There are a lot of folks out there who say marriage shouldn’t feel like work. Or if it feels like work, you’re doing it wrong. After more than a decade of marriage, I think marriage IS hard work that’s SO worth it.
Here’s why I think that:
Some of the ways working hard in the marriage benefits you are: you’ll live longer, you will be better off financially, your kids deserve a 2 parent household, and you deserve to be happy. But those are just a handful of the proven benefits of marriage being hard work, so let’s get into it!
If you got a college degree, learned a trade like becoming an electrician or mastered a musical instrument, what did that take?
It took HARD WORK!
Now I’m not referring to horrible soul-crushing work; the kind you dread every morning when you wake up. If that’s what your marriage feels like then you are doing it wrong.
No, I’m simply stating that anything worth doing, having or pursuing doesn’t come easy.
And once you’ve made it to the New York Philharmonic Orchestra as a violinist does the work stop No! You have to keep focusing your craft; honing it, improving it and nurturing it.
And when that violinist does that, it’s not a chore they loathe; it’s a labor of love (hopefully). Marriage IS hard work and that’s OK. It’s supposed to be.
So in this post, we’re diving deep into what marriage is (or should be), why it’s OK to continually work at improving it, how to take things to the next level, and why you should be worried when it ISN’T hard work.
Is your marriage challenging or feeling like it’s not succeeding?
I feel your pain and I know firsthand what it’s like being in a marriage that’s not working.
I still remember when my wife told me in 2013 that while she still loved me, she wasn’t sure she was still IN love with me. We started talking divorce, splitting up our household, and seeing the devastating effect that would have on them.
And that’s on top of the financial challenges, stigma, the emotional turmoil, and the feeling of all those wasted years.
And yet, here my wife and I are, years later, with our 3rd daughter born in 2017; with a marriage better than ever.
How did we do it?
The turning point in a marriage is when a couple hits rock bottom, as my wife and I did.
It’s not until they’ve been through the worst that things start to get better. So if you think you might be there, you should take a moment and learn about the 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage.
And the best part is that you can learn about those 100% free!
Mort Fertel is the founder of the Marriage Fitness program (click to watch his free video). You’ve probably seen him on Fox, or HuffPost, The New York Times, and dozens of other places.
This quote from Chris of Albany perfectly sums it up:
“This is unlike any free info I’ve ever received. There’s no fluff, junk, or promos. Mort gives you the goods for free. I used Mort’s program to save my marriage. But it all started with his free advice.”
CLICK HERE to check out his info completely free!
Why it’s OK to admit that marriage is hard work
It somehow feels wrong to admit that marriage is hard work.
We feel a little ashamed or that somehow it means our marriage is in trouble and the “work” is us desperately trying to fix it.
In some cases that could be true. I’ve walked through my own marital struggles before in a post about the different types of Marital Conflict (click to read my post on all of them) including the 1 you should absolutely avoid at all costs.
But in most cases our marriages are fine and the “work” is just the daily effort we put into:
- Communicate more effectively
- Be less defensive
- Take more responsibility when we mess up
- Not give & give & give to work, the kids and everyone else and have nothing left for our spouse
How difficult is it to live in a marriage?
A good marriage requires the following from you:
- Understanding that your actions affect others
- Not always getting what you want when you want it
The reason a lot of marriages end in divorce is that people simply give up when things get hard (and they will).
In our society today, we’ve become accustomed to getting what we want quickly and when something doesn’t give us what we want, we dispose of it and get a new one.
Unfortunately, relationships have become like that too.
But I’m here to tell you that it is indeed OK to admit that marriage is hard work. But it’s work well worth doing. It’s soul-enriching. It’s life-saving (your own and your children’s).
If you admit that marriage is hard work that means you’re focused on it; improving it and yourself.
You’re dedicated to your marriage, your spouse and your family. And that’s a great thing!
If you think, however, that things are too far gone and have wondered if Can Marriage Counseling Help? (click to read my article to find out), one of my most popular posts walks you through the world of couples counseling.
I get into what they do, how they do it, what it costs, and what the actual statistics say about success rates. So if you’re curious, check that out now!
