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I Finally Get Why Marriage Is So Hard

Photograph by Twenty20

I embarked on marriage believing in a fairy tale.

From what I had read and watched, I thought this version of marriage would come true. Almost 12 years ago now, I found my Prince Charming. As our relationship moved toward marriage, I 100 percent believed that my happily ever after was beginning.

Until it didn’t.

Looking back, my husband and I both agree that our first year of marriage was awful. Honestly, it’s only by the grace of God that we stayed together. Soon after our wedding, my Prince Charming seemingly disappeared and I definitely filled more of a Wicked Witch persona than that of a princess. We yelled, I cried, we slammed doors. Once, I threw a tabletop picture frame at his head. Lucky for him, aiming was never my strong suit.

So much of our angst stemmed from selfishness and unmet expectations. Marriage was hard. And, as we added finishing degrees, job changes, children, moves and all the curveballs life throws, it got harder.

"But why? Why is this so hard?" I’ve asked this question more than once in counseling, on quiet drives together, in my journal, to married friends.

Why do I want to throw in the towel some days? How can he be so annoying? Why do I respond with snark and sass? When will we hit a stride where it just feels easy? After all, we love each other, and love shouldn’t be difficult—right? Why is something that's supposed to be so good so hard?

The answer: It’s supposed to be.

Year after year, we are checking our hearts and choosing our marriage, choosing each other.

It’s that simple: Marriage is supposed to be hard. If it weren’t, if it didn’t take daily practice and dedication, it wouldn’t be special. The wins wouldn’t feel so great, the anniversaries wouldn’t be such a celebration. Hard things are hard for a reason and that’s because the effort that goes in has the potential to yield something amazing, someone amazing.

I don’t claim to know much about a successful marriage because my husband and I are the definition of a work in progress. We always will be. And what we learn in our marriage is unique to us. Our problems are a special blend of our personalities and circumstances, as are our triumphs and joys.

What matters is that we’re committed, even when life looks like it's for poorer, in sickness and for worse. We're trying and making mistakes, but also asking forgiveness and starting new. Year after year, we are checking our hearts and choosing our marriage, choosing each other, because we know that doing the hard, deep work of marriage makes us better individually and together.

Marriage has called us to set aside ourselves and give preference to one another. It has turned the hoax of a fairy tale in to a more realistic, reciprocal servitude.

And that’s hard to do. Don’t let anyone tell you that becoming a spouse is easy. Being married is choosing self-sacrifice and going against the inherent selfishness of human nature. I fully confess that I am a selfish person. How could I not be? "Me" is always easier than "we."

But, when all is said and done, I choose "we," even when it’s hard and ugly, even when the hard days turn into hard weeks. My relationship with my husband is worth the effort and sacrifice. It’s worth the time and energy necessary for me to become a better partner for the man who chose me.

Marriage is hard, but marriage is also worth it. As they say, "What comes easy won’t last, and what lasts won’t come easy."

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