An on-line article on Psychology Today’s web site says that marriage is a process. Hmm. A process. And all this time we, at least I, thought of it as a thing, a noun, something that was created by two people upon making a decision and filing certain papers. Then, at that point, you have a legal institution like, for example, a 501 (c) (3) corporation. You create it. There it is. Now let’s get on with life.
But a process? That means it’s something that continues; it’s more a verb than a noun; it’s something that has to be worked on continuously. A manufacturing plant uses countless processes and each one has to be carefully monitored and maintained. A process may run for a little while without maintenance, but sooner or later you’re going to end up with a disaster on your hands if you ignore it.
Yes, I think Psychology Today hit the nail on the head: marriage is a process, and if you don’t maintain it sparks are going to fly and you’ll be bound for a major meltdown.
If you’re reading this, then that’s something I probably don’t need to tell you. All your good intentions during your engagement and right after your wedding may, by this time, have run into a few of the roadblocks we’re going to discuss in this article. We humans are capable of creating an infinite number of problems for ourselves. We get into situations we couldn’t have imagined only yesterday. But while the devil is in the details, the basic problems we all encounter in marriage normally fall into a countable number of options.
Let’s take a look at those basic problems and some ways of thinking about them that you might not have considered. While a full discussion and analysis of each of these topics could fill a 500-page book and still not exhaust the topic, my hope is that this will serve as a starting point to zeroing in on your particular issues and give you some food for thought on how to approach them with your partner.
The courtship was enjoyable, if not without a few bumps, but nothing that being deeply in love couldn’t handle. The wedding went off without a hitch and everyone had a good time. And the honeymoon… Well, we won’t even go there.
But sometime between the honeymoon and now—it may have been a few months or several years—things changed. Money problems, challenges with in-laws, boredom, children—they all conspire to make your marriage more difficult than it’s supposed to be. And then, there’s the “two ships passing in the night” thing. Think about it—we’re all changing all the time. Let’s say you were in your late teens or early twenties when you met your mate. At that time, you both “clicked,” fit together hand-in-glove. But we continue to mature and change well past that age. We develop interests in new things and new people. Our politics can change. Our religious views can change. Our interest and tastes in sex can change. Heck, the changes we can go through between the ages of 20 and 40 can make us seem like a completely different person. Compound that with the fact that your partner can change just as much, and it’s no wonder that at some point, years down the road, we wake up next to our partner and think, “Who is this person sleeping in my bed?”
So now we’re back to the “process.” This thing called marriage requires maintenance. This person sleeping in your bed isn’t just an overnight guest. He or she is a life partner, someone you made promises to, committed to, thick or thin, rich or poor, better or worse, sickness or health. There was a purpose, a basis in emotion and reason at a time in your past that caused you to believe what you said, and then gave you the courage to say what you believed in front of a whole lot of people you cared about.
Everyone reading this isn’t in a “marriage on the rocks.” Some of you may be reading this and other article about strengthening your marriage for the same reason you eat vegetables, take vitamins, and exercise regularly—to make sure you minimize the challenges we all experience in marriage, to halt the problems before they even begin.
But there are others who are already at the problem stage. That’s not to say that you’re ready to pack your bags and walk out on your spouse, but things just aren’t the way they used to be, aren’t the way you’d like them to be. The magic is gone and you want it back.