Wednesday, February 01, 2012

some thoughts on marriage and "happily ever after"

#picturetheholidays All You Need Is Love 

The other day while in the car I started thinking about marriage and relationships.  Zach and I have been married 8 years now, and they've been 8 pretty great years.  Sure, we have fights and whatnot but if you were to ask at any point over those years if we're happy with our marriage, we'd each say yes without hesitation.  Even through the instability, job losses/changes, and the joyful-but-still-massive stress of kids, we've remained respectful and loving and understanding of each other, something I'm both proud of and grateful for.

As an aside, you know how people say your first year of marriage is the hardest? Total BS.  I'd say the first year after each child's birth is a much bigger test to your relationship.

So. Eight wonderful, happy years with only minor marital spats.  But while 8 years feels like a long time when you're 31, when you're talking about spending a lifetime together it's just a drop in the bucket.  Is it even rational to expect things to keep going so well forever?  If you plan to be with the same person for multiple decades, aren't you bound to go through at least one period in which one or both of you is unhappy with the relationship, even tempted to leave?

(And I'm not sure if "happy" or "unhappy" are the best words to use here, as you won't always be "happy" with each over 24/7, but I guess I mean loving each other, appreciating each other, feeling loved in return.  That the good parts outweigh any bad, and you don't question the relationship or wanting to be together.) 

I remember a college professor once leading a class discussion about relationships and marriage. She'd been married for 15 years, I think, before she and her ex-husband had split up.  Twelve of those years had been great, the last three not so much.  Looking back, she wondered if those bad three years were maybe just a rough spot that they could have gotten through if they'd stuck it out a bit longer, maybe they could have reached happy times again.  Sometimes the better comes after the worse.  I also remember a couple who after about 20 years of marriage came almost to the point of breaking, had even started telling close friends that they were going to divorce.  But then for whatever reason they gave it another go. That was many years ago and now you'd never guess they ever had trouble.

I wonder how many long-term couples have similar stories.  I wonder how many don't-- maybe some couples really do live their whole lives together without ever doubting.  I wonder what that breakdown is.

This was the first time I'd really thought about this, especially as this inevitable event that we'll probably face at some point, sooner or later.  And it's really friggin weird to think about.  People talk vaguely about how "marriage is hard" and "marriage takes work" but rarely do you ever hear anyone flat-out said, "You can probably expect that at some point(s) one or both of you won't want to be married anymore" and how to deal with that.  Sometimes there is no working through a particular problem and divorce really is the best option, but I wonder about our expectations of marriage and how little we talk about the challenges that can and do arise for so many couples.  It's strange to think about Zach, and about not feeling the affection I do for him now.  Then again, we've been there before-- we went through a lot of shit before we got married.  The fact that we got through it all, and stand here today in a much better place, gives me hope that we'll be able to weather any future storms that may come to pass.

I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this, but just kinda putting thoughts out there.  I'd love to hear what others have to say-- just kinda open up a discussion about this and hear perspectives/thoughts/experiences of others whether you've been married a short time, or a long time, multiple times or not at all. (and feel free to comment anonymously if you prefer).

And of course with all of this, I use the term "marriage" but it applies equally to any long-term or life partnership, whether legally binding or not.  It's about people getting along and resolving differences and figuring out how to grow and change as individuals while staying connected as a couple.

Thoughts?

10 comments:

  1. I agree with you about the year after a baby being hardest--particularly the first few months. That's not something "they" tell you, but it was true for us. I also think you have something there about going through rough patches--if you're married long enough there is a definite ebb and flow. I think the key (for me anyway) has been recognizing that, so that I know that--even if we are in a hard spot--it's not forever.

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    1. About a year before D was born a friend shared with us how hard that first year post-baby can be, and we vowed to be extra patient with each other because of that. I'm so grateful for that-- it'd be so easy to get annoyed and take our frustrations out on each other, and instead we make a real effort to forgive and let go-- and it's relatively easy to do for him since I know he does it for me all the time.

      I agree with you about the key-- looking at those rough patches as just that, vs it meaning that you just "don't work together" anymore. At least, i hope that will be the key... ;)

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  2. J and I are VERY different people, and knew going into it that our marriage would have to be a major work in progress; therefore, we entered it with the idea that it was going to succeed, and that we'd work for that, rather than hedging our bets from the beginning and possibly dooming before it started. This is not to say that neither of us has thought about "just in case" measures, or that we haven't had fights or anything, but that we have *both* committed to taking every measure we can to work things out as needed, to not split unless it's the only option left. We include taking proactive measures in this - maintaining our relationship, keeping lines of communication clear, giving ourselves tune ups (and oil changes ;) ).

    But.. we didn't meet until our late 20s, and got married at almost 30; my parents probably never should have gotten married in the first place, and he's the only one of his siblings who's never been divorced. We didn't commit to each other lightly, and while we'd never say never about divorce, I know we'd do everything we could before it came to what we'd see as an extreme. Our experiences of life and relationships before we met made us each wary of treating marriage lightly.

    I once knew a group of people who treated engagement as if it were meant pretty much the same thing as going steady; I never understood it. I grew up with too much heartbreak from an unwise marriage to ever treat it lightly, I guess.

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    1. When we first got married we joked about how if either of us said we wanted divorce, we'd have to drag the other out of the marriage kicking and screaming. We also take the commitment very seriously-- for us it's not about "if it works" but about feeling secure that we'll do what we need to make things work, and still be holding hands and happy together as an old, wrinkled couple.

