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Marriage is Hard Work (but worth it!) – 13 Reasons Why

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.  But in truth, like anything else that is rewarding, we have to work at our marriages. And it’s OK if marriage is hard work!

Marriage is hard work. However, some of the benefits include living longer, being better off financially, happier and healthier kids, and increased happiness and overall satisfaction.

But those are just a handful of the proven benefits of marriage being hard work, so let’s get into it!

So in this post, we’re diving deep into what a great 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.

marriage is hard work construction couple middle class dad

Is marriage supposed to be hard work?

Marriage is supposed to be hard work. It takes both people putting in the effort to make something greater than the sum of its individual parts. People are inherently flawed. Therefore marriage is inherently flawed.

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.

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

Is marriage easier if it’s true love?

Yes. Marriage will be easier when married couples are truly both head over heels in love with each other. A successful marriage will still take a lot of effort. And a fairy tale marriage doesn’t really exist.

But you can make marriage work best by not settling in your marriage or even long-term relationships.

Many people make the decision to get married out of fear. Things like:

  • Fear of being alone
  • Fear of struggling financially
  • Fear that they aren’t worthy of love

Often those feelings are rooted in unresolved childhood issues around emotional abuse, neglect, or a fear of abandonment.

And they can cause people wanting good relationships to settle for the first person who comes along who seems halfway decent. While it is possible for love to grow over time and become a close relationship, more likely it will lead to a bad marriage.

So the best thing is to wait to marry or even move in together until that light bulb moment where you become sure they are “the one”. You feel that excitement and there’s no hesitation. While the divorce rate is still up there even for couples madly in love, this is by far the best way to help ensure you stay together for the rest of your life.

How difficult is it to live in a marriage?

Marriage is kind of hard work. And there will inevitably be marriage conflict. But there is a difference between that and being difficult. Done right, married life means real love, date nights, and a good relationship with the right person. Someone who always has your back. Someone who you can count on when then going gets tough.

A good marriage requires the following from you:

  • Communication
  • Compromise
  • 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?

So, in short, I don’t think you should have to just survive a difficult marriage.

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:

  1. He’s always been a jerk and you should have known better before you said “I do”
  2. 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:

  1. Given up and are just coasting through life because it’s easier than divorce
  2. Started building a life outside the marriage (I’m not necessarily referring to infidelity)
  3. 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 after it started falling apart in 2013.

What stage of marriage is the hardest?

While we hear about the so-called “7-year-itch”, in most cases, the 1st year of marriage is the hardest. This is because we still are just getting to know this other human being. And while we may well be learning many wonderful things about them, and they may now be our best friend, it’s still different unless you were already living together and had for years.

After all, 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?

In short, when you’re dating you usually have far fewer responsibilities. Single people often don’t have kids yet, may be lower on the corporate ladder, and are more often just out having fun.

They have yet to experience the tough times, financial stresses, and reduced sex life that sometimes come with modern marriages.

When we are in a long marriage, other things get pushed to the top of our priority list, above our spouse. Things like:

  • Kids
  • Careers
  • Buying a house
  • Keeping up with the Joneses
  • Financial stresses

And all of that can take a toll on married people and leave us eventually feeling stuck in unhappy marriages.

Luckily, there is a way to being your marriage back and Restore the Intimacy, even if things have been bad for years.  My article walks you through 31 incredibly simple things you can do to help make things feel more like they did when you were dating.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

What are the signs of an unhappy marriage?

I alluded to it above, but for me, work is rewarding, and enriching and I like seeing the effort I put forth in 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.

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.

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:

  • Depression
  • 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 Can a Marriage Last Without Intimacy? (click to read my post). I get into the statistics and survival rates and how often men and women cheat who are in sexless marriages.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

So what are my . . .

13 reasons to stick with and improve your marriage

marriage is hard work converse wearing married couple middle class dad


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!


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!


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.


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.


It probably goes without saying that if you’re living longer, healthier, and 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. So, 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 about 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.

Final thoughts

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.

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Jeff Campbell

Scott Gastineau

Friday 18th of August 2017

OK, I'm hearing you, and glad you said early that it should not be hard work like drudgery. Disclosure, I was divorced when I was younger, that marriage was hard work, married too young and didn't even know ourselves.

Then I remarried a decade later and wiser. Marriage to me is a labor of love. Even as all the years have gone by we still often get a little giddy around each other. Here are the things I learned that helped for the work to be a labor of love than of misery. -Don't expect them to change, make sure they don't expect you to change. You fell in love with this person, who they are. If they improve or develop as your marriage moves on than so much the better, but guess what, they are who they are and if you ask them to try to be someone else they and you will be miserable. Afterall, you may not actually love the new them like you did the old one. -The work is reminding yourself not to take them for granted. Remember to surprise them now and then. Make sure you tell them you love them. Don't only dump your venting on them. Remember to continue to share your dreams, your adventures. -And remember not to get too busy to share/listen. The commitment is that aside from God, this is the most important being in your life. -A good saying I read early and its true. Think of the little problems as not problem, and medium size problems as small problems. -Communication is a must, but again don't make it all about venting your days frustrations. We all have our daily frustrations, and need our breaks from them. -Respect their interests and encourage them if not harmful. They are individuals who are wired certain ways. As long as it does not keep them away from you or the family too often its a good thing for them to recharge that way, and you or the family can enjoy it with them so much the better. -Just things I've realized along the way. Realized I will always be in love with my wife.

New Middle Class Dad

Saturday 19th of August 2017

Hi Scott

Wow, such great tips and insight! Thank you so much for taking the time both to read my post and to share your thoughts. I really appreciate it.

Like you I married young at age 19 before I knew anything about anything. It took me 21 years after that divorce before I was ready to try again and while not perfect at it now, I'm certainly much better at it these days than I was then and wouldn't trade my marriage now for all the riches in the world.

If I can ever be of help or write about something you'd like to see addressed, definitely let me know!

Cheers, Jeff