the first two years of marriage

recently i railed against the “2-year marriage contract” being proposed in Mexico.  it sparked some conversation about what the first two years of marriage look like and why so many marriages end by the 2-year mark.  the first two years go something like this:

first year…

ahhhhh…he left the toilet set up.  he’s still adjusting to being married.  that’s so adorable.

she stole all the covers.  look at her there.  all wrapped up like a caterpillar.  my sweet butterfly, i’ll just let her sleep.

he forgot to load the dish washer.  he’s such a hard worker.  i bet he was really tired.

she scratched my car.  it was probably some truly inconsiderate person in a parking lot and she doesn’t even know it’s there.  poor thing, she’s going to be so upset.

everything is awesome!  we’re going to be together forever.  it’s rainbows and puppies and cupid constantly shooting us with hot sex arrows!

second year…

he left his socks on the floor.  again.  the hamper is right there.  RIGHT.  THERE.  i’m not his freaking mother!

she used my razor.  again.  i just shredded my face.  what’s so hard about buying her own?!?  what is that stuck in the blades?

the faucet has been dripping for 2 weeks!  what does he do with all his time?  if it were his Xbox, he would’ve fixed it by now.

oh dear god, what is that in the sink?!?!  i throw away my underwear when they get that bad!  what was she thinking?

what have i done?  her night breathing makes me want to jump out a window.  she didn’t tell me she was going to look like that in the morning.  we haven’t had sex all week.

he’s a pig.  all he wants is sex.  he doesn’t appreciate me.  i saw him looking at that other girl.  i’m too young to be tied down.

by the time a marriage hits the two year mark, it’s pretty easy for one or the other or both to convince themselves they made a mistake, that the love is gone, maybe it was never really there to begin with…  why?  here’s a couple of main reasons.

1.  panic – the questions set in.  what have i done?  why is this so hard?  do i really love him?  why don’t i look at her the same way anymore?  it is far too easy to give the questions more power than the actual answers.

2.  immaturity – i’ve seen marriages end because one person decides being married is too hard and they want to break up.  like it’s high school.  there’s heavy denial and a refusal to engage in any sort of healthy resolution.  it’s a lot of pouting and passive aggressive stupidity.

but how do you get past either of those?  the answer is the same for both, but you’ve got a better shot at getting past panic than you do immaturity.  panic can be confronted by both people and a fix can be found together.  immaturity tends to result in one person trying to fix everything by himself.  or herself.  that, my friends, is impossible.  there is no “enough” one person can do to save a marriage.

the answer is to regain perspective.  and me being me, there’s a list about to happen that will hopefully help you do that.

1.  why did i get married in the first place? – i?  yes.  i.  leave the other person out of it.  examine yourself.  what were your motives?  how were you feeling?  what led you to that decision?

2.  why did i choose my spouse? – be honest.  leave pet peeves, anger and fear out of the equation and get real about why you chose to take vows with that particular person.  do those reasons still exist?  be as generous as possible.

3.  what has changed? – both for the better and for the worse.  Craig once said “people don’t change, they just become more like themselves.”  i think he’s right.  the longer a relationship goes on, the more people become comfortable with being themselves no matter what that might look like. 

4.  what do vows mean to me? – seriously.  how much stock do you put in the commitment you made at the alter before God and witnesses?  no excuses.  just reality.

5.  has there been anything that really counts as a deal breaker? – to quote my husband again, “that’s the thing about feelings…they aren’t real.”  i wish you could’ve seen the look on the girl’s face he said that to.  she was horrified.  but again, he’s right.  feelings are deceptive.  feelings are fluid.  feelings can change.  how they change depends on where you put your priorities.  is there anything that has happened in your marriage that truly counts as a reason to end it other than your feelings?

asking and answering these questions can save you from making what could actually be the biggest mistake of your life.

this has gotten long, so i’m going to expand more tomorrow.

’til then…

share your story.  married or divorced, i’d like to know how your first two years were.  did you hit these struggles at a different point?

singles, have i freaked you out again?

