Most of the time, I am lost in the bustle of raising a family, tending to a needy house, catching the latest episode of Smash, writing a blog, serving in my church . . . I’m sure this list is familiar to you!
Then I fall asleep one night wondering why I don’t feel fulfilled.
For me, fulfillment comes when I’m looking for it. When I slow down. Simplify my life. Breathe. Pray. Think. Preparing this post helped me see how much I benefit from my marriage, and my hope is that reading this post will help you, too, find fulfillment in yours. And if you’re not married, here is a glimpse into a few of less talked-about benefits you can look forward to!
1. The way you think and see the world will be challenged.
I’ll be the first to admit that this doesn’t always feel like a “benefit.” The day Ryan and I met, I was a pretty conventional thinker. I was raised with a healthy dose of manners and propriety. I kept rules because they were rules, rarely questioning authority—no matter how minor the “authority” was. (I used to read posted park rules before entering any park!) For as much as our upbringings were similar, Ryan was (in my mind) an unconventional thinker. He evaluated the reasons behind everything and only cared about rules or conventions if he agreed with the reasoning behind them. Where I would see a couple of sides to an issue, he would see a dozen. Where I would go along with things, he would stir the pot.
I think it goes without saying that this was challenging for us. The adjustment involved plenty of family dinners or conversations with friends where I would wonder why he couldn’t just go with the grain for once! But a handful of years later, I can honestly say that I like seeing the world in more shades than I did the day we met. I evaluate issues and situations from more angles, and on occasion, I even find myself stirring the pot for no good reason at all!
What I can’t say is exactly how your partner’s world view will rub off on you. All I can do is offer my story as an example and and assure you that—even if it’s uncomfortable—change is good.
2. Tastes, preferences, and sense of humor assimilate over time.
And thank goodness they do!
After a few years, you might find that the same entrées on a restaurant menu stand out to both of you. You music tastes may overlap more. Maybe you’ll share an increased interest in politics and religion, giving you more to talk about. I can almost guarantee you’ll laugh at more of the same things. (Don’t even get Ryan and I started narrating our kids’ actions before they can talk! We are hilarious!) Heck, I even cycle the air conditioning in the car now! Noticing the ways you have assimilated with your spouse can help smooth over some of the differences every couple has.
3. You learn who you can control (i.e. yourself).
From small, non-threatening offenses like leaving wet towels on the floor to heavier marital issues, we learn fast that we can’t bend anyone else’s will to our own. When you finally give up on “correcting” this particular habit or “solving” that particular character flaw, all you can do is look inward. We grow as we confront our own habits and flaws, and we grow as learn to forgive and become slower to cast blame.
4. Someone will know you almost better than you know yourself.
Let’s say your husband knows you’ll want to bring a well-stocked purse on a family outing to ride the train. Then when the two of you are lugging two kids, a double stroller, a few jackets, AND a diaper bag up the stairs from the underground train, he knows you’ll wish you hadn’t brought that darn oversized purse. So he warns you before you even leave the house—and if you’re wise (and not proud, like me), you’ll take his advice and have one less thing weighing you down.
I also find that, from time to time, Ryan has a better sense of how I’ll handle a situation than I even do. (Certainly not all the time, but it does happen!) Sometimes he sees me more clearly than I see myself, and his perspective is often spot on when I need to make a decision.
5. Your dreams will multiply.
I saved the best for last. Merging your life with another means getting double the dreams. Then those dreams grow and change over the years as you and your spouse flesh out the vision you have for your family. Sure, it takes some negotiation to figure out how to pursue your individual dreams as a couple, but encouraging each other to chase them and gradually seeing a few fulfilled is incredible.
If there is one thing I have learned in my six and a half years of marriage to my opposite, it is that this relationship is shaping me. It’s not always a walk in the park, but I treasure the good and trust that Someone with a perspective much broader than mine can see where this is going.
I hope you’re enjoying the journey too!
Which one of these benefits stood out to you the most? You know I love to hear!
* A couple of notes. First of all, sorry my writing is so grounded in personal experience. I don’t think my friends would like it very much if I described their marriages on here! But thankfully, my husband doesn’t mind for a second, so you’re stuck hearing plenty about us. Thanks for reading anyway! Second, I know this list applies no matter the status of your committed relationship. (It even applies to a deep friendship!) I talk about marriage simply because it is what I know. Well, that, and I like it! If you haven’t already read it, feel free to hop back to see my 5 Things that Make Marriage Hard (But Worth It).