How do you survive a difficult marriage?
In short, I don’t think you should.
Life is too short to just survive. Life is a journey and it ends the same way for everyone. So what’s the point if that journey to the end is miserable.
The bad news is you can’t change anyone else.
The good news is you can change yourself, your attitude, your mindset, and your boundaries. I’m active in a few marriage groups on Facebook and I couldn’t tell you how many hundreds of times I’ve seen comments from people who feel stuck in a miserable marriage.
Their spouse is controlling, abusive, secretive, or maybe even all of the above.
Now, if you’re a stay at home mom with 3 kids married to a jerk, you might feel stuck; especially if the kids are young. You might feel you have to survive the marriage rather than leave it. And maybe you’ve tried to fix or improve it and it hasn’t worked.
In that case, there are 2 possibilities:
- He’s always been a jerk and you should have known better before you said “I do”
- Something has shifted in him, you, or the marriage that is creating tension and unhappiness
If it’s #1, there isn’t a lot you can do other than be clear, be honest, set boundaries, and come up with a long term plan for yourself and your kids. That could be taking online classes so you can get a job once the kids are in school. Or maybe it’s an online side-hustle (like this blog).
But don’t just stay in a miserable marriage with no hope in sight and no escape plan.
But I think more often, a miserable marriage is probably due to #2. Something has changed. Maybe just the pressure we guys often put on ourselves to climb the corporate ladder, make more money, buy more stuff, etc.
It’s easy to shift our priorities to what we think matters and let the stuff that actually matters fall by the wayside.
If that sounds familiar, the keys are open and honest (and non-accusatory) communication. Maybe therapy, and finding a way back to the love you once felt for each other.
How do you know when your marriage is really over?
If marriage ever stops feeling like hard work that’s a bad sign. It means one of you or both of you have either:
- Given up and are just coasting through life because it’s easier than divorce
- Started building a life outside the marriage (I’m not necessarily referring to infidelity)
- Felt like all the issues in the relationship are the other person’s and it’s just not worth the effort to change
Marriage is hard work. And it’s designed to stay that way.
The violinist in my first example has to practice every day! Not only to improve but just to maintain. Your marriage is no different.
If we start to slack on our marriage & take it for granted we risk losing what we had. At the very least we risk it never being as good as it can be.
Of course, if the bad significantly outweighs the good in your marriage and you dream about life without them or with someone else, you do need to take action as your marriage is close to the end.
The good news is that if you want it, you can Rekindle Your Marriage (click to read my step-by-step article) at almost any time.
So if you aren’t sure your marriage is worth saving, but you want to give it one last shot, I highly encourage you to take a moment and review my post on EXACTLY how I did that in my own marriage.
Is the first year of marriage the hardest?
Yes, and no.
It’s often hard from the standpoint that the honeymoon is over and you’re learning what it really means to be with this person. Even if you lived together first, it can still be hard.
When we’re dating, our endorphins are rushing and we tend to only see the good and the exciting aspects of our partner.
That wears off once you say “I do”. Then we set about everyday life. We see each other in worn-out underwear instead of only the sexy stuff. We start paying bills together, cleaning cat boxes and other mundane stuff that probably wasn’t part of our everyday dating life.
You’re also really getting to know someone unless you dated for a decade.
The reason I said “no” at the top in addition to yes, is that the 1st year often still doesn’t involve kids. So in that regard you may still be going out and having fun, sleeping in, and feeling rested. Kiss most of that goodbye when kids come into the picture.
The other thing that happens when kids enter the picture is we start thinking about career advancement so we can make more money. That has a way of shifting our priorities away from our spouse. We think we’re doing what is most important, but over time, it can create a divide between the couple.
That can lead to resentment and building separate lives away from each other.
The side effects of that can lead to affairs, addiction, or best-case scenario, just feeling more like roommates than partners and lovers. So for those reasons, I also feel like years 3-7 can be the hardest for many couples.
Why is marriage harder than dating?
When my wife and I were dating I was on a sabbatical from my job as a general manager at Whole Foods Market and my wife was working just above an entry-level position.
