Getting married isn’t a happy ending, and that’s OK

After I got married, the main thing I noticed was that people stopped asking me the question “How are you?”. I think this is because the question allows for a whole variety of answers, and once you’re married, everyone pretty much assumes they know what you’re going to say. You got married, after all; you got your happy ending — and never again will you need to answer that question with anything other than a resounding “great!”. So instead, with a well-meaning grin, people just ask me to confirm what they already (think they) know: “Are you just loving married life?!”

I answer, of course, with an equally big smile and a great big “yes” — because what other answer is there? What would they think of me if I looked them in the eye and told them “no”? But that’s the truth: I’m not loving being married. Being married is actually the scariest and hardest thing I’ve ever done.

You might argue that I had fair warning: “marriage is hard” is repeated so often it’s pretty much a cliché. So I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. But after a lifetime of rom-coms and marriage plots and happily ever afters, I’m not sure that an off-hand “marriage is hard” was really enough to counter my expectations, especially when it was usually only muttered as part of a joke about husbands leaving the toilet seat up.

So before you get married, or if you’re already married and feeling overwhelmed, I really want you to understand this one important thing: marriage actually is really hard. You’re going to struggle. There are going to be days when it feels way too much, and days when you just want to sit on the bathroom floor and cry. And even on those days, you’ll feel bound by this unwritten rule that says you can’t admit this stuff, because you’re married and it’s supposed to be wonderful.

For the first year of my marriage, I was convinced it was on the verge of falling apart. Even though our relationship was as solid as ever, each fight and each frustration felt a million times more important — because they weren’t “supposed” to be happening. As far as I understood, my marriage could be going one of two ways: totally thriving, or totally failing. And it definitely wasn’t the first one.

Because this is real life, I didn’t have my sudden revelation anywhere that would have sounded at all cool in an anecdote I’m about to publish on the Internet. Instead, it was while sitting in a doctor’s office. Yeah, it’s not the perfect setting for the words of wisdom I’m about to drop, but it will have to do. Here’s what I realized: when the doctor had asked me how I was doing, I hadn’t answered with a big, resounding “great!” — and yet she didn’t seem to think that I was dying. Somehow, there had been a middle ground between totally thriving, and totally failing. It wasn’t going to be easy, comfortable, or painless — but it was going to be fine.

Getting married means trying to build an entire life with some random other human you once met, maybe, in a bar. They have all their own thoughts and dreams and desires, every bit as complicated as yours — and if that all weren’t difficult enough to keep track of, both of you are changing every single day. Your emotions don’t just affect you anymore; when you’re angry or sad, you just made their day a little bit worse as well. No pressure. So although I adore my husband, and being married is wonderful in a million ways, that doesn’t mean I have to love my marriage every second of the day. There are ups and downs — wouldn’t it be boring if there weren’t?!

So the next time someone asks me if I’m just loving being married, I’m going to tell them the truth. Sometimes that might be the great, resounding “yes!” — but it’s nothing to be ashamed of if we’re having a bad day. Marriage is not an easy task, and it’s definitely not a happy-ever-after. But you know what? That’s OK.

(Image via Rialto Pictures)


What I wish I knew before getting married

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