Around this time three years ago, I was busy preparing for one of the biggest days of my life. My wedding was just around the corner, so my schedule was filled with RSVPs, last-minute dress alterations, music selections, and table seating assignments. I was excited but also scared. In fact, you might say I was planning for the worst.

In the years leading up to my wedding, I had been consistently warned about the first year of marriage. I had heard that it would be difficult, that the transition would be challenging, and that I would sometimes wonder if I had married the right person. I had sat through numerous wedding homilies in which the pastor spoke of inevitable marital strife. And I listened with dread as older couples foretold the trials ahead.

As a result, I entered marriage with joy—but also with no small amount of fear and trembling. I loved my husband and thought the world of him, so I shuddered at the thought that my feelings could change.

Based on this "advice" before our wedding day, I spent my first year of marriage anxiously waiting for the shoe to drop. Any day now! I thought. One of these days I will wake up next to him and second-guess our decision to marry. Any day now we will find ourselves in a knockdown, drag-out fight in which we are shrieking and throwing our wedding bands at one another.

The day never arrived. My first year of marriage came and went without a hitch. In fact, it was wonderful. We worked hard on our marriage, sure, but I also loved it.

Our marital bliss only invited further input from older couples. "Our second year was actually harder than the first," some would explain. So rather than live in the present joy of marriage, I resumed a defensive posture, waiting for the difficulties to come.

Year two came and went. Still no marital doom—in fact, it was even better than the first.

Now, heading into our fourth year of marriage and expecting our first child any day now, my husband and I continue to receive these counsels of doom. Between the "just you wait" predictions about the unavoidable doldrums of marriage, or the "just you wait" warnings about the difficulties of parenting, some people feel obliged to fix our worries on the future rather than encourage us to enjoy the present.

Just you wait. Why do Christians sling this statement at one another? Is the motivation genuine concern? A sincere effort to help younger couples prepare? Or is it an attempt at normalizing our own hardships? A fruit of cynicism? All of the above?

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To be sure, the Christian community should be one of transparency and honesty about struggles. Every Christian needs wise counsel about the challenges of living in a broken world. In fact, it is unloving to instill couples with a pie-in-the-sky idealism that sets them up to fail.

That said, Christians should also consider how they are cautioning young people about marriage and family, and the repercussions of their language. In a recent post for The Good Women Project , "Women in the Workplace: Babies Ruin Lives," writer Ashley Samsa examines her fears about having children, confessing her concern that having a child would mean the end of her professional life. In her mind, babies stood in the way of all that she hoped to accomplish.

Samsa goes on to trace the origin of her mindset:

"My first experience with babies was one of fear. It was like a really long conditional statement from math class. If you get pregnant, then you will have a baby. If you have a baby, then you won't have time for school. If you don't have time for school, then your grades will drop. If your grades drop, then you won't get into a good college. If you don't get into a good college, then your life is ruined. Therefore, if you have a baby, then your life is ruined."

Over time, Samsa sorted through her fears and realized that having a baby does not entail the death of her dreams. But her point is important. Our culture talks about babies as if they are life-ruiners, and marriage is characterized by similarly despairing tones: Bid farewell to your social life, good sex, and freedom, which will all go the way of the dodo bird once you get married and have children.

So the narrative goes.

Of course, this is not the only narrative in the church today. While I sometimes feel bombarded by negative views of marriage and family, other Christians encounter a romanticized vision of marriage and family that is equally unhealthy. To some, marriage is the solution to loneliness, insecurity, sexual frustration, or a general lack of contentment. According to this narrative, marriage and family promise far more than they can ever deliver, and the result is disillusionment or despair when times are hard. These starry-eyed Christians are also far less likely to do the hard work of preparation and marital maintenance.

Given the high rate of divorce both inside and outside the church, the "just you wait" approach to cautioning couples may not seem so bad. Doesn't it make more sense to scare young people with warnings about the road ahead? After all, those threats might be effective. Perhaps they will frighten couples into diligently preparing for marriage and parenting. Perhaps I wouldn't have worked so hard on my own marriage had I not been so averse to failure.

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But there seems to be a better way. As Samsa's words reveal, there is a fine line between honestly preparing couples for marriage and parenting and casting out random, threatening jabs. At stake in the distinction is not only a healthy theology of marriage and children, but the kind of culture our language creates. In a society where marriages and unborn lives are often treated as disposable, we can't be sloppy with our words. Yes, let's protect young Christians from a romanticism that ultimately self-destructs, but let us do so in a way that honors the institutions of marriage and family. Neither romanticism nor cynicism will lead to the kind of cultural shift that our marriages and families so desperately need.