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.