“When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part.”
― George Bernard Shaw
Ask any bride and groom on their wedding day, “Will your marriage last a lifetime?” They will look at you like you have three heads and reply, “Of course.” And that is truly what every bride and groom believes. As we know all too well, one out of two of them will be wrong.
There are three truths about marriage that we wish every couple knew before they took their vows.
1) When we make the most important decision of our lives, to marry, many of us have no idea what we are getting into.
When I harken back to the beginning of our relationship, I clearly remember spending lots of time effortlessly connecting, having fun, enjoying each other’s company, and wondering when Bob was going to propose. I went ring shopping with my best friend so she could give Bob a hint about what kind of engagement ring I wanted. After all, there was only one shot at making this big decision about the ring I would wear forever. When he finally proposed, the next six months were spent intensely planning our wedding. Bob loves to tell people that I took him to see nine wedding reception halls in one day. He should have known what he was getting into right then. We, mostly I, spent hours making sure all the details were planned down to the matches that were engraved with “Perfect Match.”
We agreed we wanted to have two or three kids, but that was about the end of discussion regarding what our life would be like together, forever. We didn’t talk about decision making or how we would deal with our differences; we didn’t talk about our money values, or managing conflict, or what kind of life we wanted in the future; we didn’t talk about sex or monogamy. Like most couples, we believed love would carry us through and it would just all work out. Lucky for us it did. We have benefitted from doing our work with other couples and seeing the way difficulties arise; I often wonder what would have happened and how successful our marriage would have been had we not been in this business.
Bob and I think it is vital for couples starting out, young or old, to consciously spend more time talking about their relationship, their future, and their values and differences than about the wedding plans. We believe in couples seeking out premarital coaching and counseling to learn the skills needed for a successful marriage and to deal with difficulties up front.
2) It’s “normal” to wonder at different points in your marriage if you married the “right” person.
On our honeymoon in Hawaii, the one and only time we would ever get to this paradise, I remember wanting to see and do everything. Bob wanted to lie on the beach and relax. I told him I didn’t come over 3,000 miles to lounge on the beach and fall asleep. We might as well have gone to Ocean City. It turned into a fight. I remember panicking and thinking…OMG I am married to this person…forever; and wondering, “Did I marry the right person?” Obviously we worked it out, but I will never forget my feelings of panic.
We often have clients coming to us for counseling who wonder the same thing, “Did I marry the right person?” And our response is usually, “You married a real person and your job is to work to make each the right person,” by listening and understanding each other’s point of view and working as a team to solve problems and resolve differences.
3) Most people have unrealistic expectations of what defines a “normal” marriage.
For better or worse, the most significant role models we have for a “normal” marriage are our parents. If you were lucky enough to have parents with a healthy long-term marriage you may be in good shape, but for many of us that was not the case. These are a list of the most frequent complaints we get from couples:
- We can’t communicate.
- He doesn’t listen.
- She is too emotional.
- He wants to save every penny and not enjoy life.
- She overspends.
- She never wants sex.
- He wants to have sex all the time.
- Can’t he give me a hug without grabbing my…
- I’m not sure I’m “in love” with him/her anymore.
- The passion is gone.
- We shouldn’t have to work this hard.
- If I really loved him, the feelings would just be there.
- It hasn’t been the same since the kids were born.
- We have become roommates.
- We do well with raising the kids but there is no romance between us.
- We haven’t had sex in months or years.
All of these complaints are “normal.” What we help people understand is that marriage takes work just like any other job.
It’s easy to love your partner when things are great. The true test of a marriage is when things are not going so well; when you have to sacrifice for your partner; when you have to come together as a team to face differences and difficulties.
We hope that knowing these three truths reassures couples that they are not alone in dealing with the challenges most couple face. The key is to know that whatever your fears, your doubts, and your unmet expectations are, if you face them together, learn to communicate authentically and effectively, and problem solve as a team, you can co-create the relationship you want and deserve. And your relationship can be one that lasts a lifetime. We are here to show you how.
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