Asking for advice, a reader wrote:

“It gets a little frustrating sometimes, knowing that he is the man I am supposed to marry, yet we can’t move forward with our lives and get married because we are both still in college.”

Or because he doesn’t have a job. Or because my parents want us to wait. Or because…

Few relationships move from the first timid “hello” to the soft-whispered “I do” in the space of a year. And even those that do seem to think they had a long time to wait. Sometimes, God does seem to work with the speed of an arrow flying from Cupid’s bow. And I couldn’t be happier for my friends who met and got married so quickly. I wish them a lifetime of becoming closer friends.

But such couples are few and far between. Most, it seems, find the road to the altar long, filled with so many bumps, twists, and turns that they despair of ever reaching the state of matrimony. But in the end, they sing with the Country song, “God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you.”

As an old married woman of a whole year, let me tell you a little secret. Once you are married, all those long years of waiting seem so short. And so worth it.

It may have felt like the longest years of your life when you were apart. But as soon as you are married, you will pray that the longest years of your life are ahead: together.

I am thankful that God took His time bringing Merritt and me together. All the tears, the frustrated journal entries, the long lonely nights, the phone calls I never wanted to hang up from, the goodbyes I didn’t want to say…they all served to make me appreciate every moment I have now with my husband so much more. Like Elisabeth Elliot I claim, “There’s one thing I can give you that no woman on earth can outdo me in and that’s appreciation.”

Not that couples who meet and get married within the space of a few months can’t appreciate each other. But each time my husband introduces me as “my wife” (oh what precious words!), I remember all the years of the embarrassed introductions of “my friend Gretchen.” Each birthday with my love, I remember all the birthdays I spent thinking of him, waiting for the card I knew wouldn’t come but couldn’t help wishing for. Each time I play with my husband’s hair, I remember the years of longing to run my hands through those very same brown curls.

When you have loved one person so long, there is no denying that you will appreciate them so much more when they are finally all yours.

And that’s all well and good, you say–but what about now?

Well, another secret I might as well tell you is that a wedding band on your finger does not make you any more patient, any more loving, any more unselfish than you already were. And instead of just spending your best waking hours with the one you love, you get to spend all of them–the good, the bad, and the ugly. Plus, you get to pick up their dirty clothes that always end up on the floor, and they will probably complain once or twice that you haven’t done the dishes yet.

So if you can say with Nancy Reagan that your “greatest ambition is to have a successful, happy marriage,” then start right now.

If you put all the energy you’ve spent being frustrated with the delays into practicing to be a good wife, I promise you, it might not speed up the approach of your wedding date, but you will have a happier marriage.

During this time of waiting, you are laying the foundation of your future marriage.

Do not mix impatience and frustration into the building blocks.

Remember, the longer you have to build the foundation, the stronger it can be.

you are laying the foundation of your future marriage

 

Photography: JenniMarie Photography

17 Comments

  1. Thank you from someone stuck, with the man I hope to marry, in a waiting period. It’s partly my fault in wanting to finish my degree first but this year of waiting feels like a long one right at this moment. What a beautiful thing to wait for though! Long distance is painful but I do love the foundation of solid communication we’re building (and the anticipation of what is to come!). Thanks again. Beautiful, inspiring words.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hello,

    Great message here to be patient and trust God!!!

    But, what if the long waiting years did not met the “Happily Ever After”. I loved one guy for 3-4 years and literaly thought that he is the one from God. He is a very godly man and I haven’t dated or kissed any guy and was just waiting patiently for him. Seeing him engaged and married to another girl crushed me. Three years had passed since his marriage and I am over him, but that wound is still there and I have not fallen in love with anyone else, maybe because I just don’t let myself fall in love so I won’t be hurt again. I don’t know…

    I am now 22 years old and still praying and hoping that God will send the husband to be in my life. I am not taking anything into my hands. And still have not dated or kissed a guy. I just know that God will send the amazing guy for me and he would be the prefect match.

    Let me know if you have any advices for me. All I know is that still need to be patient…

  3. I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your website, even though I’m from a somewhat different Christian “mold” than some of the writers here.

    I’ve read on here in the past some criticism of your focus on marriage. I just want to say that one of the things that keeps me coming here is the marriage talk! In my experience in more secular realms, hardly anyone talks to singles about having a successful marriage. It’s all just “you’ll figure it out when you get there” and empty assurances that things will work out somehow, maybe. There’s plenty about romance, but little about how spouses should actually function in relationship day-to-day and treat each other as human beings. I really think young people (like myself) need to be thinking and reading about these issues more than we are, not less. We’re really being cheated if we’re not!

    I realize that there are many things that are unexpected and can’t be predicted, and that’s part of the learning experience of life and marriage. Yet it would be such a loss to miss out on opportunities to learn about things that can contribute positively to such a relationship. And of course, No. 1 on that agenda is working on ourselves, which we can actively do now. There’s a quote from Tolstoy which I really appreciate — “Everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.” I would submit that “spouse” could easily be exchanged for “humanity”. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Anyway – it’s refreshing to hear an realistic but optimistic tone on the subject for once. Thank you!

  4. I wish that I had had this attitude when I was younger! I was a selfish and angry young teenager who alienated her family and turned away from God. Happily, though, we have healed. My husband and I have come to Christ, and we have experienced the sweet fruits of sometimes bitter patience. An attitude of surrender to God’s will has made all the difference.

    Gretchen, you are one of my favorite writers!

  5. Thanks for re-posting this. When I was a teenager I thought it was difficult to wait for a fellow to even make an appearance. Looking back, it was hard, yes, but without quite the poignancy I feel now.

    The time to be refined really is a blessing from God, though.

