Marriage won't: make you whole, cure your loneliness, or heal your brokenness
It has been a journey writing this post, people. So many thoughts and so much second-guessing what I want to share. But here it is.
Our fourth anniversary was on May 23, and I knew that I wanted to write something marriage related following that "event". Maybe something about how marriage is different than we imagined (and oh, it is) but then it turned into "notes from an 18 year old bride" and then into "what having a spouse won't do for you" and then it turned out I had a lot of thoughts about the first point alone. (Something I'm slowly learning: I have a lot of thoughts and opinions.)
So, here we are with a little rant about spouses and wholeness and loneliness. Remember these things as you read: I got married at 18. Yes, 18. Yes, still happy with that decision. No, I probably don't recommend it to anyone else. Ha!
Having a spouse will not make you whole. Hear me out on this.
"I've found my other half."
"They complete me."
"Two have become one."
I don't like these phrases.
I mean, I get it. It's romantic. It sounds beautiful. It might even feel true. Finding someone that you can trust to love you and accept you through every season of life is wonderful.
But I'm not convinced it's true and I think we run into problems when we use these phrases. For example, single people of all ages feeling like they are incomplete until they have their life partner. Like they are missing out on life until they have a spouse. Like they are in lack and less than. Like they can't be whole without their "other half".
You don't need a partner to finally be complete. You don't need a partner to be whole. You don't need "your other half" to grow.
You can be whole all on your own.
I know, I know, easy for Mrs. "I've been married for essentially my entire adult life" to say. But let me tell you how I know this.
Marrying Mitch isn't what helped me discover my "wholeness".
Maybe better wording would be "marrying Mitch wasn't what helped me START to discover my wholeness" because I definitely have not arrived yet.
So that begs the question: what did? What started the journey?
Newsflash: Marriage doesn't cure loneliness. Shocker, I know.
Graduating high school, I didn't feel like I had any friends. Grade 12 was a lonely year. The friends I did leave with, I felt like I had because of Mitch. And you wouldn't have known it from looking at me. I seemed like I was friends with everyone in my class, I talked to everyone, I was outgoing and social at school. And then I went home and watched Lost for 4 hours and read for 2 hours and then went to bed... basically every night.
(Total sidenote: if I could give a piece of advice to girls in high school is is this...
Don't make assumptions about your friends who are dating. They are still normal people who need friends. They do have time for you. After dating Mitch for 3 months, my friends informed me that I no longer had time for them, when in fact I could count on one hand how many times that summer they had asked to spend time with me. Without me ever rejecting them to hang out with Mitch instead, they had the assumption that I was busy with him. Until you've asked your friend MANY times to hang out but they are constantly with their boyfriend/girlfriend instead, assume they have time for you. YOU NEED EACH OTHER. BE THERE.)
After high school, I moved away and attended a discipleship school. I wanted to get out of my hometown and find friends. I thought I'd found my people, but discipleship school ended and they disappeared. The community I thought I had around me didn't last.
I had 5 bridesmaids at my wedding. Now, I regularly spend time with 2 of them: my sisters-in-law. (I will always say, "When in doubt, pick the people who will ALWAYS ALWAYS be in your life: your family.) Looking at wedding photos is almost a painful experience because of this, seeing these relationships that no longer exist.
After a time, all these people not sticking around and these friendships not lasting and falling away... well, they take a toll on self-worth.
Thinking about it and sharing it still bring up a lot of shame for me.
"Am I actually that shitty of a person? What is so wrong with me that I can't have a single, deep, lasting friendship?"
I'm still not sure. Maybe I was. Maybe I am. But, I seriously had to wrestle with this for a long time. I’m not done wrestling with them or being broken by them. These questions broke me down for a while - more than anyone would know. But the answers to those questions aren't what mattered. What mattered is where they led me.
They led me to ask questions like:
How can I stop blaming others and instead, take responsibility for the ways I've "failed" and learn from them to grow?
How can I use my experiences to become a better friend to people?
How can I learn to love myself even if I feel completely unlovable to others?
What broke me the most led me to dig the deepest into learning to love myself. This is the journey to greater wholeness.
I still feel like I have no idea how to be a proper friend and I'm deeply insecure about it, but I'm working on it. I'm working on loving others and loving myself. I'm working on discovering my worth and remembering that I have value to add to people's lives. I'm working on having more difficult conversations to avoid drifting away or unresolved issues.
Maybe your thing isn't loneliness, but that's not the key point here. The point is...
Working through our brokenness can lead to greater wholeness.
I recognize that in the middle of this, I was deeply blessed to know that I had ONE person in my corner who I knew had chosen to love me and saw my value. I recognize that I've been privileged to have that support. There's no doubt about it. But that's not what we're discussing here.
What we're discussing is wholeness, and that it (probably) won't come from having a spouse.
Having a husband didn't make me whole. He encouraged me. He loved me. He valued me. He supported me. He was (and is) my best friend. But that's the thing... I needed a best friend, someone to lean on and share my pain with. I didn’t specifically need a spouse. A spouse isn't the only person that can be that for us - at least I hope not.
(Seriously, I hope not. Because he's not enough. He's great and I love him, but he's not enough. We are not enough for each other. And I can't believe we're alone in this feeling. I really hope we aren't. That would be really awkward.)
This all leads me to a new pondering: have we emphasized the love of marriage so much that we've forgotten the goodness of committed and loving friendship? Both are amazing and important, but maybe we have emphasized one too much. A thought for another time.
A spouse won't heal your brokenness. Learning to embrace yourself will... slowly.
And it can be a hard, and slow, and painful journey to get there. (I haven't arrived yet but I'll let you know if I do.) Having people in your corner to support you through it is HUGE but I want to emphasize that I don't think it has to be a spouse. I have a spouse and that wasn't enough.
But, I'm SLOWLY starting to have myself in my corner, and that's kinda cool and empowering. (But, seriously, I haven't made it. I broke down only a few days ago from loneliness and worthlessness so don't count me healed quite yet.)
This is a process.
Why share this all? Who knows, honestly.
It's my hope that anyone who feels like they need a spouse to be whole and healed will find a way to start that journey on their own and learn to lean on a friend. Because we really need to find that healing within ourselves. Or make a friend by starting to lean on them because many of us are looking for meaningful and deep friendships to help us through the tough stuff.
It's my hope that anyone who feels like their marriage has let them down by not fixing their brokenness will know that they are not alone. In fact, I believe it’s normal.
It's my hope that someone would be encouraged to know that even the people who seem put together and confident are fighting battles of their own self-worth. We all are.
It's my hope that we'll all grow in love and grace for one another, and be there for each other. Let's all be supportive of each other.