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34 comments on “the first two years of marriage

  1. I feel like I’m commenting way too much, but I bet you’ll forgive me for that. Thank you for this post. I have never been married, but I am planning on some day. For some reason I soak up these messages about marriage not being perfect and hard work, probably because I don’t want to be disappointed. In my search for someone to work with, I do believe I have found her. I know it’s probably not your core business, but do you have a post about the super side of being married?

  2. Julie says:

    I’m single. I don’t get freaked out too easily. Even if I did, I’d probably still visit here because you speak truth. Not many people have the balls to speak truth. And you do it in a way that doesn’t make me want to write you hate mail, which is good. Although I’ve never written any hate mail. Anyway, keep bringing it. Maybe one of these days I’ll comment and say, I’m married now. Thanks for all your awesome advice. 🙂

  3. Sarah Beth says:

    18 and single. A little freaked out.

  4. JBen says:

    Just over a month till I get married. There is still this thought in my head that “other people have a hard time, but we are going to be awesome and never wonder if we made a mistake.”

    Posts like this are really helpful. Thanks Sharideth!

  5. Single and totally not freaked out. Encouraged, actually. This is good for me to read now rather than later, right? Right.

    • hope so. i’m more about preemptive strikes than damage control. though there’s usually a time for both.

    • Jess says:

      I agree! I’m totally encouraged to hear that there is still hardship in success. It’s a good reminder that even though feelings aren’t to be trusted, they’re totally normal. If it’s normal to freak out and wonder if you’ve made a mistake, then I can calm the heck down again and evaluate things.

  6. My girlfriend and I had been together 15 in 2008 when gay marriage became legal for a short time in California so we we’re well past the point of finding each other’s annoying traits or disgusting habits quirky or endearing when we made the leap. Yet depite our relationship enduring many years past the realization and acceptance that we were human, fallible and imperfect our marriage never made it to the two-year mark.

    This lead me to think there may be factors other than panic and immaturity involved. Perhaps something instinctive like recessive, primative caveman DNA compelling us to continue seeking an alpha mate with whom to breed. Or maybe something more sinister, an ancient curse that dooms us to find anyone we marry increasing unbearable as the 2nd anniversary approaches.

    I don’t want to scare anyone, but until we can find a way to break the spell I’d advise anyone planning to get married to make arrangements to live apart and avoid all contact after the first year and not resume cohabitating until the 2-year point has safely come and gone.

    • it’s absolutely true that there are more than just those two reasons. any ideas on what went wrong?

      • It’s hard to say. Over that much time there are so many little things that by themselves aren’t a big deal, but they can build up and become one. It becomes easier to take each other for granted which leaves you both feeling neglected and resentful, wanting to assign blame rather than take any responsibility. And life gets in the way of romance … bills, jobs, family, a motgage … and begin to take precedence. If I had to put my finger on it, I’d say the main cause was either never agreeing which way the toilet paper should hang or her falling in love with someone.

    • I think one major difference between a cohabiting couple and a married couple is that cohabiting carries with it an implied easy out. No matter how committed two people may feel they are when cohabiting, it doesn’t have the same sense of forever that married does. Marriage carries with it at least some feeling of surrendering part of your identity to become a joint identity. I’m not sure I’m wording that well.

      A person put in a room with a closed door will react differently than a person put in the exact same room with a *locked* door. Even if it’s a room you want to be in. While changes like Mexico’s new divorce law that started the discussion make that lock easier and easier to pick (to stretch the metaphor terribly), you still know the lock is there.

  7. Ed Blonski says:

    Nancy and I’s wedding was August 30, 1991.

    In August, 1993 I was just starting my one year internship during my seminary training. I served in a congregation for 13 months before going back to school for one more year and then graduation.

    We were so busy – me starting at that church, she teaching 6th grade and in the middle of her masters degree. We had a six-month old Lab puppy.

