Marriage Kind of Sounds like Hell on Earth?

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Post by reboundstudent on Wed Oct 22, 2014 2:03 pm

I don't know what to make of the trend I've been seeing (or just noticing now) of people making marriage seem like it is pretty much hell on earth. More accurately, I've seen more and more articles popping up talking about marriage is hard. Marriage, apparently, is the relationship equivalent of the 7 Herculean tasks. I mean, I know intellectually that marriage, even relationships, have their challenges. But a lot of the stuff I'm reading lately makes it seem like marriage is, well, just kind of the pits. For example, the comments on this article* make it seem like marriage is just a constant struggle... you're constantly communicating, and compromising, and struggling, and having to deal with this and that and all of this, and on top of all of the "partner" stuff you then have to worry about life stuff.

*http://itheedread.jezebel.com/damn-i-wish-id-known-this-stuff-before-i-got-married-1647264760

Is marriage... really like that? Maybe this is a terribly naive question, but should the expectation for a long-term relationship and marriage be that it is just going to be a long, hard slog, and that feeling emotionally exhausted is just kind of reality? (Like how I read articles for not-yet parents, and am told I better be prepared for having almost no sleep, and no showers or time to myself for years.)

Heading off at the pass: No, Partner-who-is-reading-this, this does not mean I think you are a bad partner because I am thinking about marriage in a general way.
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Post by BasedBuzzed on Wed Oct 22, 2014 2:09 pm

Hercules had 12 tasks.

Anyhow, to add something besides a nitpick, marriage is like the rest of life, I imagine: it has its ups and downs, it's not the same for any two people, and you're never 100% sure what you're getting into.

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Post by Guest on Wed Oct 22, 2014 2:10 pm

Well, as someone who has never wanted to get married for exactly all of these reasons, I'm perhaps not the best person to respond. But it seems to me that the "work", although it is still work, is something you want to do with the right person. Communication and compromise don't have to be a slog, because they become a habit. I have observed that provided you go into every difference of opinion/confrontation with overall goodwill towards your partner then it's probably going to work unless you want totally different things.

It's when I see people who bicker, or who seem to think that their happiness can only come at the expense of their partner, or who spend all their energy scoring points, that I wonder why they stay together.

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Post by eselle28 on Wed Oct 22, 2014 2:15 pm

No, that's not what it's always like. It wasn't even like that for me, at least not all the time, and I had a pretty lousy marriage. The Jezebel article is focused on a lot of things that relate specifically to the getting married part of things and the initial set of compromises that come with moving in together around that same time period. Not everyone does both of those things at once, and both of them are fairly limited time periods in the scope of a relationship.

I guess my idea of it is that it's sort of like being on a team with someone? When things are working, there's some maintenance that goes along with having a team like coordinating schedules and communicating, but for the most part it's an immense benefit to both people to have someone else to help and to just enjoy sharing the experience with. When they're not, the maintenance seems draining and the good parts about having someone else on your team kind of recede. From what I can tell, even good marriages can have periods that are more like the second one, but that isn't their status quo.

I sometimes think the "marriage is hard" story is presented as an attempt to weigh against the "marriage is something everyone should aspire to" narrative rather than because it's the whole truth. I sometimes think talk of raising children is the same way. The people who I know are parents are sometimes exhausted or feel restricted by their kids, but there are moments of joy and love there too that seem to make them find the experience fulfilling - at least for most of them.
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Post by Enail on Wed Oct 22, 2014 2:25 pm

Nope. Nope nope nope. I think that this is a combination of mountains-into-molehills (having to get a joint bank account b/c there might be cheques you want to deposit seems like it should fall into the category of "hey, this is a useful little tip," not OMG being married is exhausting), and just general life-can-be-pretty-challenging stuff.

Also, the article you linked to at least is more of a 'weddings are hard' than a 'marriage is hard.' Which, well, one thing I learned when planning to get married is that there is an entire industry devoted to trying to make you go insane. Although we had a tiny, low key, not-very-weddinglike-wedding, even trying to Google the most ordinary of questions can easily land you in a haze of disorienting, priority-warping messages. So, yeah, I can easily imagine it being a little startling after all that to find that being married doesn't just mean "we have the prettiest table doilies and thus have a perfect love," it still means "we're regular human beings who are carrying on with having lives afterwards."

