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Do you have to work on a marriage?

Posted on Monday, June 20, 2011 in Kat, Marriage, Relationships

Our kids were with their dads yesterday, but as Sara and I hiked up Mt. Tam and then had a post-hike iced tea downtown we were surrounded by young couples and their adorable but mostly boisterous kids. I was exhausted just watching them.

“Remember those days?” I asked.

“Remember? I’m still trying to catch up on my sleep from those days.”

“Yeah, but the couples look so happy, so full of promise.”

“They look tired to me.”

“That’s because you’re jaded.”

“No, that’s because I’m honest.”

“Remember when we were that happy?”

Were we that happy? Are they really happy? Marriage is a lot of work.”     

Marriage is a lot of something, but why do we think it’s work? Work is work, school is work, and while both of those are rewarding, marriage is a bit different, right?

Marriage is about love, intimacy, sex — or at least it should. That sounds like a lot more fun than it is work.

Well, maybe we say it’s work because if we’re
not constantly paying attention to it and tweaking things, it will slide into Groundhog
Day boredom and, eventually, divorce. But, is that inherent in the institution of marriage itself, or is that just how we approach it?

Isn’t that what we agreed to when we said we’d love, honor and cherish our partner. That means it’s just part of the marriage package, understood, accepted and embraced.

Making marriage work takes a lot of the fun out of it — maybe that’s why marriage is getting such a bad rap lately.

On the other hand, maybe having a job description and yearly reviews might make everyone’s expectations clearer. Life is always easier when we know what we’re supposed to do!

But maybe it’s naive of us to think — or demand — that marriage has to keep fulfilling all our dreams and expectations. We don’t continually ask that of our work, although we could always get a better job that pays more and offers new challenges (not lately, of course). Could it be that marriage could just be?

  • Do you consider marriage work?
  • Is that good or bad?
  • Can working on a marriage make it better?
  • Can a marriage survive without working on it.
  • How much work is the right amount?


Photo © Paul Retherford –

Bring on the comments

  1. jim
    Twitter: mobilene

    I like the idea of a marriage simply being. But at the same time love isn’t just feelings; it takes effort to express it, and sometimes that effort requires stretching.

  2. anise says:

    you might want to change pot-hike iced tea to post-hike iced tea.

    or not. 🙂

  3. Momma Sunshine
    Twitter: momma_sunshine

    I do like the idea that a marriage can just “be”. But honestly? I think that it’s work. I also strongly believe that we as individuals are all “works in progress” and should be striving to grow, learn and change; why should our marriages be any different? It’s when we become stagnant with ANYTHING in our lives that trouble starts brewing, in my opinion.

  4. Edgar says:

    I’m not sure why marriage should be any different from any other part of life, but it all takes “work” – meaning that unless you want to be a hermit, life is a series of communications, interactions, negotiations and lots of other “-tions,” most of which are going to be affected by our imperfections as humans. As in most things, you get out of it what you put into it.

  5. The Observer says:

    ANY relationship takes work. Parent-child, brother-sister, boss-employee, girl-boy, and yes, girl-girl, boy-boy. Marriage should be different? The love factor should override getting hurt feelings, un-connectedness, loss of libido, toilet seat positioning? I don’t think so. Admittedly there are things we need to do to re-affirm our commitment to marriage or plain old partnered arrangements. Specifically, marriage is a lifetime of work. Every single one of us is different and we all need to he heard, appreciated, challenged, given limits, revved-up, and screwed silly some of the time. Our partner is not us. We have to make ourselves heard, show appreciation to get appreciation, confront perceived bad treatment, set boundaries, and be the perfect lover. Dr. Phil says “Be a selfish lover” but that’s material for another blog.

    Shouldn’t we be working toward making Marriage harder to enter into? Classes, tests, clear contractual agreements (not the “before God” crap) and being able to display some competency before being allowed to confuse/enhance somebody else’s life? Where’s the handbook?

    Me and my sweety have made it going on thirty-six years…but not all our ups and downs were in bed. The kids actually made it easier to stay together. Which brings me to yet another question: shouldn’t you have to qualify and get a license before having children? Talk about a lot of work! Ciao.

  6. Kat Wilder says:

    Jim — stretching and crunches and jumping-jacks! 😉

    Anise — !!!! Thank you. Using a different computer for now and the keyboard is sticky. However, maybe the first version wasn’t so bad; I do live in Marin!

    Momma Sunshine — You are right — we are works in progress, and relationships are, too. It’s when the couples in relationships grow in separate ways that “the troubles” come …

    Edgar — Hey, maybe you have imperfections … 😉

    TO — It probably should be harder to get married and most definitely way harder to have kids. Can’t see either of those happening. But, really — Dr. Phil says “Be a selfish lover? Not that I listen to anything he says, but I might have to follow up on that.

  7. Chopper Papa
    Twitter: chopperpapa

    With a 60% divorce rate that apparent popular conclusion would be NO, but we know that isn’t the case. Anytime two people are so closely linked there is going to be friction and that requires work.