    Since I can barely remember what I have for breakfast each morning, I don’t remember there being a huge crisis in our marriage in August of 1993. If there was one, obviously, we worked through it. If you haven’t done the math, that was 18 years ago as we just celebrated our 20th Wedding Anniversary.

    Oh, now I remember.

    It was a bowl of Cinnamon Life and coffee.

  8. Lord Alvin says:

    Is it that feelings aren’t real, or just that I’ve been married to Sharideth so long that I forgot how to use them? I guess it doesn’t matter really. Sorry about the socks on the floor.

    [|;~{>

    • amazeballs.

      *above colloquialism has nothing to do with what my turd of a husband said, i’ve just been looking for a reason to use it all day.

      p.s. that emoticon is one he made up especially for himself. judge that however you see fit.

  9. Single and not freaked out. Soberly thoughtful, perhaps.

    I love your Craig quotes. While real things can sometimes trigger feelings, feelings are not themselves reality. Far too many marriages start and far too many end on the basis of feelings rather than reality.

    My parents are approaching their 40th. I consider myself much blessed to have parents who are still together after 40 years, in the present culture.

    I’ve always liked Ruth Graham’s answer when asked if she’d ever considered divorce. Possibly not a word-for-word quote: “Never. Murder, yes. Divorce, no.” That speaks heavily to your number 4.

    • I think it’s “Divorce, never. Murder, maybe.” But the internet has about eight thousand variations on it, so who knows.

      What’s funny is that two of my best friends got married last weekend, and that quote came up during the reception. You have good timing.

  10. Jennifer says:

    Thank God someone else says feelings aren’t real. I also want to add – you are responsible for your feelings. Take control of them or they will control you!

    I also want to mention – no one “deserves” to be happy. No one can make you happy. Happiness comes from within. If you’re unwilling to accept that responsibility, then how can you expect someone else to bear that burden for you?

    The first two years were tough. We were both older, independent people and adjusting to marriage was hell. Now, 5 years later, we battle routine. Its like we’re business partners in the company we call The Household. We tend to get so busy getting things done, taken care of, started, raising kids – we forget to nurture one another. We always catch it before it goes too far and its blissfully fun when we do. 😉

    I ❤ him.

  11. Chris says:

    Nice article. Just had to say thank you. Very much.

  12. I’ve been married 5 yrs. If you ask me, i’ll tell you my husband got the short end of the deal! Lol! What I mean is that I consider him to be more valuable than me or his best interest are more important than my wants. If people over themselves, they would see that just because there’re more fish in the sea doesn’t mean that they will be anymore interested in dealing with your shortcomings than your current fish.

  13. MooshooMac says:

    I know I am late to the party! (Hey, just stumbled across this awesome blog this morning so I’m excused! :P)
    I’m just starting into the two year mark of my marriage. And what a crazy year we have already gone through! Being married and being together 24/7 came very naturally to us, we communicate really well but it’s also been a tough first year on a different spectrum – moving twice, town relocation, job instability, financial issues, etc. I never anticipated that right out of the gate we would be hit with so many obstacles. I’ve been emotional about it, frustrated and tired of feeling that it’s not fair for our first years together to be so tough. But as I think about it, this is the crap we want to go through now. We want to be married for a long time and going through so much stuff is keeping us real. Communicating about everything and taking care of each other. Building a strong foundation to get us through the years. (Plus I have the most amazing husband that lets me have my moments!) Add in also the learning curve of sex and you have a pretty darn crazy start to a marriage! I wouldn’t trade it for anything though, I love being married! (Honestly never thought I would get a boyfriend let alone a husband!!!)

    • welcome welcome!

      statistically speaking, couples who overcome adversity of any kind in the first two years of marriage have a better chance of making it for the long haul. so well done!

      • MooshooMac says:

        That’s good to hear! 🙂

        Also, can I saw how much I love your blog? I’ve been reading postings all morning!! It’s refreshing to read some read advice and issues that aren’t candy coated.

        P.S. I wear glasses so my comment emoticon is very fitting except for the tape over the mouth…I like to talk! 😛

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