PATENT PENDING. Taking pre-orders!
Marriage does funny things to people’s relationships. Neither your mom nor I were strangers to long-term relationships (defined as relationships lasting longer than a year), so we understood that things are usually different during the honeymoon phase, which can sometimes last a very long twelve months. If I recall correctly, it was only a month after we started dating that your mother said to me, “Whatever we do in the first three months we have to carry on doing for the rest of our relationship. So don’t do anything you won’t be doing in the future!” It seemed reasonable for her to get a real sense of the expectations she should have if we were to build a life together.
At the time, I was refilling her water every time she finished it, going out to get her dry cleaning, doing everything I could to avoid farting in front of her, and never telling her when I was going to poop. I was (am?) a gentleman, so I naturally scoffed and told her not to be silly. “Of course, everything I do now I’ll continue doing.” What else was I supposed to say?
It’s hard to track how much either of us are doing things differently than when we first started dating, particularly as we are part of the evolution, but it’s clear some stuff has changed. When I pass gas now, I let ’em rip. And I make it a point to announce to her when I’m “dropping the kids off at the pool”.
The sex is also not what it used to be. It’s still great, just in a different and more comfortable way.
Your Mom: I have a headache.
Me: Should we have sex?
Your Mom: Well, that’s up to you.
Me: Huh? But you have the headache.
Your Mom: I can just lay there.
Your Mom: Are we having sex tonight?
Me: Yea, sure.
Your Mom: Well, can I wear a zit sticker or should I wait until after we’re done?
Do either of those exchanges sound like how two adults would talk before having sex? No, because we’re not single anymore, we’re not in the movies, and I’m not Joe Cool.
But not all has changed though…I still refill her water cup. But I do openly complain while I’m doing it.
I know it’s just a saying, but it annoys me when people use the phrase “Trouble in paradise?” because “paradise” is not a realistic or accurate description of the relationship slog. And perhaps it is these types of sayings that reflect the lofty expectations we as a society hold for marriage and partnerships.
As much as I want to romanticize the notion of relationships and marriage, the honest unsurprising truth is that they’re not all about everything coming up roses. It’s been covered a thousand times over by hundreds of qualified and unqualified authors, and even warrants its own genre in bookstores. I can see the appeal. You get married, there’s inevitable conflict, and for some, you want to turn somewhere for guidance. For others, it’s just comforting to know you’re not alone and there are others in the trenches also struggling. So having been married for (a short) eighteen months, I’ve read my fair share of articles, some of which have been very good*, and they all more or less say the same thing. I’ll save you the time and tell you what they all try to say in three bullets:
- Marriage/love isn’t about making you happy, it’s about making your spouse happy
- Your spouse/partner is, in essence, your best friend
- “[Marriage] is work, but it’s the best kind of work, and there’s no one I’d rather work with” courtesy of Ben Affleck, our new Batman
But despite having these nuggets of generic wisdom, the other uncelebrated truth is that you’re going to have to internalize and work it all out by yourself. I’ve fallen into the trap of complacency because I think everyone else seems to have issues and then conclude that it’s a universal truth couples fight. But all it is is lazy and unfair to myself and my wife. All that reading was just a good start, but now the real work begins.
Relationships and marriage are not for the faint of heart, but for those persistent enough, I believe that paradise might not seem so far off. (Wish me) Good luck.
* Here are a couple of the better articles on love and marriage. If not for their insight, then for their simplicity in describing the complicated emotion.