Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bottom line: Marriage is hard work

A reader posed this question as a comment to a recent We Can Relate blog:
“What is the ‘work’ involved in a marriage, exactly? ... Getting along with someone, merging your finances, deciding who will clean the dishes or watch the kids? Doesn’t seem like all that much work to me. Sure seems easier than washing windows at the top of the Hearst building all day.” -- Female, 38 and single, Charlotte
It’s an excellent question, and one that deserves some discussion.

When anyone asks my opinion on matrimony, I often respond with “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, but it’s a lot of hard work.”

It’s cliché and it’s trite, but it’s the truth. The investment of time and commitment required are laden with much more responsibility than when you're single, and you won't fully understand until you tie the knot.

Any time you bring two people together, you’re going to have a clash of individuality meets conformity. As a single person, you only had to worry about numero uno. As a married person, your actions and decisions not only affect you, but they impact someone else – another person who also has his or her own motives, ideas and preferences. You don’t lose your individuality, but you gain someone else’s.

I’m sure there’s a variance of how hard a couple works at a marriage. Some will spend their entire relationship arguing and battling a Class VI river of life’s obstacles while others might bicker some, but will mostly float on down a lazy stream.

Is it a challenge? Yes. Does it require a job description? No - you just gotta wing it. But are the benefits good? Definitely.

We all know the old adage, “two heads are better than one,” but the hard work comes in when those heads don’t always agree.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Clearly, this 38 year old single woman has never been married. I agree that getting married was the best decision of my life, but it's a lot of work. There is no more "I;" everything must be viewed in tems of "we." On it's face, that does not seem like it would create significant challenges, but anyone who is married knows it does. No more can you simply meet the girls after work, lingering over tapas and sangria, without a call home. It's not about control, it's about mutual respect. Hard work? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely. We just celebrated our 10th anniversary.

Anonymous said...

Good article but I dont believe the comment that online dating is evil. I met my husband on match.com and he is wonderful. I think its important that people remember that it is just a way to be introduced to new people. Is it safer to meet someone at a grocery store? NO- they could follow you home, same thing with a bar. Meeting someone online allows you to plan to meet them somewhere in a public place, not share your last name until you make sure you feel comfortable, and to plant a friend in the same restaurant as your date to watch out for you when you meet. Online dating has a bad rap because people call it evil because they had a bad experience by meeting someone and giving too much info online. If people would just use it as a filter to weed out the bad ones it would be great- It helped me to find the man of my dreams.

Anonymous said...

If marriage is so easy then why are there so many divorces? Living with your siblings isn't always easy and you all grew up in the same environment...think about being married to someone who has a different background than you (even with similar backgrounds there is work involved in a marriage). I am married and knew it would take work.. the key is communication.

Anonymous said...

I agree this 38-year-old single woman has certainly never been married. Even in her list of things involved in making a marriage work take a lot of effort - "getting along with someone" is a fine example. What do you like to do for fun? Are you laid-back or passionate (perhaps even hot-tempered)? Are you an early riser or a night owl? Are you a neat freak or messy? Are the in-laws easy to get along with or not? All of these are questions you probably won't know the true answer to until after you are married. Anyone can keep the house clean when your boyfriend/girlfriend is only present a few hours at a time or a few times a week, but once you're there late on a Thursday after a 12-hour day of work, you see how they really live.

I didn't get married until I was 30, and it's been almost 8 years. I tell my single frineds, "Getting married is fairly easy. Staying married takes your best effort." Like the others have said - best decision I have made, but it does take work.

rod said...

What is the "work" in a marriage? Part of it is establishing a consensus on all major decisions, which would include the decision about which decisions are the major ones. Part of it is stuffing all the things you want to talk about when you realize that your partner really needs you to listen right now. Part of it is in never giving up when conflicts come up; doing whatever it takes to reach an amicable resolution, because splitting up simply is NOT an option. It's helping with the house work or the yard work, when you're tired and your back hurts. It's going out to dinner when all you really want to do is go home and sleep. It's reading a book because she loved it, or learning to use a new camera because it's cool, and he really had to have it.

