Don't blame marriage for unhappy relationships
Q: I am in a committed and happy and loving relationship. We talk about getting married and having children at some point. But both of us are scared that the institution of marriage can suck the life out of someone and suck the love out of a relationship.
We are equally worried about getting divorced and just being in an unhappy relationship. I mean, how many people does one really know who are happy in their marriages? I know a few. But not all that many. So what's up with that?
On the other hand, I want a lifelong commitment with this man, and I don't know if that's really possible without marriage. Can you tell me why being married doesn't stink?
Las Vegas Lovers
A: You say you don't know many people who are happy in their marriages. Do you know unmarried people who are happy in their relationships? How long have they been together? Do they share a home? For how long?
In other words, don't blame it on marriage; life can stink the life out of someone. And I say this as one of its unabashed fans.
Repetition is numbing, regardless of what you're repeating — so a long time in a relationship, a job, a phase of childrearing, a neighborhood, a club, a sport, a hobby or even just a diet or exercise regimen means watching the excitement levels trend steadily downward to dust. Exchanging vows with someone you love neither hastens the plunge, nor reverses it.
Marriage is such a charged topic that it makes sense to think more broadly about your choices than "marriage or not"; the institution of marriage isn't responsible for the success of your relationship any more than the institution of employment is responsible for the success of your career.
It's up to you to choose the right partner for you, whether you make it legal or not; the less energy you have to expend just on getting along, the more you'll have for things that enrich your lives together.
It's up to you to shape your partnership into one that suits both of your natures; what "sucks the life out of" an adrenaline junkie will fit like an old slipper on a natural homebody, and vice versa (just substitute "bungee cord" for old slipper).
It's up to you to make decisions that take the partnership in a direction that at least promises to satisfy both of your needs. I'm talking about practical things here, like kids, careers, location, investments, leisure pursuits and discretionary spending, as well as spiritual/intellectual/philosophical pursuits.
It's up to you to keep yourself, and your outlook on life, fresh. If you choose to stagnate, then you can't be surprised when your marriage does, too.
It's up to you to remain open to a partner, and marriage, that evolves over time.
And it's up to you to remain true to yourselves, both of you, as life throws at you whatever it feels like throwing. Because, guaranteed, it will.
If you enjoy each other, respect each other, trust each other, and look out for each other — and if you also enjoy, respect and trust yourselves — then no matter how it plays out, things will turn out okay.