I met my husband when I was seventeen and he was nineteen on the University of Michigan track team several years ago. We were instantly drawn to each other and my college coaches and teammates were convinced we would get married one day.
Eleven years of marriage later, and I am glad they were right.
Growing up in a traditional Nigerian household, I was taught that marriage and child status are two of the key measures of a woman’s worth. I’ve also learned from women in other cultures that this mindset was not unique to my upbringing.
Now let me be very clear that I am grateful to be happily married to a man I love with a child that I desperately prayed for. I wholeheartedly believe in marriage, and it has benefited my life in more ways than one.
With that, however, it has been a jounery to unlearn some of the false narratives surrounding marriage that I internalized.
I’ve gone into detail about why we should never “womb watch” (read this blog) so I won’t harp on that here. But when it comes to marriage, in adulthood I’ve had to reframe my perspective to release a lot of misconceptions that I didn’t even realize I carried.
1) Marriage can be celebrated without being idolized.
There is a clear distinction between praising the commitment between two people, and placing it on an unrealistic or unattainable pedestal. I know growing up that many of us internalized the nebulous idea of a fairy tale love story and I was convinced that getting married was the ultimate prize.
That is, until I got married.
And I realized that getting married to the RIGHT PERSON is the ultimate jackpot and this is a lesson I will teach my daughter.
I believe if we place less of an emphasis on the wedding day, and more on the actual marriage, it will help people remember what’s truly important at the core. Being happily married is the ultimate flex.
2) Marriage can be incredible, but it’s not your spouse’s job to make/keep you happy.
That’s an inside job. This goes back to placing marriage on so high of a pedestal that you think it will be some sort of cure all. Going into marriage believing it is the answer to every issue will not only set you up for disappointment, but it is unfair to your spouse to shoulder that responsibility.
For example, when we suffered from recurrent miscarriages before conceiving our daughter, I was in a very sad place. I don’t cavalierly throw out the term “depressed” because I don’t necessarily know if I would’ve qualified as clinically depressed, but Lord knows that was a tough period of my life. Although I am eternally grateful for my husband’s love and support, there was often a limit to what he could do to make me feel better. And it wasn’t his job to do so. But it took that period for me to have a better understanding of my unrealistic
expectations and the true responsibilities of a partner.
3) Married women should focus more on nurturing their relationship instead of comparing themselves to others.
This includes comparing our marriages to what we see on social media, or even worse, thinking we’re better than our single counterparts. I bet those “relationship goals” couples on IG aren’t telling you how many disagreements they’re having behind closed doors. And they shouldn’t, because that’s none of our business. Conversely, they may be incredibly happy and genuinely living in bliss. And again, that is none of our business.
I am a believer of comparison being the thief of joy and I understand that it’s more useful for me to spend my efforts watering my own grass than to worry about anyone else’s.
Life motto (with track pun intended): stay in your own lane, and perfect the race that God specifically placed before you.
4) Being single is not a “curse” and can be a great opportunity for self-improvement and preparation.
Now I get that some folks may think I’m speaking from a place of privilege, and that’s fair. But I’ve always said that I believe your spouse choice is one of the most important life decisions you’ll make, so rushing into it or forcing it will have a profound impact on all areas of your life.
I know what it feels like to want something so badly and feel like it’s taking too long, just to be on the other side of that wait with an understanding of what was being prepared for you.
Easier said than done, I know, but focusing on ways to better yourself reguardless of which season you’re in will bode well for when you’re ready to receieve your blessing.
5) Having a strong foundation will equip you for when (not if) challenges arise in marriage.
I don’t necessarily believe that marriage should be “hard” work, but I do think it needs to be worked on continuously. My marriage is not perfect, and I hope I never give off the image that it is. But I am proud of it, and grateful that these two imperfect people are creating our very own version of perfect.
What one couple may see as huge challenges may be trvial to another couple, so I do believe problems are relative. But still problems nonetheless. Ensuring your communication, understanding, and appreciation are strong will equip you for when issues arise and make it that much easier to overcome them.
Case and point: having a deep appreciation of my husband being so hands on with our daughter makes me a little less annoyed at him leaving his shoes in the hallway instead of the mudroom like we’ve discussed several times. This literally happened today.
It’s give and take. So instead of nagging about the shoes, I quietly (with a bit of an eye roll) put them away myself while he was upstairs giving our daughter a bath. I’ve found there’s an art to knowing which battles to fight.
Humility and gratitude will take you places that pride and entitlement can never.
This is true for life in general, and particularly important in marriage. Life can have a way of humbling you whether you’re prepared or not, so I’m learning to approach every day with a sense of appreciation.
No one, including my husband, owes me anything, and this realization has helped keep me grounded. I would also encourage you to ditch any sense of entitlement, and never let pride hinder you from being the upgraded version of yourself, whether you’re married or not.