Dear Newlyweds: I Don't Wish You Happiness—
But I Do Pray For This

featured at For Every Mom
This article was first published on my old blog in April 2015, then was republished at For Every Mom on December 12, 2016. It was written for my brother and sister-in-law, who had gotten married in 2015. This updated version has been edited from the original for grammar and clarity.
Dear Newlyweds,

My sincere congratulations on your newly-formed marriage! It’s an exciting time, as new beginnings tend to be. Marriage is cause for great celebration and a time to rejoice in the promises to love and cherish each other for a lifetime.

I remember our wedding day quite clearly, some 16 years ago. Loved ones were so supportive and eager to extend their advice, well-wishes, and support. So many smiles, hugs, and kisses were mixed amongst the toasts and cheers.

Still, while I thought about extending to you a generic “wish” for happiness in your marriage, upon further reflection, I realized it wasn’t the right thing for me to say because it wasn’t the honest thing to say.

I don’t wish you both happiness. Instead, I pray for your unity.

If I've learned one thing on my marriage journey, it’s that the pursuit of happiness swallows more relationships than we realize; It can chew you up and spit you out an unrecognizable, bitter mess. Pursuing personal happiness in marriage rarely has the good of the union in mind. Your quest to "be happy" (and sustain happiness at the expense of anything or anyone that might get in your way) is a deeply-rooted craving for soul-satisfaction. Yet unity strums a different string—insisting that the sacrifices each spouse renders to one another is the key to sustaining the bond.

Happiness makes demands for the good of the self. Unity makes concessions for the good of the spouse.
If I've learned one thing on my marriage journey, it’s that the pursuit of happiness swallows more relationships than we realize.
Don’t get me wrong. I do pray you'll have happiness in your marriage, but in a way that recognizes you won’t always "be happy" with your relationship, with each other, or with the circumstances in your life. Therefore, I pray more than anything that the two of you will pursue a lifetime of unity.

In unity, you'll find comfort in each other during the hard days that come.

In unity, you'll face unexpected challenges head-on and hand-in-hand.

In unity, you'll help each other become the person you were created to be.

In unity, you'll learn to forgive one another more often and more quickly. 

In unity, you'll persevere through the pain that the other is sure to cause you.

In unity, you'll love unconditionally, because the affection you have for one another is more valuable than personal happiness.

Truth be told, you didn’t marry the perfect person, and you won't be the perfect spouse. Marriage doesn’t fix people, but rather serves to expose our many faults, shining a spotlight on the darkest places of our hearts and exposing us for who we really, truly are.

Despite this harsh light, unity empowers honesty; it invites mutual vulnerability, that we might shed the facade, let down our hair, and entrust one another with our weaknesses.
If your relationship is committed to unity, seasons of happiness will be all the more sweet.
Happiness will come and it will go—it will ebb and flow like the tide. A marriage built on the foundation of happiness will crumble faster than a house of cards when the winds of difficulty blow.

Unity, however, keeps closed the space between two souls and offers reprieve when afflictions overwhelm. If your relationship is committed to unity, seasons of happiness will be all the more sweet.  

It’s a hard lesson to come by, and one I wish wasn’t so painful to learn. Even so, it’s all I can honestly wish and hope and pray for as you enter into this uncharted territory together. We can be certain that those with ties as tight as the day they said, “I do” remain together because their unity has been a higher priority than their own respective happiness.

Happiness whispers, “It’s me vs. you.” Unity declares, “We’re on the same team.”

It isn’t easy, but anything good worth having never is. I pray with all my heart that you both learn to blossom in each other’s arms, clinging tightly to the union you’ve entered into. May it be a bond never broken by the pursuit of happiness, but enriched by the pursuit of unity—for that is a far more beautiful thing to wish for.
Christine M. Chappell
Christine Chappell is the author of Clean Home, Messy Heart and Help! My Child is Depressed (forthcoming with Shepherd Press, Spring 2020)She hosts The Hope + Help Project podcast and has completed biblical counseling certificates with the Institute for Biblical Counseling & Discipleship. Christine's writing has been featured at Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, Risen Motherhood, Servants of Grace, and Thrive Moms.
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