FAQ: “Why Is Marriage So Hard?”
June 6, 2016
Today we’re answering one of the most frequently asked questions: “Why Is Marriage So Hard?”
If you think marriage is easy, you may not be doing it right.
Falling in love.
Committing to a lifetime together.
Sex. Kids. Bills. Vacations. Yard work. Sickness. Inlaws. Outlaws.
It’s all part of this thing we call marriage.
Day by day we build complicated lives: intermingling finances, assets and DNA to create our family structures.
We live together in confined spaces navigating through different personality traits and annoying pet peeves with each of us carrying our own vast assortment of insecurities, fears and past woundings.
What could possibly go wrong in marriage?!
Trust me on this: plenty goes wrong. And with annoying frequency.
It usually looks like a blending of blaming, criticizing, bullying, intimidation, obsessing, worrying, fear, anxiety, depression, addiction, avoidance, people pleasing, anger, controlling, resentment and lying just to name a few.
This is why it amazes me when someone says marriage shouldn’t be hard. How in the world can it NOT be hard?
Why is marriage so hard? Because it is work.
The work is learning how to merge together, while softening each of your edges.
It is being together enough to work as a team in harmony, yet separate enough to maintain your individuality.
The work of marriage is a deep, soul changing work on each person individually.
Not to change your partner but to learn to adapt to your partner.
It’s about changing YOU because in that adapting, you learn about yourself and how you show up in the world.
Marriage is a great vehicle to doing the hard work of growing yourself up emotionally.
Marriage is work, because it is a constant introspection into your behaviors, thoughts and emotions to see where you are off relationally.
Otherwise, you and your spouse are simply reacting to one another instead of intentionally moving toward each other.
We always say at The Marriage Place that intimacy is “into me you see”. Intimacy is about revealing the truth about who you are, what you feel, how you think, and doing it in respectful ways. (That’s the key, here.)
Why do we hide?
Most of us hide so much of ourselves for fear of being judged or being found somehow less worthy. But when we do this we don’t allow our partner the chance to grow themselves or to grow closer to us.
All of us long for mature love that accepts us without judgment.
But very few of us know how to get or give that kind of love.
So we engage in behaviors to try and ensure we get what we so desperately seek.
There are several behaviors which often cause the problems I see in marriage counseling each week.
Why is marriage so hard? 5 behaviors that hurt our marriages.
Oftentimes without realizing, we engage in disruptive behaviors to get what we want from our spouse.
This may look like any one of these behaviors:
Anytime we try and get more from someone then they are willing or able to give we are clinging. This includes more time, more money, more praise and more affection.
We are controlling people when we try and modify their behavior by using guilt, anger, intimidation, and emotional withdrawal.
We lie when we hide or diminish our mistakes, flaws and fears to avoid people withdrawing their approval.
We lie by accentuating our positive qualities so other people will like us.
We lie when we give false praise or we do not accept responsibility for our mistakes.
An effective way to diminish pain is simply to withdraw from it.
We are running when we physically or emotionally leave or avoid difficult situations or relationships.
Avoiding behaviors can be drinking, drugs, outside relationships, the silent treatment, working too much, hobbies, even time spent with our kids.
Whatever allows us to avoid the relationship that needs our attention.
5. Acting like a victim
When we blame others for our unhappiness, we are taking the victim role.
We may not like the choices we have when someone behaves badly, but ultimately we are responsible for our actions whether we stay and put up with it or we leave it.
Getting mad at our partner for forcing us to make the choice is blaming them and keeps us stuck.
Grudgingly going along in your life as if there is no solution to your problems is taking the victim role.
Learning how to step out of this role is often the most liberating, empowering, life changing move a person can make.
If you are doing any of these behaviors, you have some emotional growing up to do. Your marriage is going to be hard until you do the work.
I know someone who is very entrenched in controlling behaviors. He thinks his marriage is easy because he gets his way a lot. But his spouse thinks the marriage is hard. Very hard.
What can I do about a difficult marriage?
If you want a good marriage, don’t worry about changing your partner.
Focus on changing YOU.
That is your work for a better relationship with anyone else.
Once you change you, your spouse has to change as a result.
It’s like doing a dance.
You are both fox trotting through life and then one of you starts to waltz.
Your partner may stumble a bit.
He or she may feel confused or even angry but they cannot continue the fox trot.
Waiting for your partner to change is why people feel hopeless about their marriages getting better.
Stop waiting. Start doing the work of growing yourself up.
At The Marriage Place we can help you do that. Whether you live locally in the Dallas area or in another country, we have coaches and counselors who can work with you face-to-face or over the phone or Skype.
A better marriage begins with a better you.
Contact us today online or on the phone at (972) 441-4432
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KIM BOWEN is a licensed professional counselor who offers relationship therapy through her company, The Marriage Place. Her blogs and newsletters have been featured in various publications and she is the author of the
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