It is subordinating your wants, and sometimes even your needs, to your partner, just because you love him/her and you've chosen to do so.

Anonymous said...

Marriage is very hard work and it takes a conscious effort almost every single day to keep it going. And it's not a spouse you are adding - you are adding an entire family. You are adding all the experiences that person has had apart from you to all the experiences you had apart from them. Your friends; their friends; your financial problems; their financial problems; your health; their health. I've been married 19 years and there have been untold tests - but it's definitely worth it and it's definitely hard work.

Anonymous said...

Part of the reason so many marriages end in divorce is because the people involved DON'T want to do the work needed to make it successful.

Like Anonymous at 2:00 PM on 3/19, I've been married almost eight years. As much as I've enjoyed it, I've also had to work at it. Nothing worthwhile comes without work, and that's especially true about a good marriage. My wife and I have dealt with a lot--each other's families, home renovations, problems at work, and many other things. We've figured out that we're not just going to give up when things get rough. When we said "'til death do us part", we weren't kidding.

Anonymous said...

Doggone right it's work...I'm reminded of how it's SO not for me.

To each their own, and God bless everyone who makes the sacrifices...I'm sure it's worth it for you.

As for myself, I married when I was 30 and divorced 3years later. Shoulda known better, I know. Anyway, I'm now 48, and am at total peace and in love..with being single.

Anonymous said...

I have been married for 8 years and there are ups and downs- sometimes it is effortless for us and sometimes it is hard work. I agree that a lot of people don't want to put in the hard work necessary to keep a marriage going and that's why marriages don't last. The longer you are together, you are bound to run into road blocks. This past year has been the hardest year of our marriage, but we were determined to get through it- and we will. Marriage is not a fairy tale romance- that is just not reality, but it is worth it.

Toni said...

make sure the person is your best, closest friend before marriage. Give him/her total respect and SPACE to pursue their own interests and hobbies. Trust the other person--if you would let them lead you out of a burning building blindfolded only using the sound of their voice, you could consider being with them for the rest of your life. Hangout with each other and put him/her before other people.Don't share your intimate business with friends/relative unless absolutely necessary. Have the other person's back at all times---

Anonymous said...

As someone who has counseled many people on realtionships, I think all of the other posters are correct. These are challenges to a relationship and do take work. However, these are just the normal day to day challenges, and I do not think they are the greatest challenge, or the ones that take the most work. I believe the greatest challenge and cause of such a high divorce rate is the belief that you should always feel like you are "in love" with your partner. There is a societal belief that if you are not feeling "romantically in love" with your partner, that the relationship is dead! The truth is that almost ALL long term relationships will eventually come to this point. Finding a way to make it through the naturally occuring ebbs and flows of feelings in a long term relationship by using the tools of communication, honesty, and respect, without giving up is the real work. The fruit of that labor is an honest, deep, trusting, truly intimate relationship that will help sustain you no matter what life throws at you.

Anonymous said...

My wife wants a divorce and she is a Christian just as I am and I can see it in her eyes that she knows it's wrong and I didn't get a valid reason. She has always jumped when her Parents or one of her friends wants her. She actually left approx 12 months. Came back hot as a firecracker and 2 months later BOOM! I have needs as any other man and she has never done this. We have 2 lovely children and I'm supposed to be packing today but I just can't because it's wrong. I am trying to get my strength up and leave and after being without a companion...not even a kind word I know that I am wasting each precious day given to me. I don't think and never will believe that marriage is hard work. I think it is simply a matter of keeping love first and foremost for each other. If that is done then eveything will take care of itself because you will be crazy and want to help and hold each other. After many, many efforts and praying with her I will stand on all that is left which is my faith and I was even blaming myself but I know that 60 or so love notes and other things completey unanswered I have to find a person (woman) that thinks the same way as I do. When you love each other...It is not hard.

Anonymous said...

I'm the soon to be divorced man and would like t add that Toni seems to be very wise I wished more women thought that way. Thanks Toni!