Feeling continually exhausted probably means that something is wrong, either in the relationship or in life in general. Think 'hard work' not the way being on a chain gang is work, but the way making some kind of awesome meal is work, getting caught up in deciding a menu and tiring yourself out making a mess in the kitchen  and running into an occasional "oh crap, I don't have bakers' chocolate!" - sometimes it is tiring or stressful, but it's something you're doing b/c you enjoy it.
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Post by reboundstudent on Wed Oct 22, 2014 2:40 pm

Enail wrote: Also, the article you linked to at least is more of a 'weddings are hard' than a 'marriage is hard.' Which, well, one thing I learned when planning to get married is that there is an entire industry devoted to trying to make you go insane. Although we had a tiny, low key, not-very-weddinglike-wedding, even trying to Google the most ordinary of questions can easily land you in a haze of disorienting, priority-warping messages. So, yeah, I can easily imagine it being a little startling after all that to find that being married doesn't just mean "we have the prettiest table doilies and thus have a perfect love," it still means "we're regular human beings who are carrying on with having lives afterwards."

I admit, I was looking more at the comments, where people were trading stories about "Oh my gosh, you think THIS is hard, wait until THIS...." One poster commented about how "having a baby was like throwing a bomb into the middle of my marriage. You won't know where the pieces land."

Intellectually, I've always heard all of this stuff on the periphery; "marriage is hard work", "kids are hard work", but I think I kind of dismissed it as "in my day we had to walk 15 miles in the snow to school" and "yeah, duh, of course."

But hearing over and over about how difficult figuring out chores and jobs and kids and schedules and in-laws and even the wedding itself just makes me want to curl up in on myself, and erect a "do not engage" sky-high wall for the next rest-of-my-life. I mean, life is hard enough. I read these articles, and I see great big neon signs that say "You are never going to have a moment's rest or happiness forever." I mean, if I can barely manage the difficulties of myself, how in the world can I take on the it's-challenging-even-for-normal-folks work of marriage?...
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Post by Guest on Wed Oct 22, 2014 2:45 pm

Marty, if you're already in a relationship (which you are) and/or cohabiting (can't remember if you and the BF live together?) then you are already doing most of that aspect of work and putting a ring on it will make little difference to that.

The people I know who have struggled have been the ones who think that having children won't change their lives at all. We will still have movie nights! And go on middle-class-white-person holidays!! Haha, no. No, you won't. And you won't want to for the first few years and then you will rail against your captivity as though the universe has been terribly unfair to you, even though YOU WERE TOLD.

Ahem. Anyway. *smooths down clothing*

Weddings, on the other hand. Don't get me STARTED.

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Post by reboot on Wed Oct 22, 2014 2:51 pm

Marriage and kids is hard as is any lifetime commitment, but also very rewarding. People do love to enhance the hard, in the "OMG, you think your life is hard!" one upmanship game. Those are always the stories you are going to hear more.

Most successful (and even not so successful) marriages have their ups and downs and rough patches. The ones that succeed successfully navigate them. So you need to balance the idea of everything being great/terrible with the reality that there will be periods of both great and terrible.
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Post by Guest on Wed Oct 22, 2014 2:58 pm

Totally agree with reboot about the unreasonable slant of people's tales. I have developed a habit of asking these people why they stay if they despise Partner so much. At which point they are at pains to describe all the wonderful things about Partner, and how could I not have noticed how great they are? Um. Cause... all I ever hear from you is negative?

Yep, and then when you're pregnant you get all the horror stories: "Oh, I was in labour for 87 hours, none of the drugs worked, eventually they had to cut the baby out of me with a rusty teaspoon, then I bled to death". Most of these stories are bollocks. I have had women tell me childbirth stories that were medically impossible just to make themselves sound special and interesting.

My mother likes to counteract these stories by making a point of telling pregnant women that she had easy births both time, and with me went from backache to baby in four hours and not a complication in sight. My mum is awesome.

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Post by Conreezy on Wed Oct 22, 2014 3:44 pm

6 months in, and I'm still diggin it. I say that's a success.

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Post by Guest on Wed Oct 22, 2014 3:48 pm

I quite like the idea of being married. Of having someone permanently on Team Me. I'd be more worried about my inability to commit actually.