    And as Josh Turner sings, the longer the waiting, the sweeter the kiss. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. As my love and I have a two year engagement ahead of us, this re-post was very timely. I struggle so much with wanting two years to fly by…thank-you for this reminder of making our foundation strong.

  7. I think I remember reading this the first time around, but I still really appreciate the description of waiting, especially the journal entries and “embarrassed introductions”!

    And as I get older, that song seems appropriate, too…these moments of disappointment are refining me for the future, and He is leading me somewhere wonderful!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Agreed, me and my beloved have been 4 years and going strong. He will be teaching english in South Korea for the next year. We both trust that God’s will be done ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Anonymous says:

    i’ve read this article about five times already since it was posted….. i had just talked with my dear friend a few nights ago about impatience and self-control and resentment. when i read this for the first time, i immediately thought, “oh, i should send this to her and tell her how convicting and true it is!” but then i forgot and never did. it wasn’t but a day later that she sent me the link and said she’d thought of me when reading it!!!

    i look forward to realizing the treasure that i gained through this time of in-between some day. thank you for the blessing!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Gretchen, that is exactly what God wanted me to read this morning. Thank you for the encouragement and conviction! My courtive and I are going to be apart for a year until he finishes his last year of college (I graduated a year ahead of him) with only a few visits in between, and this is definitely an area that I struggle in. Thank you, thank you, for refocusing my perspective!

  11. faithfully_waiting says:

    This series regarding Building Blocks for a Happy Marriage has been enjoyable to read (even if the preface was not posted in order) ;). When I read this post, I couldn’t help but share Maureen’s sentiment, although I’m nearing 27 years of age! I had to remind myself that this series was geared specifically toward those who were in the steps closer to marriage (i.e. courtship or engagement) and that they weren’t necessarily for a general audience (which would include ladies such as myself and Maureen who have no ‘husband’ in sight).

    Overall, I find the principles in these articles to be helpful and I believe we can apply them to our hearts and minds today, even if we have no outlet for true practice. If we think along the lines of “how could I love and serve my husband if God’s will allows me to be a bride?”, we will be more equipped as a loving wife than if we only think of our own selves and personal endeavors in this current season.

    However, I must add that it is not healthy to spend *too* much time thinking of a possible future season of marriage. Doing so could foster discontentment or distraction from our role in maidenhood.

    The majority of YLCF writers have been getting married or preparing to be a bride, so this is likely why there have been more posts about the topic of marriage lately. ๐Ÿ™‚ We look forward to future articles that may relate to faithfulness in the season prior to courtship. (Maybe from Chantel?) ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Gretchen & Natalie ~ Thank you for your efforts in keeping up with this site and continuing to post even though your main focus has been elsewhere. I hope I can speak for all your readers in saying that we have enjoyed learning how you transition from one stage of life to the next, sharing in your joys and hardships and discovering with you the trials that courtship and marriage may bring.

    May the LORD’s blessings continue to shine upon you!

    ~A fellow laborer in the Lord’s Vineyard, Jenna

  12. LadyNicole says:

    Gretchen,

    I so appreciated this post. Until this last year, I just sort of assumed that I would meet “the right one”, and it would be only a matter of a few months until the wedding. It surprised me that it could happen completely outside of my own timing! But I guess God wouldn’t have much of a chance to teach me patience my way, would He?:-)
    ~Nicole Marie

  13. There have been times even in my short marriage where I have struggled, especially being far away from any friends to vent at! Sometimes I have not even wanted to be more godly, let alone tried and prayed for it to be so. So thank you for a little word of encouragement.

  14. Laura Stanberry says:

    Amen,
    By the time my husband and I were married our courtship had been a long one compared to most. 4 years. I remember how hard especially the last year was. I began to dread going to a wedding because I knew I would long all the more for my own. But now after over a year of marriage I can say it was worth the wait. And oh what joy it is to share all that is me with all that is Him, the Good the Bad and let;s face it even the ugly!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Natalie thank you thank you so much for posting Gretchen’s post…it was timely indeed, gretchen talks of many bumps and, twists and turns and of many long lonely nights…..i can relate so well, especially with the time out (break) that i’m going through with my fiance…IF in the end run i become his wife, It would have been so worth it.
    So yes Gretchen dear i can relate so well…:))
    Thank you for such an encouraging post, it really helped me..now i gotta read the relating posts….all of them :)))

    Thanks again Gretchen, your marriage inspires me in my walk with my fiance and with God.

    Thank you!!

    Have a blessed and wonderful day!

    May God Bless You and keep you always!

    PTL (Praise the Lord)

    In Him, Jane.

  16. Gretchen, this is a wonderful post and a great reminder. A question though. What about those of us who aren’t even that far? That is, those of us who aren’t even “my friend” to someone? At the moment it feels in many ways (not just relationship-wise) like I’m waiting for my life to begin.

    1. Hi Maureen,
      You know i think that’s where the danger is. To instill the thought that your life cannot truly begin until you’re married. You should probably read another post here ‘marriage isn’t my highest calling’because God has called all of us whether single or married to live for his glory alone. Marriage is just one of the tools that he uses for that. We singles should appreciate where we are right now and seek to make the most of what God has given us right now, most of us will probably get married but some won’t and that’s okay because our ultimate purpose is to live for his glory. If marriage comes, well and good, it is his gift anyway but before then, i would exhort us to keep our eyes fixed on our glorioand most beautiful saviour and rest assured that he has given us the greatest gift – his son jesus christ, the greatest love we’ll ever know. We surely do not want to miss out on how God is working right now, this very moment in our lives, focusing on marriage, or kinda putting our lives on hold.

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