Marriage Isn't A Dream Come True

Cupcake Wedding CakeI’m a helpless—almost hopeless—romantic. Perhaps it’s just the writer in me, but I’m practically in love with love stories.

While dating, I was constantly on the lookout for my own perfect, poetic love story—something that would knock the socks off of Shakespeare and inspire a blockbuster chick flick (or at least a book similar to The Princess Bride). I wanted one of those “dream come true” relationships—and I would not rest until I found one.

But then I got married…and I woke up to reality.

Turns out, marriage isn’t exactly a “dream come true”—at least not in the way I had imagined.

Instead of traveling the world, my wife and I travel to the supermarket, to work, and to school. Instead of battling foes that seek to divide us, we battle things like taxes and working overtime. Instead of a never-ending supply of adventures, we binge-watch entire seasons on Netflix.

But you know what? Marriage is better than my dreams—because it’s real.

I recently read this quote by Jenkin Lloyd Jones:

There seems to be a superstition among many thousands of our young who hold hands and smooch in the drive-ins that marriage is a cottage surrounded by perpetual hollyhocks, to which a perpetually young and handsome husband comes home to a perpetually young and ravishing wife. When the hollyhocks wither and boredom and bills appear, the divorce courts are jammed.

Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just ordinary people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. . . .

Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.

In a similar way, married love is less like a drive down a perfect, flawless, scenic byway and more like an arduous hike through the Rockies. The hike is definitely harder and more uncomfortable, but reaching the summit is far more rewarding.

Since getting married, I’ve learned that love isn’t always fluffy, cute, cuddly, and perfect. More often than not, real love has its sleeves rolled up, dirt and grime smeared on its arms, and sweat dripping down its forehead.

Sure, our marriage may not be a “dream come true” swashbuckling adventure, but it IS facing our problems lovingly and honestly—together. And waking up to that reality is far better than any dream I might have.

Marriage STILL Isn't For Me — And Neither Is My Life

Marriage Isn't For Me
Me and Kim

Six months ago, I published an article on my blog entitled, “Marriage Isn’t For You.” It was based on some advice that my dad gave me before I got engaged. “Marriage isn’t for you,” he said. “It’s about the person you marry.”

Within days, the article received millions of views, was translated into over twenty languages, and went viral in places like China, Germany, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.

The article was featured and discussed on the Today show, BuzzFeed.com, Daily Mail, Cosmopolitan, MSN Living, Yahoo, Deseret News, Today.com, KSL News, TheBlaze.com, HuffPost Live, HLN, and numerous radio programs. My wife and I appeared on a number of news programs, including Good Morning America and Fox & Friends.

After making some revisions to the article, Shadow Mountain Publishers turned it into a beautiful gift book. Within two days of its official publication (on May 6) the book skyrocketed to the top of the charts on Amazon.com, ranking from #640,650 to #989. It also reached #12 in the category of Marriage, and #13 in Love & Romance.

To this day, I still receive emails from people congratulating and praising me for the article. But amid all the praise, of course there are those who criticize the article. Many claimed that I didn’t know what I was talking about — that I was too young, too naive, or that I hadn’t been married long enough to give advice.

And you know what? They’re right. Kim and I just celebrated our second anniversary. So when it comes to giving marriage advice, I’m certainly not the most experienced or qualified person to speak.

But here’s the thing: It wasn’t my advice that went viral; it was my dad’s. And I wasn’t the person who exemplified the advice; it was my wife who did that. If praise is to be given to anyone, it should be to them. I’m not the hero of this story, and I don’t pretend to be.

However, there has been one repeated criticism of the article that I simply cannot accept. Immediately after my article was published, dozens of other articles sprang up insinuating, to one degree or another, that marriage and your life are purely for you — for your benefit and pleasure. I will tell you right now that that is a lie — probably one of the most damaging lies.

This kind of lie breeds selfishness. And the more selfish we become, the easier it is to fall into habits of lying, cheating, stealing, and breaking promises. Because if each of us is the most important person in our own little world, then why would we ever choose to deny our personal desires?

Some time ago, I embraced this lie. When I did so, I started living a life of addiction, self-centeredness, and isolation so severe that it culminated in a suicide attempt.

But during my recovery I came to understand that my life wasn’t purely my own; I shared it with my family and friends. So I began to let those people back into my life, and the love and friendship that we shared was liberating.

Albert Einstein once said, “A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.”

I believe that. Marriage and love are truly not for you. Neither of them can exist without involving people other than yourself.

If you want to live a rich, full, abundant life, you must love other people—love them with your whole heart and soul.

As my wife Kim said in one of our interviews, “You never lose by loving. You never lose out by choosing to love somebody else.”