Marriage Is Hard Work

 

Several years ago, a friend asked me when I thought that couples could stop working so hard at their marriages. My one-word answer: Never.

In these times, people have figured out that they can’t cruise through marriage and often decide to just play house; it seems so much easier than pursuing a mature, committed relationship. For those who are utopian dreamers, they will never find perfection in marriage either, no matter how hard they try. Reality will always show up to ruin their expectations.

So, if marriage is such darned hard work, maybe the younger folk have the right idea. Just hook up, make-believe, exchange partners, and play the field. They eventually discover, however, that pursuing one’s life in these miscellaneous partnerships is lonely and empty.

There was a time when I told my husband (my then-boyfriend) that I didn’t think I’d ever get married. (I’m not sure if I said that because I believed it, or because I was trying to keep him at a distance.) To complicate matters, I was a secular Jew and he was a fallen-away Catholic. Still, we eventually discovered how we shared so many other values and beliefs, and we married.

I was not an easy spouse at the beginning. I had the naïve belief that part of his job was to make me happy. I expected him to talk about his feelings (although if he had, I probably would have been terrified about what to do with that information). I was an unhappy, tyrannical spouse.

But eventually I realized (and I have no idea what was the source of my enlightenment), that I was going to destroy my marriage if I continued to make outrageous demands and behaved like a confused and immature teenager. By some miracle, my husband patiently tried to figure out what I genuinely wanted, and the wound I’d created between us began to heal itself. I realized that if he wasn’t the “perfect” husband, I’d married him because he had many special qualities that I admired and appreciated. Especially the fact that he had put up with me.

We’ve learned how to navigate the potholed roads and inclement weather of life: we literally had an accident due to an unexpected pothole that we braked for while a semi-truck rear-ended us in our Toyota Corolla. (We drove away from the scene and he didn’t.) We’ve lived through hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and ice storms. But our memories are also filled with verdant landscapes through our many trips cross-country and the beauty of a light snowstorm drifting past the window as we sat in front of the crackling fireplace.

We know the importance of validating our love through kind words, assurances, gratitude, laughter, curiosity, and compromise. We both now talk about our feelings, willingly and with a full heart.

When times are tough, we rally our emotions and hold on to each other. Disappointments, betrayals by others, illness, and changes in plans were traumatic at one time, but as we mature, at least one of us reminds the other to step back and breathe. That’s usually all we need to do to re-center ourselves.

Anniversary dinner from a few years ago

The truth is, marriage is hard work.  Today is our anniversary, and we are incredibly grateful for the blessings, challenges, surprises, and laughter we’ve shared over 48 years.

I can’t imagine changing a single moment, or being wedded to any man other than the one I so love and admire.

Published in Marriage
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There are 47 comments.

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  1. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Thanks for the wonderful post.  Working at marriage is important, and the benefits are tremendous.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Clavius (View Comment):

    Thanks for the wonderful post. Working at marriage is important, and the benefits are tremendous.

    Thanks, Clavius. It’s also important to try not to get stuck in the mire of losses and disappointments. Sometimes those show up with no end in sight. But if we stay open, the light will shine again!

    • #2
  3. Terri Mauro Coolidge
    Terri Mauro
    @TerriMauro

    Happy anniversary! I see we both had the same thing on our mind today.

    • #3
  4. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    Happy Anniversary! You are correct. Marriage is hard work. It takes two people committed to each other to make it work. My husband and I are amazed at the number of couples that just don’t even talk to one another. I mean just about simple every day things. Then, they wonder what ever happened to their marriage and happiness. 

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Don’t miss Terri’s beautiful post, either! 

    • #5
  6. Raxxalan Member
    Raxxalan
    @Raxxalan

    Happy anniversary.  A good marriage is truly a great blessing and well worth the effort involved.   I had a good marriage and yes it was a lot of work.  I made a mistake at several times in my marriage of not prioritizing it above other things in my life that were not more important but were more immediate.  Unfortunately that is a lesson I didn’t learn until too late so now I have regrets, but now, with some distance, I can truly say it was a good marriage and I can start actually looking back on the great memories.

    • #6
  7. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Happy anniversary! 

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Raxxalan (View Comment):

    Happy anniversary. A good marriage is truly a great blessing and well worth the effort involved. I had a good marriage and yes it was a lot of work. I made a mistake at several times in my marriage of not prioritizing it above other things in my life that were not more important but were more immediate. Unfortunately that is a lesson I didn’t learn until too late so now I have regrets, but now, with some distance, I can truly say it was a good marriage and I can start actually looking back on the great memories.

    I’m so glad to hear that, Raxxalan; I expect it’s been a tough journey, and I’m glad to know that your perspective has shifted over time.

    • #8
  9. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    The younger folks don’t marry of the same rate we did. I suspect it is easier for some to put themselves first when they don’t have to work at a marriage.

