Marriage is the process by which two people make their relationship public, official, and permanent. It is the joining of two people in a bond that putatively lasts until death, but in practice is increasingly cut short by divorce. Over the course of a relationship that can last as many as seven or eight decades, a lot happens.
Personalities change, bodies age, and romantic love waxes and wanes. And no marriage is free of conflict. What enables a couple to endure is how they handle that conflict. So how do you manage the problems that inevitably arise? And how can you keep the spark alive?
10 Hard Truths About Marriage
Easy-to-dictate, hard-to-enact insights about marriage.
A close friend got married last week, and in the build-up to her wedding I compiled a few hard truths from the trenches. I’d rank them in the “easy to note; hard to enact” category of human endeavor.
#1 There will be one disagreement in your marriage that will never be resolved–and you will never agree on what it is! The earlier you identify and accept it, the better. Encourage your partner to do the same with his or her complaint.
#2 You can only change yourself. This is as intellectually obvious as it is emotionally challenging. Important to remember when struggling with #1.
#3 Be stoic about your own (no doubt herculean) efforts. If you want it done, do it and don’t expect praise. Yes, I am unfortunately thinking specifically of housework here. Reframe the task(s) as maintenance and improvement you do for yourself alone. This helps, because the corollary (3b) is: Don’t expect anyone else to notice what you do. For all intents and purposes, you are doing it for yourself!
#4 You chose each other. Your spouse is the only family member you will ever select. Because it is a self-directed relationship, you will evolve together in a way no other intimate relationship can. This can be exhilarating, as when you establish new traditions and a new familial baseline. It can also be frustrating and scary: No roadmap, and the prospect of “de-selection” in the offing, however abstractly.
#5 Life necessitates trade-offs, your relationship and partner included.The qualities that frustrate you are intimately connected to the qualities you love.
#6 The social fabric of marriage is lovely, but it is not what marriage is about. The diamond rock, the social approval, the identity as a husband or wife…. these facets matter but they are a distant second to the intrinsic connection between the two of you.
#7 The outside world sees mainly these secondary characteristics (#6), and is therefore apt to misjudge your relationship. Ignore their judgments.
#8 A good relationship is made better by adversity. Again, not worth highlighting what can happen in a bad relationship. But I’ve seen plenty of on-the-fence relationships bump up a notch after challenges.
#9 Take responsibility for your own satisfaction. Keep your partner privy to your goals, dreams and of course frustrations, but do not confuse this with making him or her accountable for these feelings or outcomes. Likewise, help him to realize his own dreams.
#10 Never forget the moment you first connected. The way you felt about one another then, and in the weeks and months after, is a reminder of your potential to connect, no matter how much time has elapsed.