The unexpected lesson no-one told me about marriage

My most important lesson after nearly a year

I’ve been married nearly a year & thought I’d write on my biggest (and most unexpected) lesson from the past year.

And it’s this…

Marriage is HUMBLING.

I don’t know exactly if it’s because people don’t talk about it, or I didn’t listen well or if I just somehow missed the memo, but this fact managed to escaped me. And mind you, I didn’t go into marriage without quite a bit of study: academic (I read a lot of books), personal (I talked to a lot of people) and professional (my work brings me in close contact with marriages). And yet somehow, in all that, this one thing that somehow escaped me.

But I can tell you for sure: if you asked me to name one thing I’ve learned in the past year, it’s that marriage humbles — or humiliates — you. (It depends how you take it.)

So I used to think I was a pretty decent guy. I thought so, and most people who knew me thought so too. You probably would have too. And certainly including my wife.

But since being married, I’ve seen myself do and think and say some honestly embarrassing things, things I didn’t think myself capable of. It’s oh-so-tempting, when those things happen, to tell yourself it’s the other person, because anyone who knows you knows this isn’t you.

That’s the problem, of course: they don’t KNOW you, after all, do they? Heck, YOU don’t know you.

Turns out that while we knew each other when we were single, we’re having to learn together who we are as husband and wife. There are surprises — not all of which are pleasant: while the good ones are easy to accept, we’re tempted to pass the blame for the unpleasant surprises.

And so I’ve learned (and am learning) the hard lesson of accepting that this, too, is me. The good, the bad, and yes, the ugly — it’s all me, all of it. And the only reason marriage is bringing these things out of me is because — duh — they were always there to begin with.

I’m also learning it’s not my wife bringing these things out. It’s marriage itself. It’s the nature of the relationship. That’s what it does, this intimate relationship where you commit to share your life with someone and then start to try to figure out what that means. And as it brings out the worse in both of us, we’re left with the choice of what to do with it: resolve it, or run?

Marriage has amazing potential for bringing out the best in you, but first, it’ll bring out your worst. And your worst is not very nice.

One other temptation: people will continue to flatter you. And you’ll be tempted to forget they only see clips of you, not the full movie. We both see it all: the full movie, the deleted scenes — even the director’s commentary (go figure). And we still love what we see in each other.

So when it seems others appreciate me more (and yes, that happens), I remind myself that it’s easy for them to do. They only saw trailers. But even more important: it only “seems”. In the end, it’s nothing to the yes we said to each other and renew on a daily basis.

When people say that marriage is a school that never stops, they’re dead right. They only didn’t add that being a learner is humbling.

So yes, I take my L everyday. And I’m learning to love it. If this is a school, at least I have an amazing classmate.

Anyway, all of this is to say, this whole marriage deal can be hard on your ego. But understand that this is a good thing. It’s part of how you grow. (And when I say ego, I don’t mean guys only. We all have ego, let’s not deceive ourselves. This goes both ways.)

Finally, I realise all of this might not apply to everyone, and that’s okay. It certainly doesn’t apply to abusive situations. But I hope it helps someone out there: if you’re struggling with what you see in yourself in a marriage that’s at least okay, it’s okay.

Don’t fight it. Don’t blame your spouse. And certainly don’t compare them to other “nicer” people who only see trailers of your life. Take your L, wear it like a champ. And perhaps you too will find, as many before you have found, that the L is how a richer love begins.

This piece first began its life as a series of tweets.


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