Saturday, April 13, 2024

Why Is Marriage So Hard? Reasons And Ways To Make It Worthwhile


There’s a famous quote that goes: “A marriage is like a house. When a light bulb goes out, you do not go and buy a new house, you fix the light bulb.” And rightly so. It’s amazing how even in this era of fluid relationships, people are still getting married. But a successful marriage takes a lot of work. So, why is marriage so hard?

A study indicates that marriage rates in the US have declined over the years. In fact, marriage rates have seen a drastic 50% fall since 1972. But why do some people still prefer walking down the aisle and making lifelong promises to that one special person, in spite of the hardships? Is marriage hard for everyone? Well, perhaps marriage is hard but worth it. But in what way? How does one get over the difficult times and still stay together?

Read on, as we unearth the challenges of marriages and find out solutions with the help of counselor Ruchi Ruuh (Postgraduate Diploma in Counseling Psychology), who specializes in counseling for issues related to dating, infidelity, marital conflict, and divorce.

What Are The Hardest Years of Marriage?

We would all agree that marriages require a lot of daily work. But why is marriage so hard? And what year of marriage is the hardest? It is largely believed that marriages usually fall apart in the 7th year. And this has been statistically proven, as you will see later in this section. However, another school of researchers believes marriages face their worst in the 10th year.

A new study, however, shows that along with the 7-year itch, there is apparently a tendency for marriages falling apart by the 4th year. But that doesn’t mean marriages don’t have troubles at the very onset. Why is the first year of marriage the hardest? We’ll find out in this section. Let’s look at a few instances of marriages going sour at various points in time.

Related Reading: 9 Problems Almost Every Couple Faces During The First Year of Marriage

The 1st Year

The 1st year of any marriage, which is ideally called the ‘honeymoon phase’ and the phase of romantic love, can be quite troublesome for many. In some cases, it may actually be the hardest year of marriage. Ruchi says, “In the very 1st year, people make a lot of adjustments, and that by itself can be hard.” So, why is the first year of marriage the hardest? Well, here are a few things that make the beginning of a marriage difficult:

  • One of the most prominent newlyweds problems is that it’s probably the couple’s first experience living together and facing day-to-day challenges
  • They may be learning to communicate and learning each other’s love languages
  • They may be trying to understand each other’s emotional baggage (such as past trauma from relationships)
  • Running a household or making budgeting decisions together may not be easy, as each may have different needs (For one, a gym membership may be important, while the other may wish to invest the same amount in travel)
  • Another one of the newlyweds problems is that the couple is navigating through new expectations and adapting to new roles (that of a provider or a nurturer)
why is the first year of marriage the hardest
Marriages can be hard work, but a little effort can save them

The 7th Year

The 7-year itch may not be a myth after all, and there’s more to it than Marilyn Monroe’s classic comedy of the same name. Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher conducted a study and found out that marriages have a global median duration of 7 years. But she also noticed that a high percentage of people also get divorced around the 4th year.

Ruchi says, “By the 7-year mark, a lot of marriages fail due to a barrage of issues. By then, people may have had children and life may have gotten quite challenging. Stress levels are at an all-time high, not just because of children, but also because of mid-career issues. Couples may hardly get to spend time with each other.”

Here’s what you can expect in a 7-year marriage:

  • There’s a decline in physical and emotional intimacy
  • You’re constantly arguing or criticizing
  • There’s infidelity or you’re spending time apart
  • You’re taking each other for granted
  • You’re feeling unappreciated
  • There’s a lack of trust
  • You’re starting to keep secrets from each other

Related Reading: When A Good Marriage Is About Supporting Your Partner

The 10th Year

According to a Brigham Young University study conducted on 2,000 odd women for 35 years, the hardest year of marriage is around the 10th year. And this is probably because, by the 10th year, spouses tend to get over the urge to please each other and shove all their problems beneath the carpet. So, here’s what can happen by the 10th year:

  • Couples may feel there’s no meaningful way to take the marriage forward
  • Couples can’t connect with each other, and boredom sets in the marriage
  • A sense of loss creeps in and couples may go through a mid-life crisis and look for validation outside the marriage
  • People grow tired of the routine
  • Couples get fed up with their partners’ flaws

The 14th or 15th Year

Ruchi feels: “Apart from the 10th year, marriages also tend to get sour around year 14 or 15 when kids become teenagers and start rebelling.” Here’s what you can expect around this time:

  • The strain of dealing with rebelling teens can spill on to the marriage
  • Bickering and arguments may become the new normal
  • The demanding schedules of their teenage kids can kill romance, and sexual desires and other aspirations may remain unmet

The 18th–20th Years

Marriages also break apart around years 18–20. Ruchi feels this is the toughest time to make things work, as couples have probably made up their minds about leaving the marriage by now. Here’s what happens around this time:

  • Couples may have already chalked out an exit strategy and prepared themselves mentally, emotionally, and financially
  • Partners who were probably waiting for their children to settle down now realize they can easily quit the marriage since they’ve reached the ‘empty nest’ stage
  • Couples no longer feel the love and can go their separate ways and not feel guilty about it

But when does marriage get easier? It probably never does, but all one needs to do is deal with the challenges head-on. And why is marriage harder than dating? Because you can’t cut your spouse off easily. A lot is at stake.

Why Is Marriage So Hard? 11 Of The Biggest Challenges You May Have To Face

Ruchi says, “Marriages can be hard, as it takes a lot of work to stay married and accept the person forever, flaws and all. Plus, staying in love with one person forever can be hard. Nonetheless, the secret to fixing it is to not give up.”

But what does a ‘hard marriage’ really imply? A Reddit user states, “I personally think that it is more of “you have to put effort in” rather than it actually being hard. It will obviously be challenging at times, but the every day is very ordinary. I think a good analogy is how your favorite hobby/pastime can be something you absolutely love and enjoy doing, but at the same time be something that you have to put a lot of effort and energy into, and something that at times can be difficult.” So, it eventually boils down to the work that one has to do to overcome the “hard” bit in a marriage, and this applies to marriages of all duration.

So, is staying married that difficult? Is there another angle to it? Another Reddit user has a different take. He says, “I think many people confuse wanting to marry the person they’re in a relationship with and wanting to be married. Many people think being married is just a thing on a list they’re supposed to “check off”. Finish grade school, get post-secondary education, get a career relevant to said post-secondary education, get married, and start a family. That’s my personal opinion on why divorce rates are so high — most people just don’t marry the right person for them.” And we agree with him to some extent. Marriages, be it out of compulsion or out of love, can be hard in the long run, and we’ll look at a few reasons why:

Related Reading: Funny Marriage Advice For Newlyweds: Keep The Laughter Alive!

1. No effective communication

Lack of communication is one reason why marriages suffer. Ruchi says, “The inability to express needs and concerns within a marriage may lead to misunderstandings and cracks.” So, opening up to your partner is extremely crucial.

2. Different expectations

Married life is hard because no two people are alike. They can clash over expectations in a relationship. Ruchi believes, “It’s important to let the other person know what role you expect them to play. The responsibilities and dynamics of the relationship have to be clearly communicated.”

Infographic on ways to make a marriage work
Ways to make a marriage work

3. Financial strain

Ruchi states, “Married life comes with shared responsibility, and this extends to financial responsibilities too.” Money is a huge deal maker (or deal breaker) in a marriage, and a majority of conflicts arise due to financial issues. Here are a few such issues:

  • Limited resources create disagreements over what to spend the money on
  • Budgets, if not unanimously agreed upon, create rifts
  • Long-term savings too can be a point of disagreement, as one partner may wish to improve the quality of life, while the other may be flimsy with money

4. Transitions

Multiple transitions can occur in a marriage, over time. Let’s look at one example. A friend of mine, Lucy, was a homemaker in the initial stages of her marriage. However, over time, she not only got a degree in business management but also ended up joining a top-notch multinational company, earning twice as much as her husband. Rifts began to appear pretty soon, and Lucy and her husband parted ways eventually. So, we’ll look at a few such probable transitions that can make a marriage hard:

  • Individual career paths
  • Parents and their health issues
  • Illness or disability

Related Reading: 15 Subtle Yet Strong Signs Your Marriage Will End In Divorce

5. Lack of adaptability

Adaptability is key to a healthy marriage, and when that’s missing, marriage can be hard. Ruchi agrees, “A couple needs to work together as a team. They need to use their emotional intelligence to get through transitions in life and maintain a strong connection.”

