I recently read an article titled "Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person" — and it intrigued me. I've never really heard this statement from anyone other than those who are suffering in the current state of their marriage.
It seems as though this thought is the go-to statement when things get tough and someone wants out of a marriage. It was definitely my go-to thought when I was a struggling young bride.
My husband, Greg, and I had been married less than six months when we began to struggle in our marriage relationship. We had been so anxious to get married and enjoy our life together that when things didn't seem to be working out blissfully, we both began to wonder if we'd married the wrong person. I've since come to understand the truth that can be found in this statement because, as it turns out, we all marry the wrong person.
The truth exposed
When we fall in love and choose our spouse, it's amazing how that special man or woman suddenly has the ability to bring all of our flaws to the surface. You know, the imperfections we work so hard to protect and keep hidden. It's uncanny how we can work diligently to present only the best of who we are when we are dating, and then suddenly that special someone in our world can begin to expose the issues we've brought with us from childhood — and the selfish ways we tend to interact in relationships. Daily interactions have a way of revealing the weaknesses we never displayed prior to saying "I do."
It's easy to keep our character flaws covered up when we aren't living in the most intimate covenant relationship on earth — marriage. When we are dating, we put our best foot forward and work to cover up our wounds. But married life has a way of exposing us. Our spouse suddenly has the ability to make our flaws and struggles appear. And we don't like it. I know I sure didn't like it.
Candidly, I knew my flaws were there, but I didn't know exactly what to do about them. So I worked especially hard to cover up my imperfections. Amazingly, it didn't take long for Greg to begin to "help me" display these issues in our relationship. Of course, I had the same effect on him — he had issues, too. We all do.
Working with the truth
So there I was, six months into my marriage, dreaming of how I could run away and return to my mom. I was a 24 year-old woman who was scared to death. I hadn't heard anyone talk about this part of marriage, and I couldn't decide if the problem was all me, or all Greg. In light of the fact that Greg was the son of world-renowned marriage expert Gary Smalley, I concluded that it must be me. And this led me to find a counselor.
I knew the process was probably going to hurt because I desired to change several of my well-worn habits. And, as strange as it sounds, I needed to refocus because, in a feeble effort to comfort myself with something familiar, I was subconsciously recreating some of the dysfunction I grew up with.
After just a few weeks of counseling, I began to realize that my flaws weren’t the only source of our marital stress; Greg brought his own baggage into our marriage as well. He brought his own imperfections into our marriage. As I began to understand who I was and what I brought to the relationship, Greg also began to understand who he was and what he brought to the relationship. Counseling proved to be the scariest and the greatest thing for me. Greg and I had to throw out the notion that marriage was always going to be as magical as Disneyland. We made peace with the reality that there would be Main Street, U.S.A. moments in our relationship. Still other times we could expect to feel like we were on the Matterhorn Bobsleds — hanging on for dear life.
So, if you catch yourself saying, "I married the wrong person," I challenge you to take the focus off your spouse and put it back on yourself. (Please note that this article is not referring to an abusive marriage; it's written about marriages that are experiencing a difficult season.) Your husband or wife is clearly revealing something about you that isn't comfortable because you would prefer that part of who you are to remain concealed.
Pray and ask the Lord what He would have you do to help your current marriage situation. You, too, may find that you are headed into counseling. Focus on the Family has resources and counseling to help you and your family. You can contact us Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Mountain time) at: 800-A-FAMILY (232-6459) or help@FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Take hope in knowing that it's not always about the person you married, but it's often about the person you can change in your marriage — you.
Erin Smalley serves as the Program Manager of Marriage Ministries at Focus on the Family and is the co-author of Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage.
*Based on research and experience from Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley, Focus on the Family has created valid and reliable questions that evaluate the strength of your marriage. Take our free assessment now.