By JO ABI
Yesterday on Mamamia, a post called “This is why you’re not married” went gangbusters as Jamila Rizvi wrote about how many single women aspire to marriage and that’s OK.
Of course it is.
But there’s something Jamila – and all the other single ladies – need to know.
Marriage is hard work.
You think the hardest part will be finding someone you love who’ll love you back. You think once you find the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, your problems will be over.
You’ll always be loved and supported; you’ll never feel lonely again. You’ll buy a house, have children, get a dog and live happily ever after…
Sorry, but thinking that marriage will solve all your problems is similar to thinking your issues will be magically resolved once you reach your goal weight.
Marriage is hard bloody work. It’s more work than I realised. And the work never ends. Once one or both of you stops putting in the effort it can easily end in divorce. When you think about it like this, it makes it easy to understand why one in three Australian marriages ends in divorce – and that’s not factoring in all the non-married couples who split after years together.
I know this is overly simplistic. I know I’m not factoring in relationships that end due to more serious issues, but what do you do when you can’t quite put your finger on why it isn’t working? What do you do when you don’t know exactly what the problem is or how to fix it? What if you are just tired and you can feel yourself… Drifting…
I love my husband and he loves me. Love is not the issue. But a couple of times a year we’ll have an argument that could easily result in a break-up, the most recent of which occurred last week. It began when he forgot our wedding anniversary and I let him forget. I wanted to punish him for the long hours he’d been working and for other past resentments I still couldn’t let go of. I pictured the look on his face when he remembered and how I’d make him feel as guilty as possible.
He never remembered. I spat it out one night later that week, and he tried to apologise. I brushed him off and when he suggested a belated night out. My exact words were, “Don’t bother.”
When my marriage is off-track there are clear signs – I stop packing his lunch for him and he stops calling me Joey and instead calls me Jo. I don’t email him any articles of interest and he doesn’t bring chocolates home.
We didn’t talk properly for weeks. He’d come home, I’d avoid eye contact, he’d avoid confrontation, we’d let the kids distract us and I’d go to bed. He started sleeping on the lounge in front of the TV.
“This isn’t working,” I said later in the week. “Marriage shouldn’t be so hard, so lonely.”
“Every time we fight you talk about splitting up,” he said. “I would never do that. I never want to leave you.”
“Because I’m alone most of the time anyway. What’s the difference?”
We have been having this fight for well over ten years since we first got together but something keeps us from splitting up.
One or both of us crack and pledge undying love. We determine that we need to work on it. We need to make more of an effort. Then his work gets busy, I get lonely, we start snapping and the cycle continues.
Marriage is a series of peaks and troughs. I don’t know if it gets easier but what I do know is that as long as the peaks outweigh the troughs then we’re okay. And as long as one or both of us wants to keep working at it, then we’re okay as well because while life with each other can be painful and disappointing, it can also be amazing and fulfilling.
Today, after almost fifteen year since we first got together and just over nine years of marriage, my husband and I are still learning about ourselves and each other. Our dynamic keeps shifting as we try and keep up with each other’s thoughts, dreams and aspirations while keeping our family intact.
It’s like the settling of new earth. The soil takes time to settle and it never stops shifting. As long as we can just reach out and keep some contact – even if it’s just the very tips of our outstretched fingers – we know we can stop from falling off or falling over.
Here, fifteen years later, arms outstretched, we know the next peak will follow, as will a trough which will follow another peak.
We know there are real issues behind the petty annoyances. We know small things matter – daily text messages and short phone calls, constant contact, hugs when we get home, me packing his lunch, him calling me Joey.
Marriage is very different from what I thought it would be when we first started discussing it. I want to take my younger self by the shoulders and tell her that her idea of marriage is sweet and adorable but completely inaccurate and that as long as she braces herself, as long as she chooses her battles carefully and as long as she remembers how easily it can be broken or repaired then she will be okay.
Because love alone isn’t enough, but perseverance will see you through.
Jo Abi is the author of the book How to Date a Dad: a dating guide released by Hachette Livre Australia. You can read more about her many and various exploits here.
If you’re married, what do you think is the hardest part of marriage? Do you have any advice for those looking for it or struggling with it?