What Marriage Means in the Modern Age
What does "I do" Really Mean?
Marriage takes as much effort as it would to maintain any long-term relationship that lasts for years and years.
Every day, day in and day out, you are with that person with whom you committed to. You possibly share children with that person and hopefully at least one of you has a job, as well as hobbies, activities, and chores to combine into all that love and commitment.
So what is all this "work" about? How do you stay married to someone even on bad days without just giving up?
The idea of marriage itself is a bit outdated in the sense that when the concept of marriage came about, people didn't live as long as they do today.
The average life expectancy of a man in 2012 per the Center for Disease Control and prevention, is approximately 76, and for a woman, 81.
That's a pretty long time to be with someone if you met and got married out of high school. Seriously, it's a really long time. You do the math.
"Not expressing frustration is one of the main reasons couples grow apart. The fear of upsetting a spouse with their feelings is a real worry for many people. But this is what marriage is about."
The Long Haul
Perhaps, if people wait until they are in their 30's or even 40's to get married they may have a better chance of staying together for a long time, although apparently, some statistics disagree.
There are statistics that say people who marry when they are very young actually have a better chance of staying together than middle-aged people who marry, or second marriages. To, "stay together" means you enjoy each other in the marriage, fight occasionally, and do not have affairs.
Staying married to someone while having affairs on the side does not count as being "happily" married. Your paperwork may say you're married, but if you're cheating you don't get credit for that.
Take a good look at the Ashley Madison scandal and you'll see how well millions of people have been doing staying just with one person. Not very well.
"So how do you navigate the inevitable blue moods and grumbling in a marriage over time? You learn how to fight smarter and you learn when to fight."
So, back to the "work" of marriage. Marriage takes two people who know who they are, to start with - or at least have a pretty good idea. Knowing who you are can be such things as knowing your emotional limits, knowing how to control your temper, being aware of your reactions to certain situations, knowing your skills and capabilities, or even just having an idea of where you would like to be in 5 years from now.
To be with someone in the long-term setting of a marriage, it's lovely to find someone who knows how to communicate clearly. Having relatively the same goals can also be beneficial. Having the same culture does help a lot too, although that's not always the key.
There are many times that two different cultures blend quite well together. The core reason why the two of you got married needs to be on the same page.
Now that same-sex marriage is becoming legal and more accepted, it doesn't change anything about the concept of marriage itself. It's about agreeing to stay together, working towards a common goal both in fantastic and horrendous times. Whether you're two women, two men, or a man and a woman, the commitment needs to be there.
Fights. They happen. Usually over something small that simmers over periods of time leaving a pot of resentment in its wake. The best defense is to grab the pot before it boils over. That means regular communication.
Not expressing frustration is one of the main reasons couples grow apart. The fear of upsetting a spouse with their feelings is a real worry for many people. But this is what marriage is about. You can't be afraid to tell your partner about your feelings. Though challenging at times, it's vital to your relationship
The biggest fights couples have is usually over money, sex, and the children. Those are all stresses on even the best relationship.
So how do you navigate the inevitable blue moods and grumbling in a marriage over time? You learn how to fight smarter and you learn when to fight.
The term, "pick your battles" actually does have a lot of merits here. Over years of a marriage, you will realize that there are some things worth fighting about and some things better left behind. There are going to be daily annoyances in a marriage; things that can drive a sane person crazy, but you've got to learn to accept the other human being you have committed to.
You've got to realize that some traits about a person will not change, and you either love them anyways and let things go, or you continually have the same fight over and over again getting the same frustrating results. That in itself it the real definition of insanity.
"You will learn the art of when to bring stressful issues up, and when to back off. You will be forced to swallow your pride and practice patience."
Your significant other constantly leaving the wet sponge in the kitchen sink, leaving their clothes on the floor, or always leaving the toothpaste cap off - these are not issues you need to be fighting about. Either your partner is going to keep doing those irritating things no matter how many times you nag them about it or one day they may clean up their act. It doesn't matter.
