based on what my future spouse’s response to that discussion revealed.

I also wish that I had seriously considered the weight of modeling on my future spouse from his family. I learned the hard way that no matter a person’s claim that they don’t want to be like a parent, when the rubber hits the road we all fall back on what we saw enacted at home, to some degree. Our childhood does impact our life views.

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My life being married has really been tough because of drinking and not wanting to see the other’s side of things.  One big thing I have learned is putting God in our lives in the beginning sure would have made things easier to understand.  If you are looking at getting married in the future, don’t take for granted that special person you want to have in your life forever, because the first time you do it will make things extra hard.  I am very lucky my husband and I have found God and put him in our lives and he has helped with understanding each other and ourselves.  Now we have been married for 11 years and many thought we’d never make it and to know we have and still are in love is all that matters to us.  But we wouldn’t have if we hadn’t put our faith in our Lord and Savior.



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