I've been thinking a lot lately about what couples should know before they get married. For one thing, I've been making some updates and revisions on FamilyLife's Preparing for Marriage workbook, which is used by thousands of pastors and counselors around the country each year for premarriage counseling. In addition, my younger daughter, Missy, was married recently. As a parent you think of all the things you should tell a child before marriage, and nothing ever seems to be enough.
When Merry and I were preparing to be married, we went through counseling and got a lot of good advice. But there are some important things that we did not fully understand. So if I were talking with a premarried couple, here's what I'd tell them about the "Five Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Was Married":
#1: Marriage is not all about you. It's not about your happiness and self-fulfillment. It's not about getting your needs met. It's about going through life together and serving God together and serving each other. It's about establishing a family. It's about committing your lives to each other even though you may be very different in 10, 20, or 40 years from the people you are now.
#2: You are about to learn a painful lesson — you are both very selfish people. This may be difficult to comprehend during the happy and hazy days of courtship, but it's true, and it shocks many couples during their first years of marriage. It's important to know this revelation of selfishness is coming, because then you can make adjustments for it, and you will be a lot better off.
#3: The person you love the most is also the person who can hurt you the deepest. That's the risk and pain of marriage. And the beauty of marriage is working through your hurt and pain and resolving your conflicts and solving your problems.
#4: You can't make it work on your own. It's obvious that marriage is difficult — just look at how many couples today end in divorce. This is why it's so critical to center your lives and your marriage on the God who created marriage. To make your marriage last for a lifetime, you need to rely on God for the power and love and strength and wisdom and endurance you need.
#5: Never stop enjoying each other. Always remember that marriage is an incredible gift to be enjoyed. Ecclesiastes 9:9 says, "Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun."
Enjoy the little things of life with your spouse: the food you enjoy together at home or in restaurants...the movies you like...the little inside jokes nobody else understands except for you...the times you make each other laugh...the games you play together.
And focus on making memories together: Plan special dates and weekend getaways. Make sure you reserve time for each other after you have kids. When you are old, you won't look back and remember how great it was to buy that new furniture or watch that great show on television. You're going to remember what you did together and saw together and created together.
How about you? If you were talking to an engaged couple about what you wish you'd known before marriage, what would you say? Write down your thoughts in the comments section below.