6. Lack of intimacy

Intimacy is one of the key components of a marriage, and this includes both emotional and physical intimacy, including sexual intimacy. Ruchi says, “One of the partners could feel lonely or disconnected in a marriage if the levels of intimacy of both the partners don’t match.”

7. Other relationships

At times, marriages can be rough when other relationships influence them. Ruchi says, “In many cases, marriages suffer because of a third-party influence. So, issues can crop up due to parental relationships, other friends trying to influence domestic decisions, and exes resurfacing from time to time.”

Related Reading: Husband Wife Relationship – 9 Expert Tips To Improve it

8. Work stress

A major challenge in a marriage is balancing work stress. Ruchi says, “We often find that work-related issues don’t let many couples spend quality time together.” This may cause irritability, sexual dissatisfaction, sleep deprivation, and various psychological issues.

9. Personal growth

We perhaps all agree that people change with time. This applies to their values, tastes, food habits, fitness habits, and interests. And this can be quite a challenge for a marriage. Ruchi says, “When we grow as human beings, we may, at times, grow out of our relationships too. It can be hard to manage your whole life and keep pace with a partner at the same time.”

10. Unrealistic expectations

With the increasing influence of social media and the perfect and flashy relationships that we see on it, people may feel they have missed out on being the ‘perfect couple’. This generation has a hard time believing that healthy and happy relationships do exist without luxury dinners and world travel. Or that the ‘good life’ showcased on social media can be fake.

Ruchi adds, “We can’t live in the world of rom-coms. Movies portray picture-perfect relationships, where couples are having great sex and spending lovey-dovey moments almost all the time. But real relationships have day-to-day challenges that couples need to overcome to stay committed.”

Related Reading: What Is The Role Of A Husband In A Modern Relationship?

11. Lack of time

One of the biggest challenges in married life is that many couples tend to spend less and less time together as the marriage progresses. Ruchi says, “People often tend to take each other for granted. But for any emotionally enriching marriage, spending quality time is absolutely essential.” Now that you have a whole list of answers to the question, “Why is marriage so hard?”, we’ll delve deeper into some tried and tested ways to make it work, despite the challenges.

9 Tips To Make A Marriage Worth The Hard Work

So, now that you have the answer to the question, “Why is marriage so hard?”, please also note that despite the challenges, there are ample reasons to make a marriage work. In simple words, marriage is hard but worth it.

And why is marriage harder than dating? More importantly, why do people still opt for it, if it is so? Ruchi explains, “Marriage provides you a sense of deep commitment and stability, long-term goals, emotional support, and financial and legal benefits. Marriages also offer spousal benefits such as access to health insurance, ease of applying for loans, and travel benefits. Add to his shared goals, such as building a future, going for holidays together, taking care of children.”

And this is not all, married life offers a sense of purpose too. They help you work toward personal goals and motivate you to go beyond differences. They help you work on emotionally regulating yourself. They also provide a sense of belonging in a community. So, here are some tips to make it work:

More on marriage problems

1. Never stop dating each other

As a couple, you should never stop spending quality time with each other. Ruchi says, “Plan dates, or just stay at home and cherish some cozy time together. It’s important to connect on a deeper level. It doesn’t have to be anything great, but it could just be something as simple as grocery shopping.”

2. Be grateful

It’s crucial to stop seeing your spouse for what they do for you and start seeing them for who they are. Ruchi adds, “Be thankful for how they show up and appreciate their value.”

