Dear 100 Hour Board,
Lately I have been hearing a lot of discouraging things about how hard marriage is. I've also witnessed plenty struggling marriages in my extended family, and am currently watching my parents struggle with their own marriage. Basically, I realize marriage is hard. Whatever fairy tale version of marriage I had in my mind from Young Women's lessons has been thoroughly shattered.
But this overwhelming focus on the negative side of marriage is getting me down. I'm fearful about eventually entering into my own marriage. I'm losing my desire and excitement about it. All I am asking is, would you people share some positive, encouraging stories about marriage with me?
-thank you friends
Literally every time I ask a recently married friend how their life is, they say they recommend marriage. I don't know if they're all handed a script at the altar or what, but they even phrase it the exact same way. It's weird.
Alta provides a fantastic list below on some of the joys of marriage. May I just add that living with your best friend is the most wonderful thing in the world? I have had so many days where I come home from school or work feeling incredibly down. Being able to spend the evenings with someone that loves me, supports me, and just makes me happy is one of the greatest feelings in the world. It is so worth it!
I know that it can sometimes seem impossible, especially in today's world where divorce and cohabitation are so prevalent. Don't let it discourage you. I wouldn't trade my marriage for anything in the world.
I'm sorry that you're going through a stressful time watching all these marriages fall apart. Know that I'm rooting for you, and for things to work out, whatever that may mean.
Here is a non-comprehensive list of things that are great about marriage, from a recently married person:
- You get to live with your best friend! Which, yes, you can do with roommates, but when you're married you're also attracted to this person, which presumably you're not with your roommates. I know people sort of overuse the whole, "Wow, I love being married to my best friend!" on social media, but truly, it's nice.
- You get a bunch of nice gifts when you get married, so you finally own nice things. Admittedly it sometimes seems a little weird, because I'm living in a basement apartment that's probably about 350 square feet, yet I own ice cream sundae glasses and fancy serving plates and a nice mattress, but hey, I'll take what I can get.
- You have two people to help pay bills!
- Everything lasts way longer than it does with roommates: toilet paper, dish soap, a clean kitchen, etc.
- There is such a huge feeling of security that comes with marriage. I have never felt as comfortable with anyone as I do with my husband, and that's including him before we were married. There are tons of people I'll spend eternity with, what with the eternal nature of families and all, but he's the only person I've actively chosen to spend eternity with. Because we've made those vows to each other we're basically stuck together through thick and thin, and that's incredibly reassuring to me. It's hard for me to explain, but basically what I'm getting at with this point is that it's nice to be 100% yourself with someone and know they will always love you despite your flaws, and it's spiritually enlarging to love someone else completely despite their flaws, and it's the best support system, and it's comfortable and fun, and it's reassuring to know that that's the future as well as the present. You get some of those benefits in dating, but it's amplified 100% in marriage.
- It's just so much more convenient to live together! No more driving across town every day to see each other, no more wondering if the other person woke up or not when you're supposed to be meeting each other at the gym in the morning, no more trying to plan which meals to eat together, etc. Everything is just much more convenient when you're married.
- No more pent-up sexual frustration.
- Vacations are so fun with your spouse! I think vacations are always fun, but again, this is the person you've chosen to spend forever with, so they're even more fun!
- You have the best built-in support system. Whether you're going through something hard, or you just want a cheerleader because you accomplished a goal, it's great having someone who will support you.
- This is another one that's hard for me to explain, but there's something really rewarding about building a life together. I've lived in a lot of places with a lot of different people, all of whom I've loved, but I've never had as much excitement about going home at the end of the day as I do with my husband, or about decorating our apartment, or about making mundane decisions like buying a bookshelf, or planning to one day have a dog. Building an entire life with someone of your choice is exciting.
I realize that everything I wrote is definitely from the perspective of a recently married college student, but that's what I am. I also realize that marriage isn't always a bed of roses, but everything in life takes effort. Like, everything. Whether you have a good marriage or a bad one, you'll still be expending a lot of effort, so you might as well channel that energy towards trying to have a good marriage. It does take work to have a happy marriage, but so does everything worthwhile.
Granted, I've only been married for 2.5 years. That being said, I actually don't think marriage is that hard.
I feel like you're not really "supposed to" say that, but I'll put it out there and give some thoughts that may hopefully provide some help.
I think it's important for people to talk about what they mean when they say marriage is "hard." Does marriage require effort? Sure. Is marriage occasionally frustrating? Yeah. Does your spouse or your relationship occasionally make you sad/angry instead of happy/content? Probably (and sometimes you'll do the same for them).
However, that's pretty much the same as any other part of your life that you enjoy. Think of a hobby that you enjoy enough to keep doing, like painting or exercising. There are two types of things that can make it hard: ongoing effort or specific problems.
You have to keep doing it regularly or you lose your skills. Similarly in marriage you have to keep making an effort regularly. You can't just give up on patience and kindness and love for a week or two at a time because you don't really feel like it and expect it not to mess with stuff.
You occasionally struggle with something specific, like getting over a "hump" with regards to your personal best in your lifting weight or running time, or like getting a particular piece of artwork to look "just right" when it's taking a billion attempts or when you're struggling to learn a new medium or something. Similarly, in marriage you'll run into problems. Gottman points out that some of them might never be solved, just like maybe you'll never break a 4 minute mile or paint a photorealistic ear, but that doesn't mean that the whole hobby of running or painting becomes "hard" or terrible. Additionally, some of them will be solved: some maybe after a lot of concentrated effort over time, and some maybe after just keeping your mouth shut for 20 minutes and realizing you were actually just grumpy because you were hangry and there wasn't any real issue to begin with.
So, while marriage involves ongoing effort that qualifies as "work" and while you'll run into problems, that really just makes marriage like many of the other things you enjoy in life.
Marriage is great. Marriage brings way bigger blessings than any hobby we could invest our time in. Don't overstress how "hard" marriage will be. You'll have to keep trying, but you get to try with the person you love, and just because you're trying doesn't mean it's somehow bad.
Note: I'm basing this answer off the assumption of two people working together in a healthy relationship. A marriage in which one or both partners are abusive, uncommitted, or otherwise seriously out-of-order with regards to the relationship may indeed be very "hard." I think that both people being willing to make both continual and situation-specific effort is probably really important to marriage not feeling hard, which is a great reason to be appropriately careful about who you marry.