We didn’t have kids yet and while I did have a mortgage, I also had a good income (only temporarily paused) and we didn’t have a lot of things holding us back.
While we did a lot of things together, we generally did what we wanted when we wanted to.
Now, well over a decade later, we have 3 kids, she’s working on finishing her degree, I blog on the side in addition to working and commuting well over 50 hours a week.
The main difference here is that our time together, just the two of us is in very short supply. And when we do spend time together, it’s not uncommon to be interrupted frequently.
But if you want to review some of the steps we took to help Restore the Intimacy (click to read my post on how to do it) in our marriage, check out my post on that.
It walks you through 31 incredibly simple things you can do to help make things feel more like they did when you were dating.
What are the signs of an unhappy marriage?
— WR Record (@WR_Record) May 25, 2017
I alluded to it above, but for me, work is rewarding, enriching and I like seeing the effort I put forth building something up.
If anything in your life that requires effort doesn’t make you feel rewarded you should look to change something.
Either yourself or your attitude about it, or that thing itself.
Marriage is hard work but it should feel good. The work you put into your marriage should be improving it; making it better and stronger.
It should be the kind of work you feel great about. You should be able to see a noticeable improvement in your marriage.
If you are seeing any of the following signs, that is a sign of an unhappy marriage (time to take action!):
- Arguments with name-calling, belittling, or profanity
- Neither of you initiates sex
- You have totally separate interests and networks of friends
- You feel totally apathetic about your spouse
Believe it or not, you can take your relationship to the next level even from this place.
I’ve covered the 7 Stages of a Healthy Relationship (click to read my post) in a previous post that was my most popular post when it came out.
No matter what stage yours is in, I walk you through identifying the stage and taking it to the next level.
Is fear driving your behavior with your spouse?
If you’re working on your marriage out of fear that’s a clear indication of trouble. Actually doing anything because you’re afraid is not a good sign.
Dealing With Relationship Insecurity | 10 Tips To Handle Insecurity this dude is hitting every spot just right ? https://t.co/CgDxiWpWF7
— Haley woods (@haleywoods214) May 23, 2017
Perhaps you’re afraid . . .
- Your spouse is cheating?
- That they are planning to leave you?
- Maybe you fear them becoming bored with you?
- You feel like they are wishing you were more physically attractive?
When we have these fears we first have to decide if the fear is based on actual things our spouse has said or done. Or is our own insecurity is driving these fears based on nothing?
Insecurity is a relationship killer.
Trust me, I know. I’ve had issues with feeling insecure and it’s something I still occasionally struggle with.
My most popular relationship post on being a Needy Guy deals with this topic. It’s well worth checking out if you haven’t already.
If your fears are based in reality you need to deal with that before you can take the relationship to the next level.
But if our fears are simply rooted in our own insecurity we need to work on ourselves and not “punish” our spouse for no reason.
My solution for anxiety & insecurity?
Interestingly enough, adding magnesium to my morning routine actually has helped my overall anxiety a considerable amount.
I personally use Natural Calm Magnesium powder and just add a tablespoon to a large glass of water each morning after I get up. It’s organic, GMO-free, vegan and gluten-free. They claim, and in my 6 months of using it, I agree that it:
- Supports a healthy immune system and keeps bones strong
- Supports regular blood sugar levels, blood pressure and producing energy
- Helps fight stress and anxiety
That’s all I have to say on that, but if you give it a try, I’d love to hear how it works for you!
CLICK HERE to check current prices on Amazon Prime.
Why you should work harder in your marriage
Everyone who is married or in a committed relationship should work harder.
Why? For many of us, our kids are counting on us. Kids need 2 parents. That doesn’t mean single parents are bad (my Mom was one).
But children of divorce just face more challenges than kids from 2 parent homes.
That’s not to shame anyone.
If you’re in that boat there might be very good reasons why you got divorced and your kids could well be better off. It’s not my place to judge and I don’t know your situation.
But I do know from personal experience that divorce can be very hard on kids.
If you feel like you’re heading for divorce, it may not be too late! Marriage is hard work but as Lenny says, “it ain’t over ’till it’s over”.
