A Great Relationship? Will Marriage Create a Disturbance in the Force?

No one ever said marriage was easy. But does it really make a difference in your relationship whether you’re married or not?A few years ago, when asked if she plans to marry Stedman Graham, her partner of nearly 30 years, Oprah said “I don’t know if I want to do that. You know why? It’s really good right now. And when you add that ‘wife’ thing, then it’s too much…”

Why do Oprah and many other people think marriage will change something in their relationship, and why for the worse? Let’s unpack this.

Being in a relationship vs. being married: it’s about expectations

Most of us probably don’t make any kind of formal “vow” about our relationship, until the day we stand at the altar – if our relationship takes us in that direction. If we expect that saying “I do,” when asked if we plan to “honor, cherish,” etc., our spouse will act like a magic spell, transforming us from imperfect beings into a model wife or husband…we’re bound to be disappointed, and feel like something has changed.

Ask yourself: What is my idea of a good relationship?

Now, ask yourself: What is my idea of a good marriage?

See how closely your answers for these two questions match. Chances are, there are some significant differences between them. If marriage changes something, it’s because we have different expectations for a marriage, than we do for a relationship. When being married fails to live up to those expectations, it can lead to stupid fights and petty problems – things you thought you were beyond having, or at least beyond having with any frequency or weight behind them.

Marriage or life experience?

Statistics show that most marriages aren’t lasting, nowadays. But statistics can be misleading. Surely it can’t be simply because of being married that couples split up?

Getting married is something that comes with time, whether that’s one year, or thirty years of being together. Over time, our lives get more complicated, busy and stressful. Couples tend to have less responsibilities before marriage, not so much because they signed a paper and exchanged bands, but because they were just…younger.

NBC reports the average age of first marriage in the United States as 27 for women and 29 for men, around the same average age of having your first child. The average age of home ownership is 33. As we grow in our career paths, we get more responsibilities, and more stress, in our workplace as well. Marriage success requires patience and good communication, which are hard to do when we are tired, under pressure, and very busy!

Marriage: Not just for two people

There’s another reason why marriage often changes things, even in the best of relationships: other people. Even if you don’t expect any major changes between you and your partner, other people, and society as a whole (think lending institutions or the IRS, not just people on the street who take note of your rings) will perceive your relationship differently.

While the obvious, and stereotypical, notions of mothers-in-laws who expect the woman in their son’s life to take care of him now that she’s his wife, or pressure from in-laws to give them grandchildren may or may not apply to your situation, you will probably experience subtle or even subconscious changes that influence the way you act toward your spouse, and think about your relationship.

Let’s close with a final thought from a particularly eloquent commenter at http://www.smh.com.au/: “People ruin good relationships, not marriage. Specifically those people who lose sight of their values, their vows, their respect for their partner and why they got married in the first place.”


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