“It’s not supposed to be this hard.” I have heard this phrase over and over again from struggling couples. What they are referring to is the gap between expectations and reality. Few couples truly understand how much work a healthy marriage requires. Few couples understand the challenges and work that other healthy couples have gone through in order to reach the place they are now. All too often, we form our expectations of marriage from books and movies. We imagine years of happiness, passionate sex, beautiful and obedient children, and fun family vacations. What we don’t imagine are the difficult discussions about losing some of our self-identity in order to be united as a family. We don’t imagine long nights arguing over money or in-laws. We don’t imagine how difficult it will be to change things about ourselves that our spouses don’t like. But those are the realities of marriage. Those are real expectations that two people can plan on when looking ahead towards marriage.
As a therapist, I see a lot of people who just don’t want to do the work that a healthy marriage requires. They had a pre-determined idea of how hard they were going to have to work and if the need surpasses that limit they quit. They quit because they believed marriage was not supposed to be that hard. They quit without asking the right questions. They quit before taking a long look at themselves and asking themselves what they needed to change in order for their marriage to work. Too many people want immediate gratification and marriage usually requires the opposite. In order to build anything that will last we have to make changes in ourselves and change, for most of us, is difficult. For some, that means only a year or two, for others that may mean 10. But to be able to reach 25 years or more you have to do some hard work along the way.
If you find yourself in a rocky section of your marriage – don’t give up. You should know that everyone goes through rough patches. Those are the times that you grow and learn. Stay engaged – if you work hard the ride gets easier and more enjoyable!