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Post by reboundstudent on Wed Oct 22, 2014 3:52 pm

embertine wrote:Marty, if you're already in a relationship (which you are) and/or cohabiting (can't remember if you and the BF live together?) then you are already doing most of that aspect of work and putting a ring on it will make little difference to that.

Yeah, cohabiting, and that's.... kind of what triggers me about these marriage discussions. I am finding cohabiting... difficult, and all of the articles seem to suggest that compared to marriage/kids, this is the easy part. I mean, if this is the easy part, and I'm struggling and finding myself just consistently worn out, what does that say about me?

(Please pay close attention to the me in the sentence above. I am saying there is something wrong with me. Please do not yell at me about this.)
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Post by UristMcBunny on Wed Oct 22, 2014 3:54 pm

I think I see this a lot - there seems to be some weird assumption in the world at large that a sizeable chunk of the population think weddings are the fairytale happy ending to a story, and that this falsehood must be corrected lest their marriages collapse at the first sign of difficulty raaarrgh rargh bluster wibble.

Which... no.  

Granted I'm engaged, not married but... honestly that article is a mess.  I mean, touching on the points one by one...

1- So receiving lots of cheques can be a difficult thing to wrangle with banks.  Granted, but that's not a marriage thing - it's a wedding thing.  And after the wedding thing is done this will cease to be anything to worry about.

2- So... writing thank you cards is work?  I mean seriously, I am anticipating writing cards to both our entire families, probably a bunch of friends, but you're going to know in advance roughly how many people that is.  And again, this is a wedding thing, not a marriage thing.  Am I the only person who doesn't see writing thank you notes as a chore?  It's not like they need to be page-long hand-written updates on the state of your marriage.  It's thank you for your presence at the wedding, thank you for the thoughtful gift/money it will be very useful for Thing, we loved having you and hope you had a great time, here is a cute picture from the wedding photoshoot of us being saccharine and/or drunk.

3- Structured conversations about the big stuff should really happen... a LONG FUCKING TIME before the wedding, yes?  I mean, surely you want to know thinks like kids: Y/N? and where will we live? and how will we do money things?  BEFORE you agree to get engaged to someone?  This seems like an irrelevant thing to add in as part of an article about how being married is hard.  

4- Did the person who wrote this article have a very specific kind of arranged marriage where they did not meet their partner for any substantial amount of time before the big day?  Or marry someone in Vegas after meeting them two days previously?  Because most people cohabit before marriage, and even if you personally choose not to do that, if you know someone for more than six months you're going to already have a feel for things like whether they pick their nose FFS.

5- Teamwork.  Well duh.  That's kind of the case for relationships in general, whether they're involving marriage or not.

That... felt like an incredibly pointless article.  I was assuming it had used some of the above points to inflate the message, and then it turned out the inflation was all there was. A lot of scaremongering in there. I feel you on the terror there Marty - it does kind of make marriage sound like endless drudgery, and in my old commitment-phobic days would've been held up by me as evidence of exactly why I shouldn't ever get serious with anyone.


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Post by eselle28 on Wed Oct 22, 2014 3:58 pm

For whatever it's worth, I don't think cohabiting is that much easier than marriage without children. I find that variables like financial security or lack thereof, how many household responsibilities there are, whether there are pets, and so on can matter, but those things aren't necessarily associated with either marriage or cohabitation.

Living with other people's moods and figuring out how to divide work and expenses and what priorities are important is all tough stuff.
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Post by Guest on Wed Oct 22, 2014 4:05 pm

Nonono. Cohabiting is the HARD part. It's where you find out if you can truly share your space with someone, if you can negotiate things like money and time and boring everyday stuff without resenting each other. If you will murder him if he drops his socks on the bathroom floor one. More. Time. Or if he will murder you if he has to sit through one more episode of Battlestar Galactica.

And it sounds very hard to me, which is why I have never been able to pull the trigger on it. But obviously a lot of people think it's worth it, and it sounds as though, ultimately, it is for you too.