Check out my 2nd most popular relationship post which covers the Top 3 Reasons for Divorce (click to read my article that breaks them down) and how you can steer clear of them!
In that above-mentioned post, I focused a lot on divorce statistics in the USA where I live. But I love this infographic here which covers the impact and effects of divorce in the UK.
All in all, people are people and no matter where you live I bet your numbers aren’t very different.
Click the image to see the full infographic
What do you do when you are not happy in your marriage?
How our relationship goes affects our work, our co-workers, our extended families, and friends.
Being in a successful relationship is better than being single. Make no mistake, being in a terrible relationship is far worse than being single.
But there’s just no substitute for having a great partner to help you face all of life’s challenged. And to help you enjoy the spoils of your efforts.
So if you aren’t happy, you must take action now!
I wonder how many unhappy couples just go through the motions year after year because that’s easier than divorce or confronting the issue? Probably a lot!
If you are unhappy, start by:
- Acknowledging the issue with your spouse (it’s not likely they are unaware)
- Talk about how you feel
- Avoid making grand statements or blaming (talk about your feelings and ask questions)
- Move towards appreciating your spouse for what they do (instead of focusing on your expectations they aren’t meeting)
- Change how, when, and where you spend time together (shake it up!)
- Talk about challenging feelings at the moment (instead of bottling them up)
As you begin to change your communication, patterns, and expectations, you WILL (sometimes slowly) start to move the needle forward. Be patient with yourself and your spouse and know that this work you are doing now may be just what saves your marriage.
Can a marriage survive without intimacy?
The short answer is probably not.
The good news is that you can start to work on changing it at almost any time, no matter how bad things have gotten.
Ultimately a marriage lacking sex and intimacy (related but not always the same thing) is usually caused by:
- A medical condition
- The aftermath of something bad like an affair
- Childhood trauma or abuse that was never dealt with (but triggered recently)
So first we have to figure out the underlying cause. Then, and only then, can we deal with the lack of intimacy (which is a symptom and not the actual problem itself).
If that sounds familiar, I strongly urge you to check out my post about Can a Marriage Last Without Intimacy? (click to read my post)
So what are my . . .
13 reasons to stick with and improve your marriage
1. YOUR KIDS DESERVE IT
Our kids deserve 2 parents who love each other.
I know personally what it was like to grow up with parents who fought, yelled and otherwise made the house tense. I also know what it was later like to just live with one parent and have the other be a long way away.
That takes its toll on our kids in ways we often don’t even realize well into adulthood.
In a book called “The Longevity Project“, authors and Psychologists Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin determined that “The children of divorce were . . . more likely to grow up to smoke and to drink heavily, with such women more than twice as likely to be heavy smokers.
The boys of divorce were less likely to complete their education and accomplish as much in their careers.”
If you’re already divorced, don’t beat yourself up.
Life happens and expecting to go through life without making wrong turns just isn’t realistic. That’s also how we learn and grow. Just realize there will be some work to do to help your kids (and yourself) get through some tough feelings.
You may need professional help with that and that’s OK.
But if it’s not too late, focus on your marriage! (re-) Commit to your marriage. Your kids deserve it and you do too!
2. YOU DESERVE IT
Life can be tough. Sometimes we get knocked down.
If you have someone there by your side to pick you back up again, that makes everything just a little bit better.
Why go through life working a job you hate, divorced, out of shape with emotionally distant kids? It doesn’t have to be that way. You deserve better.
We can’t control anything in our lives except for our actions, choices, and how we respond to things going on around us. Those who try and control external circumstances are doomed to misery.
If something isn’t right in your marriage change it, or at least change your attitude about it!
3. YOU AND YOUR SPOUSE WILL LIVE LONGER
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services conducted an extensive study on marriage and its impact on health.
In particular, they found that being married reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 5%. They also found that cardiovascular risk factors were much higher (31%) in divorced people.
The US Government’s National Institutes of Health conducted a study on marriage and the effects on lifespan.
They found that “the death rate for people who were unmarried was significantly higher than it was for those who were married and living with their spouses.”