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    2. Yes! We've always said we want to disgust our grandchildren with how cute we are. :D

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  3. Anonymous11:46 PM

    Your post is timely! I've been 'married' for 21 years now to the first guy I met in college when I was 20. Our relationship stopped being tumultuous (though never really that dramatic) about 12 years ago- I think we finally worked the issues out. But we still go through those periods of not being in sync relationship-wise and I've learned to ride them out. It's actually comforting during these times now since we've gone through it enough to know we will come out the other side- it really takes the pressure off of feeling unsatisfied and acting impulsively. That first year after our son was born, though, (3.5 years ago) was the worst, by far! =)

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  4. My husband and I have been married for 7 years and have been together for 13 years. He works A LOT (65-70 hours/week) and while that creates many challenges (we have 3 kiddos, ages 6, 3, and 3 months) I really think it's part of why we are so happily married. When you get so little time together, who wants to spend that time arguing and having hurt feelings. Not that I'm saying either of us supress our feelings and put on a fake smile, but we realize that if there's a real issue we need to discuss it like adults and move on and let the petty stuff go.
    I can't agree more about babies putting a strain on marriage, the year after our first was born was definitely the toughest we've had, the sleep deprivation alone makes "letting the petty stuff go" nearly impossible. We have a couple in our family who have come close to divorce 2x and they just had a baby, we are all hopeful but worried for them.

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  5. okay. I have been married a total of 9.5ish months. So not very long :)... For my personal situation, the first year has been easy, breezy, and beautiful. Eric and I have argued a very small handful of times in the almost 3 years we have been together, but we have always been able to work it out with a very mature (no voices raised) conversation or 2. We listen to each other and respect the others' opinions. With our first baby due in April, we have talked about how that first year will differ from our first year of marriage. We are anticipating sleepless, petty troubles. We know we will get through it. We acknowledge that we have very little idea on how to be parents. We will learn together, the three of us.

    With that being said, when we talked about getting married, we talked about the possibility that in 20 years, we might not want to be married anymore. We talked about how if that time comes, it is important that we can still keep our sanity and maturity through a divorce. My main reason of having this conversation, is because the exact month Eric and I started dating, my parents who had been together for 23 years or so split up. Seeing my mom leave my dad and become more confident, successful and happy was kind of inspiring. My dad became a broken shell of a person. He went crazy. Unable to care for himself. We talked about sending him to a hospital for mental help. It was... really sad. Then it was pathetic. Then it was embarrassing. Because years passed and he still doesn't know who he is without her. His happiness was completely dependent on her. She knew it, and it wasn't okay with her anymore. That was the main reason she left him. He was (is!) a wonderful guy. A great dad. He never hurt her, he was respectful, he loved her so much. But she wasn't happy. She tried for 7 years to make it work. They didn't fight all the time, they seemed okay, but they weren't. She wasn't. So at 50 years old, she left him.

    So when Eric brought up marriage, I was initially opposed. People aren't meant to be together. Not for the whole rest of their lives, anyway. That was 1000% my opinion on the matter.

    But... I love Eric. And we are a good couple. We are a fantastic couple. We have had more than one of our single, cynical-about-love friends tell us (usually drunkenly) with tears in their eyes that we make them "believe in love". It's sweet. It's beautiful. It's sappy. Haha. I married him. I am so happy that I did. We lived together before we got married. Nothing changed. Everyone said marriage changes things. It just... It didn't for us.

    Eric and I both know that nothing is forever. Our marriage may or may not last for the rest of our lives. We don't worry about it. We just continue loving, respecting, and supporting one another the best we can. That's really all we can do.

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  6. Learn together- the two of us ******* :)

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  7. Anonymous7:35 AM

    I just found happily-ever-after married people's story here.. I am desperate about my marriage in fact.. Married with great love and samewise from my husband.. BUt then things started to change for us both.. We both came from a totally different culture and background.. although we seem to have similar perspectives and expectations in life, by hard times and toughness we faced in our life together, each one of us tended to think and perceive the things as in our own cultures.. We had to live w his family 3 years, couldnt conceive for 2 years.. on august 2012, it is going to be our 5th anniversary plus to our 4-year-engagement.. from the begining of this year, we had tough times of going to end.. unemployement, moving to my country, his traditional views, my wanting to be more self-sufficient working woman attitudes made him and me so tense.. 2 monthes ago, we were just on the cliff of divorce.. then I couldnt do it and was not feeling myself emotionally and mentally.. I felt such weak.. he is tired of life as well.. So I gave it a trial of 3 weeks accepting his commitment conditions from me (no work, travelling w husband wherever he goes..etc). we had 2.5yr old daughter.. nevertheless, I am in unplanned way pregnant again.. I was soo happy at the begining.. then I am so depressed of future thinking of burden of being sooooooooo different from each other and plus second child.. 90% of responsibility on me and I dont know what to hope for.. I dont belive also I have a right to take the life a being inside of me which is not an option for me.. I was crazily in love w my man and he was the same with me.. but we are too tired to make effort.. U start to marriage w dreams of fairy tales and life-lasting togtherness really.. however, thingss gets so upside down.. dont know what step should I take! currently leaving the going of my marrige to the time as there is a new comer at the moment.. but honestly, ı ve lost so much of hope on us.....

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