Related Reading: 9 Ways To Fix A Broken Marriage And Save It

3. Don’t give in to negative emotions

One of the best ways to make a marriage work is to learn to deal with negative emotions. Learn not to be angry or frustrated. Ruchi says, “Pause, but don’t quit when things go wrong. At times, compromises between two individuals in love work wonders. Try and see things from your partner’s perspective.”

4. Build trust

It’s essential to build a whole lot of trust in a relationship to make it work. Ruchi says, “Don’t indulge in destructive activities, such as lying, cheating, and financial issues. Try to sort things out, take responsibility for your actions, and make up for small fights.

5. Don’t ignore emotions

Everyone makes mistakes, and two people can never be on the same page all the time. So, misunderstandings may crop up. Likewise, emotions are bound to spring up if you end up hurting your partner’s feelings. Ruchi suggests, “Instead of overreacting or shoving things under the carpet, try and deal with those feelings. Then let them go and move on.”

6. Focus on shared goals

One should always focus on shared values and goals. Be it family goals, personal growth, career goals, or shared goals for the future, these are the foundation of marriages.

7. Be flexible

Couples should be adaptable when it comes to working their way through hard times. Ruchi adds, “You should be ready to navigate challenges together. Remember, you are in it together and focus on a common ground to grow.”

Related Reading: Marriage Counseling – 15 Goals That Should Be Addressed Says Therapist

8. Maintain mutual respect

Respect is another key ingredient in a healthy and happy relationship. And it’s essential to show your respect by:

  • Showing them you value them on a daily basis
  • Treating your spouse as an individual and valuing their interests
  • Giving them enough space in the relationship
  • Avoiding demeaning language or behavior

9. Cultivate intimacy

A marriage without intimacy is a dead end. And by intimacy, we mean all sorts of intimacy: emotional, sexual, and spiritual. So, it’s important to:

  • Express your affection regularly: It could be simple gestures, such as holding hands or hugging
  • Keep in touch regularly: This is important for people in long-distance marriages, where couples stay apart for a long period for education or family commitments, and close proximity with a partner isn’t possible. Spend time on video calls, phone calls, and texts, and don’t forget the sweet nothings every morning
  • Spice things up in bed: Passionate lovemaking has no alternatives. Try to jazz things up in bed with sex toys or new positions
  • Communicate: If your relationship lacks intimacy, communicate. If communication is failing, don’t hesitate to confide in trusted people or talk to a therapist or a trained professional

Key Pointers

  • Why is marriage so hard? Some of the reasons why marriages are hard are lack of communication, mismatch of expectations, lack of adaptability, and other reasons
  • There are multiple opinions on which year of marriage is the hardest, though it’s largely believed to be the 1st, 7th, and 10th years
  • Marriage is hard but worth it, as it offers stability, long-term goals, financial and legal benefits, and emotional support
  • Some ways to work on a marriage are building trust, focusing on shared goals, maintaining mutual respect, and calling and texting when being in close proximity is not possible
  • If nothing works, one should try consulting a trained professional

In a world of easy access, courtesy of social media and other technological advancements, there is no dearth of options when it comes to finding a person to be with. Likewise, marriage is not a necessity in this age, neither for companionship nor for having kids. And yet, time and again, we find people tying the knot and making lifelong promises.

Nonetheless, nobody said marriages are meant to be easy. But is marriage hard for everyone? See, while there are people who split at the slightest discomfort, there are couples who stay in marriages for 20 years and still don’t get bored of each other. Well, perhaps marriage is hard but worth it. But just like you need to water a plant every day for it to bear fruit someday, a marriage too needs to be catered to with care. When does marriage get easier? Well, when you accept the challenges and work on them.

We sincerely hope our article helped you answer the burning question: why is marriage so hard? We hope it also helped you gather some insight on what year of marriage is the hardest and how to deal with the challenges that marriage throws at us in the long run. After all, marriages may be made in heaven, but we need to deal with them here on earth.

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