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Post by Enail on Wed Oct 22, 2014 4:24 pm

One thing I did think was good about that article is that it treats pragmatic details as part of the relationship and its challenges, whereas I think a lot of people talk about them as if they're totally extraneous to the happiness/functionality of a relationship. On the "cohabiting is hard" front, I think that's actually a huge one - how much time and space you each have to yourselves, if the way you're sharing expenses or finances works for you or not, those kinds of things are important.  My wife and I nearly murdered each other when we were living in a 1 bedroom/livingroom apartment, just b/c we're both people who need our own space.  Our relationship improved a million percent when we moved. If you're struggling with it, that could be a cue to look at your set-up.

I second the people saying that cohabiting already has most of the hard parts. For me, the only thing that changed between Living in Sin and Married was that Married Us had an Xbox, a nice kitchen table and some photos of the people we love dressed up and smiling.
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Post by UristMcBunny on Wed Oct 22, 2014 4:43 pm

Enail wrote:

I second the people saying that cohabiting already has most of the hard parts. For me, the only thing that changed between Living in Sin and Married was that Married Us had an Xbox, a nice kitchen table and some photos of the people we love dressed up and smiling.

It is my sincere hope that marriage for me ends up looking pretty much the same! (With extra fluffy instead of that xbox though, because I recently found out an old Norse marriage tradition was the groom gifting the bride with a kitten on their wedding day as an "essential part of a household" and I am going to MILK MY FAITH FOR ALL I CAN IF IT MEANS MORE FLUFFIES).

But yeah, space and understanding is crucial. It helps to talk through together what you each need and want from life to be happy, and to revisit that as you find out more about each other and yourselves. If one of you needs a lot of personal space to be comfortable, while the other needs a lot of physical contact to feel loved, it's useful to know that so you can both find ways to balance meeting each other's needs with caring for your own. And so on.

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Post by Guest on Wed Oct 22, 2014 4:46 pm

HOLY CRAP KITTEN BRIDAL GIFT

Right, I need to marry someone Nordic. Um. So, Chris Hemsworth is not actually a Norse god, right? Pity.

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Post by Wondering on Wed Oct 22, 2014 7:57 pm

Late to the conversation here, but yeah, cohabitating is the hard part. Now, my husband and I weren't officially living together before we got married, we didn't have mingled finances or anything, but I was spending every weekend at his place and, when I was teaching, most summer time off. So we knew each other's habits and such. And we knew how the other spent money even if we weren't doing it jointly yet. We were also engaged for over a year before we got married, so all the big conversations that we hadn't already had by the time we got engaged (kids, religion, where to live: already had), we had during the engagement.

I do not find my marriage a long, hard slog. There are parts of compromise and communication difficulty, sure. But my marriage brings joy to my life.

Having kids is challenging, no doubt. But how much so is going to differ and, I agree with embertine, is going to depend in a large part on what your prior expectations of kids are.

My mother likes to counteract these stories by making a point of telling pregnant women that she had easy births both time, and with me went from backache to baby in four hours and not a complication in sight. My mum is awesome.

Haha. These are actually the people I got sick of hearing during my pregnancy. Mine was difficult. So when people would tell me, "Oh my pregnancy was so easy, and the baby popped right out," I started to think shut up, shut UP, SHUT UP! Grin

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Post by Mel on Wed Oct 22, 2014 8:36 pm

I just want to add another voice saying that cohabitating is the difficult part and marriage not so much. My husband and I were living together for eight years before we got married, already had a joint bank account and had talked through the big issues and even had bought a house together, and we did a very low key wedding (official marriage at city hall with just a few guests and a casual wedding "party" a week later with about 50 guests). I honestly can't think of a single thing that was harder after we got married. Actually it was nice being officially married because I didn't have to feel weird about calling him my "husband" anymore (which I'd been doing with a silent "common law" before it for years, since "boyfriend" sounded too informal after a while) and there's a sort of security in knowing everything's legally clear in case something happens to one of you.

Having a kid, yeah, that's been challenging, but mostly just in the first few months when we were especially sleep-deprived and so not able to be as patient with each other. You just have to be prepared for that and try to have some plans in place ahead of time for dealing with the usual problems that'll come up so you're less likely to get overwhelmed and into an argument in the moment.
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Post by kleenestar on Wed Oct 22, 2014 9:26 pm

I love living with my partner, and I love "being married" - which I put in quotes because I was deeply happy even before we officially got married. The things that people are talking about in the comments seem totally alien to me.

