We have a fairy-tale impression of marriage, even the most intelligent people gloss over the reality of entering into a partnership that has no end date in sight. Before we marry, our pattern of how we navigate relationships does not prepare us for what marriage expects.
We are used to getting into a relationship, and after a couple of weeks, months, years, the relationship running it's course.
We get bored, lonely or finally strong enough to try again, and put ourselves out there. Through random chance, dating apps and introductions from our friends and relatives, we meet another person we rate above the others, and the process starts all over again. Things go sour, we part ways and begin the process of finding someone new, with the new lessons we learned hopefully guiding our decisions.
We begin dating again.
We meet someone we fancy, we discover things we don't like over time, the relationship ends.
We take time off to heal,and we begin again.
And it goes on and on, until we meet someone new and this time...this time.. the relationship progresses past the usual bumps and indecision's, the hesitations and the delays, this time you are both on the same page and are both ready to marry each other.
We have been conditioned to believe that there is something different about this particular relationship, something that makes it more special, and will somehow magically erase our previous habits of losing interest over time, cheating after a couple of years, wanting something new and fresh, feeling stuck, feeling alone, feeling unappreciated, wanting more from your relationship, outgrowing each other, and getting bored.
We look at marriage like,
"This is my soul mate, our love is going to remain as heightened and intense as the first day we met, till the last days of our lives"
The truth is, the probability of getting to the same point of frustration, and indecision you got to in your previous relationships, is equally as possible in your marriage. Over time, you may hit those familiar blocks and question if your spouse is really the one.
And there is absolutely nothing shocking or scandalous about it.
We are humans, with a pattern that we are used to and has served us well in the past. We have grown used to walking away from relationships that don't serve us, and we are accustomed to starting over and falling in love again, and again and again.
The only difference this time, is that you are now married, and with marriage comes the looming expectation of forever. The expectation to try to make this one work as much as possible. Not only for yourselves, but for your children, your family and your friends.
So many people beat themselves up for their marriages not proceeding as perfectly as they thought, when it is not any fault of theirs why it doesn't.
It was an unrealistic expectation to have in the first place.
We are human beings, and what is familiar to us is what we often repeat.
Real shit will happen, as it has done in your past relationships. As it may have already done in your relationship before you got married. There are many people who believe that marriage changes people. There are multiple stories of couples who solve their differences with a proposal, expecting it to magically solve the issues they had already been facing in their relationships.
"He/she stepping up to commit means he/she is finally ready to put effort into this relationship".
The reality is, we can promise to try and truly mean it, and for some, it really could be a turning point, but we should remember that ultimately, we are the same people, the only difference is that we have a large party and sign a legal document.
It is like expecting to be a totally different person, after celebrating your birthday party.
Most people learn the hard way that marriage often exacerbates the problems we skimmed over while dating. The minor issues that bugged you and could brush off because you were still delirious with excitement, over time could become insurmountable.
Don't let societies tendency to position marriage as the perfect most fulfilling and defining relationship, get you dreaming that all it takes to achieve that, is marriage.
So many people have had much healthier relationships with their previous exes, than with their current spouses.
The point I am trying to get to is, don't be hard on yourself if your marriage does not go perfectly after a while, it is normal and it makes total sense, considering reality.
It is on you and your spouse to not automatically assume that rough patches must signify doom because you wrongly assumed that it would be flowers blooming everyday.
It is on you both to decide if the relationship is worth putting in effort, worth working through your disagreements and worth communicating what you need.
And it is on you both to realize that you owe no one staying together, if it gets to a point where you know there is nothing left for you there.
We look at marriage ending so tragically, almost like it is the death of a person, and not just the end of a relationship that stopped being a good fit for the parties involved.
As tragic as it may feel to move on from a relationship you invested so much time and memories in, without the accompanying guilt and pressure accompanying walking away from a marriage, it could easily be the best thing to happen to both parties involved and even for your children, who are privy to your dysfunctional relationship.
If we can understand why a dysfunctional relationship with a boyfriend/girlfriend should end, we should be able to look at a marriage as the relationship that it is, without installing extra locks and bolts to keep people imprisoned within it, guilty at the thought of considering escape.
People outgrowing each other doesn't change because you had a party and signed a document.
That is reality.
We put made up rules on inescapable reality, and wonder why so many spouses feeling trapped grow to despise and be cruel to each other, and in the most unfortunate of instances, feel resigned to experiencing infidelity and worse, violence.
You are not destined to endure suffering because you made a single choice. We can change our minds as we do with every other decision we make for our lives.
This one choice is not powerful enough to render you a victim of unhappiness, forever.
Words by Doreen Caven
Image by Malick Sidible