What I Wish College Students Knew About Marriage

Let’s just jump right in here. Three things I wish college students knew about marriage…

1. There Is No Such Thing As “The One”

Ouch. I know you’ve written me off already, but hear me out. In life we have free will, which means we have the ability to choose. We like this when it comes to picking our hairstyle, bank, and ice cream, but when it comes to who we are going to marry, we want a clear voice from heaven to tell us what to do. While every so often this does happen, like it did for St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s parents Bls. Louis and Zélie Martin, more often God is a little more subtle. Does He already know what we will choose? Yes. But that doesn’t make the choice any less of a choice.

When I first grappled with this it made me angry. “Where’s the romance in that? You mean to tell me that my husband could prayerfully discern to marry someone else and still be happy; he doesn’t HAVE to chose me?” But the more I thought about it, I felt both relieved and honored. Relieved because it took the pressure off knowing that I wasn’t on a wild goose chase to find “the one” in the midst of billions. Relieved because I knew that so long as I was praying, seeking sound council, and frequenting the sacraments, God would not abandon me as I discerned which man to commit my life to. He would be in the midst of choosing my spouse, just like any other life decision that I made. The feeling of honor came in knowing that my future husband would also be making a choice. A choice to love me. He wouldn’t be forced into it whether he liked it or not, rather, he would choose me out of the billions for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Now that’s romantic.

2. Getting Married Doesn’t Mean You’ll Never Be Lonely Again

shutterstock_66686689 2Freshmen year of college while I was working at a Catholic summer camp one of the directors gave a dating talk in which she said, “I thought that getting married meant that I would never be lonely again.” She went on to explain that she was wrong. What surprised me about her remark was that I could understand it to be true for couples that had bad marriages, but she had a good marriage. “Wow,” I thought, “If she still gets lonely, there’s no hope for the rest of us.”

Here’s the deal, while marriage can be wonderful and very fulfilling, it is still an earthly covenant and because there is sin in this world, nothing can ever be perfect. There will be times when you will disagree with your spouse and the one person who you thought would always be right by your side will feel distant. Your marriage will sanctify you, challenge you, and force you to become a better person, and nothing on that list is easy.  There can be great joy in marriage, but if it were too great we would never want to leave this world because as Jesus tells us in Mark 12:25, there is no marriage in Heaven.

The strife of this world doesn’t go away when you get married, it just changes. Sure you stop worrying about how you’re going to find a new housemate since your old one is moving out, but instead you start worrying about if moving your whole family across the country for a new job is really a good idea.

3. The Theology Of The Body Is Real, But Sometimes Our Interpretation Of It Isn’t

If you have read the Theology of the Body, or a good commentary on it, you know that the Church is no prude. Sex is a blessing that was made for bonding and babies which, in its proper context, should be enjoyed. But there is something sad which I have witnessed that can happen to many enthusiastic “Theology of the Body-ers” after they get married. They commit to a chaste courtship, they commit to following the Church’s teachings on contraception, and they excitedly begin their marriage with all its benefits. Then the honeymoon phase wears off and reality starts to surface. Maybe she has issues from past relationships that prevent her from being able to see sex as something beautiful and not as something that she unwittingly ran to in her search for security and love. Maybe he begins struggling with keeping the act pure as he battles with the memories from his past porn addiction. Maybe they are both a little bit shocked that sex isn’t always heaven on earth with a beautiful array of fireworks. And they start to think that they were fed a line about the magic of free, total, fruitful, faithful love in the bonds of marriage.

Before they throw the baby out with the bathwater (to use a loose, corny pun if I may), they need to consider this: The Church’s teachings on marital love are not flawed, but like most good things, it takes a lot of work and sacrifice to understand them. It’s the world that has fed us a line and straightening out that mess together takes a lot of vulnerability. Working through past baggage and human frailty is never easy, but if spouses are willing to truly love each other and commit to struggling through the issues, instead of trying to avoid them, with the grace of God a little glimpse of heaven on earth can be possible.

There are more things I wish you knew, like “No, he won’t change if you belittle him”, “Yes, she does need to talk that much”, and “Maybe it’s possible for you two to agree on where to display his sports or hunting or music collection (just forget about the living room) and her 47 Tri Delta t-shirts (which really may be better used as rags for washing the car), BUT, I’ll leave you with this. Marriage is not easy, but it is worth it. It is the greatest adventure you will ever take. And if you should chose to take it, be willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of it.


Image by Shutterstock.com

Article courtesy of Focus.

Lisa Cotter


Lisa Cotter is a nationally sought after speaker on the topics of dating, marriage, motherhood, and femininity. While balancing sound theology with humor and practical insights, Lisa inspires audiences of all ages. Her work has been featured by Lighthouse Catholic Media, YDisciple, and The Chastity Project. She is a graduate of Benedictine College, where she earned degrees in Theology and Youth Ministry. Since 2007, she and her husband, Kevin, have served FOCUS as a family. When Lisa is not speaking, she is busy playing with her three young children and trying to avoid laundry. To schedule Lisa for an event, visit focus.org/lisa.

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  • Peter Nyikos

    There is one other, very important thing that every college student ought to know, but many of the most deeply religious ones do not realize its magnitude.

    This is that it is far easier to find a future spouse while in college than in the big outside world, at least here in the USA. It is in college that people have the best chance to get to know others through the diversity of classes one takes, as well as many clubs and other activities. In the workplace, the variety of people one meets on a social basis is much more limited.

    If the Catholic Church were to stress the vocation of marriage the way it should, it would make one of its prime objectives the bringing of devout single adults out of college together in a wide variety of settings. But even those groups that are associated with parishes (or even all the parishes of a city) generally have only a very narrow range of activities besides once-a-year retreats.

  • Karee Santos

    Another mistake TOBers make is thinking the Theology of the Body is synonymous with sex when it’s really synonymous with expressing love through sex — divine love, at that. Isn’t that worth a little patience and even sacrifice? See my recent post on Chaste Sex: Not What You Think It Is http://canwecana.blogspot.com/2013/03/chaste-sex-not-what-you-think-it-is.html

  • Peter Nyikos

    Item 2 reminds me of a couplet from the old (early 70’s) song “One” by Three Dog Night:

    “Two can be as bad as one,

    It’s the loneliest number since the number One.”

  • chaco

    My experience of a vital insight is; If you don’t come together in a common appreciation of what it took for Jesus to love us, in spite of our shortcomings, it could very well sneak up and bite you in the “back side” at a later date. As it is said; “Our Hearts are restless until they rest in Jesus.” If your union doesn’t mirror Jesus’ patient enduring of our offenses, and if both of you don’t agree with Jesus definition of success/ happiness; “I leave you my peace, not as the world gives” (Jn. 14: 27), it’s like building a house on train tracks & waiting for the day when the train comes. One way to keep our attitude “ON Track” is to recall John the Baptist’s words; “I must decrease so that He (Jesus) can increase.” Comparing this to the eye when the pupil shrinks; as we imitate Jesus love, the “Color” (iris) in our lives increases.