We lived together for a decade before getting married and figuring out how to cohabit was the hard part. I've actually been reflecting that it felt a lot like moving to a new city - your routines are up in the air, you have to relearn all your habits, and now you've got some dude you're working around, whoa! But as each part of our cohabiting relationship fell into place, it went from "hard work because I am using my whole brain to figure out this problem" to "ahhhh, so nice, warm bath!" It's not hard work because it's sucky work, it's hard work because it's a problem you don't yet know how to solve. And even better, it's skill-based hard work - so each cohabiting problem you solve will actually give you better skills to deal with the next one down the line.

If you ever need a pep talk about how great it is to be in a long-term relationship, I'm your gal. I know some people in this thread are like "Yeah, ups and downs," but for me it is basically one long up. He is the best thing in my life, and I have a pretty goddamn good life.
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Post by celette482 on Wed Oct 22, 2014 9:38 pm

Newly married person here (it's been over a month, that's legit and all)- weddings suck. They suck a lot and even the most low-key affair can be a tangle of emotions, mostly Not Yours.

But being married? It's like a breath of fresh air. That terror of breaking up is suddenly gone. Oh man, here's this person who is going to have my back forever and we can make long term plans and it won't be silly or anything because hey, married.

And yes to kleenestar's hard work because strange not hard work because sucky. It's more like... this is a fun but challenging puzzle, not scooping out shit. Although there are sometimes gross things that need doing.

Actually, I just got cats too, and I see my new marriage a lot like being a cat owner. The cats got sick and someone (me) had to clean it up. Before I had cats, I would have balked. Now? Well, I still scrub my hands with soap and hot water afterward, but it doesn't even *bother* me to clean it up because I love my cats and that is what has to be done. Same thing with marriage and the relationship work. What? Organize my life around Another Person???? Well, it's a thing that needs doing and you do it because you love the person and that means you clean up shit- yours his whatever. Parenting I imagine is similar.

Hi, by the way.
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Post by Guest on Thu Oct 23, 2014 4:48 am

Wondering wrote:Haha. These are actually the people I got sick of hearing during my pregnancy.
Oh don't worry, she knows that can be just as bad, she only does it when she's watched a gang of mothers reduce a pregnant woman almost to tears with the horror stories!

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Post by kath on Fri Oct 24, 2014 12:45 am

I think one of the things that can make marriage harder is expecting that being married will all of a sudden change a lot of stuff.

I don't really think being married without kids is much harder than being in a committed relationship and maintaining that. It's really the same work.

Friends of mine who have been together 11-ish years (since they were about 15) got married last month, and it was totally hilarious hearing people give them relationship advice. They made it though highschool, starting post-secondary apart from each other, struggling really hard with post-secondary, dropping out, getting jobs, dealing with health issues and buying a house together over the past 11 years. Other than have kids, if they decide to do that, the process of getting married was probably the last fraught and stressful thing they had on their list to do, and they made it through that too. I don't think there's a lot of relationship ins and outs they haven't already dealt with that "on your wedding" type advice will be useful for.
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Post by Dan_Brodribb on Sat Oct 25, 2014 7:17 pm

kath wrote:I think one of the things that can make marriage harder is expecting that being married will all of a sudden change a lot of stuff.

I think that's one of the smartest sentences I've ever seen, kath, and I think it's true of a lot of the stuff we talk about on these forums and on DNL.

We all know the cliche about the troubled couple that doubles down on their relationship, deciding that MORE COMMITMENT will fix everything, whether that's getting married, moving in together, or having a child. And then being shocked that it doesn't work out.

On a broader note, I think we apply that same thinking to other things. That getting laid, getting a partner, or losing one's virginity will 'all of a sudden change a lot of stuff.'

Some people get those things and then are disappointed and shocked that the change didn't happen. I also sometimes think some people know at heart that stuff won't change, and they also want to keep the dream alive. So they put something out as their ideal 'getting married,' 'losing virginity,' 'getting the right job' but in order to buttress themselves against the disappointment that it won't fix or change them, they also take self-sabotaging steps to make sure that their ideal never actually comes about.

I think sometimes that while change is hard to accept, sometimes an even more difficult thing is the changes that DON'T happen.

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