Going back to the Longevity Project book I mentioned above in #1, they also found that men, in particular, were 2/3 less likely to live to age 70 when divorced.
4. YOU’LL BE BETTER OFF FINANCIALLY
I think it goes without saying that 2 are better than 1.
Even if one spouse stays at home with the kids, that’s money you don’t have to spend on childcare (and the kids will be better off too).
2 people together making financial decisions are better than 1. 2 incomes are better than 1. When we have a partner, we have someone who can keep our spending habits in check. Or they can push the stingy person to indulge.
2 are better than 1 in just about every aspect of life but especially financially.
5. YOU WILL BE HAPPIER
It probably goes without saying that if you’re living longer, healthier, doing better financially with well-adjusted kids you’ll be happier.
A recent study conducted by Michigan State University and published by the Journal of Research in Personality found that “(their study) suggests that people on average are happier than they would have been if they didn’t get married”.
They also found that marriage “appears to protect against normal declines in happiness during adulthood”.
But don’t forget that marriage is hard work!
None of these things will come to pass just by saying “I do”.
Anything worth doing is worth doing well. And to do something well requires effort, mistakes, learning from those mistakes, and persevering through the rough patch.
6. You have a partner for life who has your back
Let’s face it. Life gets tough!
Sometimes the challenges are with our spouse. But often it’s just life and life is just better when you’re part of a team and have someone to face those challenges with.
7. You’ll always have someone to have sex with
Sex is important for human beings.
It helps keep us calm, steady, focused, and happy. Who isn’t grouchy when they haven’t had sex in a while? Most people.
So being happily married means you ALWAYS have someone to have sex with. No dating. No online profiles to sift through, and no long periods of drought.
8. You always have someone to call you on your BS
Our spouse knows us better than ANYONE else.
They know the good, the bad, and the ugly. We sometimes let pride, ego, and other things get in the way of seeing what’s really going on.
Thus, having a spouse who’s not afraid to (politely) call us out when we aren’t thinking clearly is a great thing!
9. You will look back on memories more fondly
I’ve been married previously. I’ve also had a few serious relationships before being married to my wife. While I have a lot of fond memories (playing with the B-52’s was cool!) it’s great when most of your fond memories aren’t tied up around an ex.
So staying married means you’ll have a lot more fond memories to look back upon, AND to share those with. After all, your current spouse doesn’t really want to hear about your fond memories with someone else.
10. Two heads are better than one
As they say, 2 heads are better than 1, and it’s just true.
Whether it’s a financial decision, parenting call, or vacation destination choices, it’s ALWAYS better to have someone to bounce ideas off of, get ideas from, and make decisions with.
11. Your spouse can motivate you and drive you to greater success
I do what I do for my wife and kids.
I get up every day a little after 4 am to work on my blog because I want it to grow to be something bigger. While I do it for me, I’m really motivated by them.
If you’re alone and single, it’s a lot harder to get motivated than when a supportive spouse is helping fuel your fire.
12. You have someone to share watching your kids grow up
Let’s face it. Our kids aren’t getting any younger.
True, you could be like us and have a 3rd baby when the older two are in their tween years (almost like starting over). But our kids are growing. And fast.
So sharing those memories with your spouse, just makes it all the sweeter.
13. Going through rough patches makes you stronger together
Adversity makes us stronger. It just does.
Like the song says, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. If you have been married for any length of time, you have weathered storms and gone through challenges.
You’ve probably talked divorce at some point and thought about breaking up.
Going through all that together and coming out on top makes your marriage far stronger than if it had just been smooth sailing the whole time.
Do you agree marriage is hard work?
In this post, we looked at the common misconception that somehow marriage isn’t supposed to take effort. Somehow our society has come to think of marriage as something we set and forget.
In reality, marriage IS hard work!
Anything worth doing is worth doing well and marriage is no different.
We also looked at the 5 reasons why you should work harder at your marriage.
What is the biggest challenge in your relationship?
If you feel like your marriage is worth fighting for, then do yourself a favor and watch this quick video at Marriage Fitness program (click to watch it now on their site) that will walk you all you need to know about saving it from divorce.