The Wifey and I celebrated three years of marriage yesterday. If there's one key lesson learned in that time, it's this: You never marry the right person. You marry a stranger.
You never marry the right person. That kind of thinking causes marriages to fail for two reasons: One, we believe the person is the "right" person, the perfect person, so when he or she lets us down, our whole world shatters. Or, we believe we can make the person the "right" person (for me) and when we see that he or she isn't becoming that anger and bitterness form, creating a hard heart that eventually leads to a broken marriage.
If you're dating someone and you just want to make sure that they're the "right" person, stop now. Not because they aren't the right person, but because you're not. You're not ready for the joyful work of marriage.
And that's what it is. The Wifey and I have learned, are continually learning, and will learn that we aren't the right people for each other and that we can't make one another the right people. Each day is a practice for us to remember that we are uniquely gifted and flawed, bringing to the marriage great strengths and weaknesses that can build up or tear down. More importantly, each day is a practice of of remembering that we are in some sense strangers to one another, leaning on the the only One who knows us for who we truly are, warts and all. Jesus is the one who we have to look to in order for us to become the people we are truly meant to be and for us to have the marriage we have committed to.
So, whoever you think you know on your wedding day, that is not the same person you're married to one year, three years, or 50 years later. They're a stranger.
You do life together. Real stuff happens. Extreme pet peeves that never could be explained in conversations or seen in dating start to poke out – or even get developed – years into marriage. Babies are born earlier or later than you planned – or never. Jobs are gained and lost. Boxes are packed, unpacked, packed, and unpacked again. Fights that you could never have conjured up in your head take place. Adventures you couldn't dream possible occur.
All of this reveals parts of you that you never knew existed, let alone your spouse. Meanwhile, you're also growing new traits and aspects that were never possible apart from the path that you're on.
Learning this lesson early on in marriage – thanks in large part to couples who mentored us and long lasting marriages we've witnessed, as well as a couple reads, like this here – have given us perspective not only on these three years, but hopefully the decades that come. Nothing is guaranteed; we can't assume that because things are great now that they will continue to be at 25 years "just because." Why? Because we're strangers and not the right people for each other. For some reading this, that may freak you out, but accepting this beautiful truth is one of the most freeing realities you'll ever know.