Great Expectations and Further Falls

I’m embarrassed to admit how quickly the giddy awe of marriage faded for me. How fast my husband went from being someone I anxiously prayed I’d find to some guy in my way. I don’t have an exact date but let’s just say I took the phrase “the honeymoon is over” too literally.

My cynical view of today’s typical newlywed is that many couples love being married more than they love their spouse. They’re in it for the adventure. The adventure wears off and divorce rates go up.

My problem, though not much healthier, was different – I thought the adventure could be better. Let me explain. I am a creative person with a big imagination. I had huge plans before I met my husband.

I wanted to work in a shelter for victims of human trafficking. I wanted to legislate on their behalf. I wanted to be a social justice missionary to forgotten Americans.

I idealized my family’s farm and wanted to work there forever, spending summer nights watching the sun set over wheat fields and shelterbelts. Somewhere in there I also wanted to be a best-selling novelist and live in a cottage on a lake. I wanted to turn that cottage into a writer’s retreat.

I had plans – many of them contradictory – but marrying a reporter and getting a 9-to-5 was not among them. Marriage felt like a downgrade.

I was disappointed.

You wouldn’t know it from my wedding pictures or my marriage blog, but underneath the giddy I’m-in-love smiles there were many days I’d wake up and wonder ‘Am I on the right path? Now I’m stuck here. What would I be doing today if I’d chosen differently?’

I was having a midlife crisis in my 20s!

And then my husband asked, “Do you even like me?” It stopped me cold.

This is the part where I give sage advice so you can avoid the rocky marriage ruts I dealt with. I’m sure you’re expecting recommendations like “do fun stuff together” or “make new dreams that you can share,” “create the adventure you are looking for,” etc. But how about we ditch the self-help answer and just be honest for a second.

I did those things. My husband and I moved out of state, 1500 miles from our home. We set out together to a new place and built dreams. We’ve climbed mountains – literally. We created an adventure that I wouldn’t trade for all the publishing contracts in Manhattan.

That didn’t solve everything.

The answer that I’ve discovered, looking back, is that our culture has misconceptions about disappointment.

Mine is the generation of nobody-loses sports and No Child Left Behind. We fail to grasp that disappointment is not as taboo as we’ve defined it and in fact, is a natural course of life. You don’t need to panic every time something fails to meet your expectations.

I also realized that disappointment happens for a reason.

See, I didn’t miss all the hypothetical lives I’d dreamed up. That’s why creating new adventures didn’t fix my problem. I missed my old self. Getting married removed my favorite parts of me. It removed my independence, confidence and flexibility. It was the loss of identity that disappointed me.

During our wedding rehearsal, the pastor asked us what we wanted to do about the unity candle. You know the drill: the bride and groom each take individual candles and use them to light the center one, signifying their individual lives bonding as one. Some couples leave their individual candles burning after the unity candle is lit, others blow them out.

We blew ours out.

I knew I wanted to make a new identity with my husband. In the two and a half years since the wedding, he and I have become completely new people. My friends commented on the changes – called them improvements. But improvements don’t happen painlessly. Mine grew from a break-down of native stubbornness, an acceptance of change.

Disappointment is a season, just like all the others in Ecclesiastes, and is temporary. If you’re like me, those anxious doubts will fade and one day you’ll wake up with tears in your eyes for the overwhelming love of the man sleeping next to you.

Marriage ain’t all flowers and puppies, but love does contain power and it will transform your life.


Emily Enger is a freelance writer and editor, specializing in agricultural media. She recently relocated from Upstate New York back to her home state in rural Minnesota. Emily is passionate about art, enjoys vegetable gardening, and tolerates cooking when she absolutely has to. She records the comical and sentimental moments in her marriage at her website.


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