Save your boxing gloves for the serious stuff, if you must fight at all. But remember this: Once you're married, you can't just run away or make idol threats after a blowout. You're in this for keeps, Right?
"A marriage cannot fulfill a person in the way that having their own interests and space can. A marriage is a partnership, but in order to have a complete one, both people need to be functioning to their best ability."
It can take many years before you know your partner well enough to be able to fight smarter. No matter how long you knew someone or lived with someone before you got married, there's always more to learn about them.
If you are a couple that does communicate well and are able to listen to one another, eventually you will get more in sync with patterns of frustration and what sets off the other person emotionally.
You will learn the art of when to bring stressful issues up, and when to back off. You will be forced to swallow your pride and practice patience. (It's actually very good training for having children).
The more you communicate your needs and concerns in a productive and non-yelling way along the journey, the less likely you are to have frequent, senseless fighting. Most fights are merely expressions of general life stress anyway and nothing to do with your relationship.
In order to keep a marriage running at a smooth, enjoyable pace, one needs to learn how to give and receive space. Two people in a marriage are just that - two people. If you have children, especially young children, then having time for each other, much less alone time is probably a foreign concept.
Having individual alone time, as well as couple time is imperative to hold a functioning marriage for any length of time. If one person - and this is generally true for women - loses their previous identity in all of the lovely chaos that is marriage and kids, then eventually they are going to feel unhappy and unfulfilled.
A marriage cannot fulfill a person in the way that having their own interests and space can. A marriage is a partnership, but in order to have a complete one, both people need to be functioning to their best ability.
In order to function, generally, people need more than just love. They need a purpose, passion or hobby of some kind. It may sound corny, but it's very healthy for married people to have their own interests where they can unwind without depending on anyone but themselves else to feel satisfied.
"when you do get married there is an expectation that you will give it everything you have and stay together until death separates you."
Wedding Bell Blues
Many people are happy to be in long-term relationships but not so excited about actually getting married. It's not clear if it's because the idea of marriage actually means something more permanent, or if it just means marriage is becoming outdated.
I'm sure many people stay together for a lifetime and don't need to get married to make it last.
But the fact remains, that when you do get married there is an expectation that you will give it everything you have and stay together until death separates you.
Speaking of death, according to a study in Scientific American, married people live longer and are healthier. Women do tend to live longer anyway, but apparently even more so when they are married. And men, they don't live as long when they are single and live longer while married, according to that particular study.
It's also been studied that older men who marry younger women do live longer as well, but that women who marry younger men still live to about the same age as they ordinarily would.
One could guess that this means people are actually happier in relationships and marriages, and perhaps even take care of themselves better. But there have also been studies that claim to disprove these statistics. We all know people who are in happy marriages and ones who aren't, so it's all relative.
"Many people are happy to be in long-term relationships but not so excited about actually getting married."
The secret to staying married to someone you actually like, love, and want to be with for the rest of your life is understanding that you're not going to feel it every day.
There will be days when you just don't want to be married, much less in the same room as your partner. They are going to annoy you. You are going to know them so well, that you can predict exactly what they are going to say before they do. That is intimacy. That is something amazing.
Now, by no means should you have an affair on those days you're just not feeling it. On those days, you communicate accordingly to your partner that you're feeling burnt out and frustrated.
You make sure you get your space, whether it's a dinner out with friends, or spending time in your room doing whatever you want, it doesn't matter. When you're done, the goal is to be refreshed and ready to engage again with your partner.
If you can find someone to marry that loves you, accepts you, respects your space, knows how to communicate and is in it for keeps, then that is a recipe for a solid marriage. And whether you find that person when you're 20 or 35, just count yourself as extremely fortunate.
Every relationship needs a breather once in a while, even non-romantic ones. When you're feeling like it's time for a breath in your marriage, that's okay. Take one, it's marriage, it'll wait.
Do you ever regret getting married?
Questions & Answers
© 2015 Michelle Zunter