    • #9
  10. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    My father (OBGYN) used to tell his patients “Have a date night every week” when the first baby came. Told me that too. We do it on Friday nights, to the degree it is a joke of our friends. 

    Marriage is work. It is the most important relationship with another human being you have, even if you have kids. 

    • #10
  11. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    So I beat  you.  52 years in Sept.  But you are right on what it is all about.  The only thing I would add that really helped was the kids.  Changing diapers and driving kids to soccer games was one of the best parts. 

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    navyjag (View Comment):

    So I beat you. 52 years in Sept. But you are right on what it is all about. The only thing I would add that really helped was the kids. Changing diapers and driving kids to soccer games was one of the best parts.

    A lovely sentiment, navyjag. We left out that part, and probably at our loss. Congrats on 52!!

    • #12
  13. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    Beautiful!  Happy Anniversary!

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Trink (View Comment):

    Beautiful! Happy Anniversary!

    Thanks, Trink! It’s always nice to see you!

    • #14
  15. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Congratulations!

    Mr. Charlotte and I (19 years in a few weeks) occasionally remark to each other how…easy it has been to be married to each other. Sure, we’ve had some bumps here and there, but in general we have a ridiculously smooth and contented life together. So whenever I read posts like yours I start to worry that we’re doing it wrong!

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Congratulations!

    Mr. Charlotte and I (19 years in a few weeks) occasionally remark to each other how…easy it has been to be married to each other. Sure, we’ve had some bumps here and there, but in general we have a ridiculously smooth and contented life together. So whenever I read posts like yours I start to worry that we’re doing it wrong!

    Not at all! You hopefully will have many more years together to get into trouble! ;-) We were just commenting the other day that we are so lucky that there is very little over which we disagree. A lot of that comes from not arguing over the little stuff (like squeezing the toothpaste tube–each one should have his or her own!) And some of that comes from anticipating what the other will like/want. I think the fact that we like each other a lot and are best friends–that makes a huge difference, too.

    Sounds like you two are doing great! Don’t look for trouble! 

    • #16
  17. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Happy Anniversary!

    • #17
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Hey!! I resemble that remark!!

    • #18
  19. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    like squeezing the toothpaste tube–each one should have his or her own!

    Genius.

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    we like each other a lot and are best friends

    Same. We genuinely enjoy each other’s company and we make each other laugh about nearly everything.

     

    • #19
  20. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Happy Anniversary.  And, you’re quite right. 

    • #20
  21. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Happy Anniversary!

    Forty-eight years?  You make us look like rookies at 35 . . .

    • #21
  22. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Stad (View Comment):

    Happy Anniversary!

    Forty-eight years? You make us look like rookies at 35 . . .

    You and NO are just kids! Maybe you’ll catch up one day . . . 

    • #22
  23. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Happy Anniversary!

    Forty-eight years? You make us look like rookies at 35 . . .

    You and NO are just kids! Maybe you’ll catch up one day . . .

    Haha!  Sixty-seven and 72 respectively . . .

    • #23
  24. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    You two were late bloomers! We’re 72 and 76.

    • #24
  25. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Fabulous post! Lots of wisdom contained therein. I’m still learning from my wife how to be a better person. 

    One quibble: I don’t think marriage has to be hard work forever — more in the early days than later. Then again, maybe that’s because I’m more of a PITA in the relationship. 

    Anyhow, happy anniversary. We’re coming up on a big one in October. 

    • #25
  26. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    We were married by my cousin.  I still remember his homily (how many of you can say that?).  What stayed with me was that he said you go into marriage thinking it is 50/50.  But sometimes it is 75/25 or 95/5, and then it switches. Sometimes you are the one who needs more and sometimes you are called upon to give more.  There have been plenty of opportunities for us to prove that right.

    Another cousin was my matron of honor.  She said she thought the homily was very negative.  I thought it was very realistic and I still do.  Memorable too, 34 years later.  As my husband says, we’ve lived every word of those vows–better, worse, richer, poorer, sickness, health.

    • #26
  27. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Which is more work, a spouse or a marriage? 

    • #27
  28. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Which is more work, a spouse or a marriage?

    The couple works for the marriage.  In Catholic theology, the sacrament of marriage is conferred on the husband and wife by themselves — it is overseen by a priest or a deacon.  It is a shared thing, not an individual thing.

    • #28
  29. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Congratulations!

    Mr. Charlotte and I (19 years in a few weeks) occasionally remark to each other how…easy it has been to be married to each other. Sure, we’ve had some bumps here and there, but in general we have a ridiculously smooth and contented life together. So whenever I read posts like yours I start to worry that we’re doing it wrong!

    Yeah.  In my case it has required patience and endurance and knowing when to keep my mouth shut, but I’ve never thought of it as work.

    • #29
  30. JamieLee Coolidge
    JamieLee
    @JamieLee

    My parents and their siblings have all reached 60+ years of marriage. My neighbors across the coolie have been married for 71 years.  Commitment, commitment, commitment.

    It matters.

     

    • #30
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