We’ve been married for a month, back from our honeymoon for about two weeks, and slowly getting back to normal (whatever that is). Since the wedding, several people have asked me variations of the same two questions:

  • Was your wedding everything you dreamed of?
  • Does it feel any different now that you’re married?

Simple questions on the surface, and I think most people who ask them mean well but also expect a two-word answer: Of course! But me being me, I have to analyze and reflect on this a bit…

To say I didn’t dream about my wedding from the time I was old enough to have crushes (5th grade, for the record) would probably be slightly disingenuous. But those dreams were usually more about marrying whomever I was crushing on at the moment than about the table runners and centerpieces I would have. In college when I finally started dating my first boyfriend, I would occasionally add photos of wedding dresses and cakes to a private Facebook album (this was pre-Pinterest, people) but I never really got attached to anything. As the years went on and one relationship after another fell apart, I stopped caring about where and how I would get married and wondered (with increasing desperation) whom or even if I would marry.

As an aside, I’m not sure exactly when and how marriage ended up on the pedestal I put it on for most of my early to mid-20’s. I did grow up in a conservative religious background that preached abstinence ’til marriage and frowned on dating in favor of “waiting for God’s best [to magically fall out of the sky while you’re reading the Bible]” (commentary mine). I also grew up in a culture that had just about zero emotional vocabulary for my unrequited desires and craving for affection. And eventually I found myself surrounded by friends one, two, and four years older who married early or at least “on time.”

But I’m not looking to blame anyone. I just want to look back upon my 15 and 17 and 24-year-old selves, who gazed toward this moment I’m in now and asked eagerly, “Is it everything we’re dreaming of? Will we feel any different once we’re married?”

Sorry, my dears. No. No and no and no.

Marriage will change you, or so I’m told. (I’m still new here.) But getting married won’t magically change how you feel about yourself. It won’t suddenly make you more confident or secure. It won’t keep you from feeling lonely or unloveable.  It won’t make you forget past wrongs or help you forgive those who hurt you. It won’t make you more patient, kind, selfless, humble, or loving. It won’t take all your problems away, or even just the selection of problems that you think are due to your singleness. It won’t make you happy with your life. (Replace every “it” with “he” just for good measure.)

Because you know what?

You’ve gotta make all those changes and tackle those problems yourself. And you’ll have to do the bulk of that work before you even meet your husband because it’s a lot harder (for you in particular) to do that when someone’s around for you to lean on a little too heavily. (You know which someone I’m talking about, or you will eventually understand whom.) Being in the kind of relationship that leads to marriage isn’t going to get rid of your issues…it’s going to pull all the junk up to the surface.

But you know what else?

Marriage is worth the heavy lifting. Because the wedding is just the beginning. You’re going to sort through the most salient junk in preparation for joining your life to another human being. (He’s wonderful, by the way, and everything you don’t know to ask for right now.) But being in close proximity (physical or otherwise) to that wonderful human being is going to keep pulling ugly things to the light…and then you can work on it with support and nurturing. You’re going to practice being patient, kind, selfless, humble, and loving to get the point where you’re ready to commit…to practicing patience, kindness, selflessness, humility, and love for the rest of your life.

You won’t feel any different the day after you’re married because you’ll already be a changed woman. You’ll have built your own confidence and tackled most of your insecurity. You’ll have accepted your own value and loveliness with grace. You’ll have forgiven those who brought you pain and more importantly you’ll have forgiven yourself.

Getting married won’t change you but being married will. Until that time, release your hope of someone coming to fix you and instead accept and complete yourself so that you will know not to give up any good part of yourself to be with the one you will marry. You’ll figure it out, I promise.