The Work of Marriage

Greg Haygood

Greg Haygood

There are no guarantees in love. Nothing will keep you from waking up one morning and deciding you can’t take another day of dealing with your significant others’ shortcomings or vice versa. There’s no class for that in particular, but there are a whole lot of other measures and preparation one can make for marriage that many seem to skip over.

Nothing about marriage has ever seemed like a fairytale to me. I wasn’t a girl who dreamed of white dresses, maybe because my parents eloped. And I certainly never thought that somehow a husband was going to be some type of superhero that made my life all that it was supposed to be. But I did want to get married and somehow the example set before me prepared me for the fact that it was bigger than one day when emotions were high and the champagne was flowing, but that marriage was a partnership for which you should do your best to prepare.

Recently, it feels like I’ve been seeing people my age run into troubles in their marriages. From fights to separation to full on divorce and it’s troubling. I’m sure many of them were married before I was, which also makes me extremely grateful that I waited until 30. That I didn’t feel some weird pressure to be married by 25 and having my first babies. But it got me thinking about my own journey and the steps that we took before sashaying down the aisle.

Being married is work. There’s no way around that. Trying to ensure that you are on the same page with another whole human being with a different upbringing, different way of thinking and life experiences could not be anything less. Yet, it’s one of those really important types of work where we think we can skip the training. Sure, you’ve dated for however long, but if you haven’t taken the time to talk about the things that marriage actually entails, you are doing yourself a major disservice by thinking that time equates with readiness.

One of the first things that I had to do was find myself. At the time that my husband and I met, I was on a real roller coaster type journey. My long-term relationship was ending and I was grappling for something, anything, because I was sad and miserable and couldn’t even understand why. For me, that manifested in a spiritual journey where I got to learn more about God being present in my life and not just some ethereal thing that I believed to be true. That there was a God and he was concerned with my affairs. And my husband was also on a similar journey after hitting a sizeable speed bump in his own life as well.

In the midst of that journey we got to know one another. With us being so rooted in God, while we were dating, we randomly took a course called His Needs, Her Needs at our church which we had no idea was a class for engaged or married folks. We thought it sounded interested and they allowed us to stay. In it, we started the journey of learning valuable lessons in regard to marriage and how to work as a team and what each of our needs were and the importance of meeting those needs for longevity.

Once we were engaged, it was a no-brainer that we would also take marriage counseling with our pastor. This was another great opportunity to get things out on the table. What were our expectations in a marriage? Because we all have some! We just typically don’t verbalize them and assume that our partners will get them by osmosis. Counseling gives you a safe space to hash it out. It’s not always the easiest convos over dinner or while you’re handling daily life, but I definitely found it helpful to have specific space set aside each week, to explore. We were able to sort out our weaknesses like conflict resolution and our strengths like being self-sufficient individuals with our own life goals as well as those together as a couple.

After being married three years, we called for another counseling session. See training gets you so far, but there will always be on the job lessons that you will have to sort out. I was amazed at how many people were so shocked that Mrs. Obama recounted she and the only president we acknowledge getting counseling in their marriage in her memoir. Again, marriage is hard. Not in this way where you suffer at all times, there are lots of amazing things about it too, but remember the whole, two different people on one accord thing I mentioned earlier? A whole task.

I will continue to ask for help in my relationship when I need it. We don’t have it all together. We’re still working through the things that typically break marriages apart like being on the same page financially, healthy conflict resolution and compromise. But we’re willing to bring in the tools. We’re willing to learn and that has to be within the foundation of any relationship that will not just last, because we know people can stick and stay in some unhealthy mess, but to flourish.

I can’t say where we’ll be ten years from now or even next year. I’m smart enough to know that life is all types of unpredictable. But I will tell you what, if you ever hear that things didn’t work out for me, it won’t be for lack of effort. God remains at the center of this thing for us and honestly, I believe that’s the only way that we’ve even made it this far. I can assure you there were likely times when my husband looked at me and thought, “I don’t know about this, God.” But for the moment, we’re here and I credit that to preparation and two imperfect people who understand that only God’s love is perfect and it is our greatest example.