Working Mom's Guide to Balancing Family, Career and Life

How to Fail at Marriage

How to Fail at Marriage

And they lived happily ever after…Not!

Maybe it’s because I read too many romance novels when I was a teenager.  Or maybe it’s because I love stories about dragons and knights in shining armor.

But I was convinced that love had a pattern:

  • You go out with some girlfriends.
  • A man sees you.
  • He crosses a crowded room because he’s smitten with you at first sight.
  • You fall in love.
  • Get married.
  • and then live happily ever after.

Anyone else have this fairytale image in your head?

I am convinced that this fairytale is the cause of many a divorce.   People go into a marriage with the infatuation of new love and the anticipation of happily ever after.   Then the honeymoon ends and you wake up.  You wake up to a cold wet rear because the seat was left up – Again!    You wake up to laundry that never ends, dishes that always need to be done, bills that need paying, and the same day facing  you every morning.   You wake up and feel like you’re stuck in the movie Groundhog Day – doomed to repeat the same day over and over again.

Eventually there are one or two things he does that get under your skin, then they start to grow and fester.  Maybe it’s shoes left all over the house, a wet towel on the bathroom floor – or worse on the bed, a perpetual stack of mail or papers he creates, or the slurp he makes when he drinks a soda – the what doesn’t matter, it’s how you process it that determines if you will get an F or an A in marriage.

None of the whats are marriage threatening on their own.   No one is going to cite paper piles or soda slurping on their divorce papers.  But those little things, that same day facing you every morning, the realization that all of the excitement and anticipation of the unknown future is behind you – those all conflict with the image we have in our heads.  How can this be happily ever after?  It’s so normal and average and hard.

Some people decide that they must have been wrong.  They must not actually be in love.  This can’t be it - the happily ever after I was promised.  I must have made a mistake.   The sooner I get out of this marriage, the sooner I can find my true love and my happily ever after.  Then divorce.

How to Get an A

Other people, those you see that are celebrating their 30 year anniversary, they face the same things.   They too wake up to the laundry, the dishes, and the wet towels.  They have the same realization that the excitement of what could be is gone.   The difference is the outlook they choose.

Instead of mourning the loss of the adrenaline rush from infatuation, they take comfort in the known and steady man standing beside them.  Instead of becoming angry that their spouse always leaves his shoes around or piles of papers – they take comfort in the fact that he is predictable.  They look at the positive in their marriage and in their partner.  They notice his breath is bad in the morning, but they remember he had seconds of the new garlicky recipe they tried out the night before.   They notice that he’s gained a few pounds around the middle, but they don’t see that – instead they see the huge smile he has and the way his face lights up when you come home from work or when the kids run to him at the end of a long day.

Ultimately finding happily ever after is all a matter of perspective.  It is up to you to look for it and find it in the every day.

So what about you?  Are you looking at the towel on the floor or the smile when he sees you?

*Note – this title was inspired by Heidi Cohen’s 125 Free Blog Topics post.

27 Responses to How to Fail at Marriage

  1. Judy says:

    This is an awesome blog post because it is so true.

    Many times our expectations going into marriage are unrealistic & this causes us to be unprepared to do the work needed to keep our marriage healthy.

    Bravo!

    • Daria says:

      Thank you so much Judy! I appreciate your comments and also that you stopped by and joined Mim. I will come on over to Our Mom Spot and check you guys out too.

  2. Heidi Cohen says:

    Daria–Thank you for participating in the #BloggerLove contest. This is wonderful insight about the fairytales we carry in our heads. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  3. Samantha says:

    A constant battle! I try every day to concentrate on the way he plays with our little one every night before bed and the giggles. Its hard, but it helps keep my mind off the other :)

    • Daria says:

      Yep! I try to remember that he did dishes the past two days even if he hasn’t cooked for a week and that he took the kids sledding even tho he didnt’ help clean the house this weekend. It is a balance for sure! But seeing the good in someone takes effort and is well worth it in the end (in my opinion).

  4. As a man I ask all women this. I know I (we) do a lot of shi* that causes stress and more work to you all and we are pains in the ass’. But would you rather have the task of trying to fix and work with us on correcting that or would you rather quit on a marriage and start over? I say that the minute your man is gone and you dont have him there you will be looking for that wet towel or shoes on the floor

  5. fabulousJES says:

    That’s a good point. I think that I look for whether or not his face lights up when I get home, but I am not good at thinking about how I receive him when he gets home. I’m going to work on that.

    I’m sure that some of the other little things will always get to me: socks, wet towls, unmade beds. But saying hello and goodbye in a way that matters goes a long way!

  6. fabulousJES says:

    I think I have a pretty strong marriage. The funny part is that both of us always said that we would never get married. We are both too practical for fairy tale thinking, but it works.
    The one thing I would say is that there has to be a lot of communication in the bedroom department, so that we can have a little slice of fairy tale/fantasy. It helps escape all the ordinary things that might just get on our last nerve.

    • Daria says:

      All of that resonates with me. :) My over all point of this article is that marriage isn’t easy and everything is blissful. It takes concious effort & looking for ways to make it work. You and Chris DEFINITELY have that! Thank you for commenting Jes!

  7. See what gets me is that ladies (wives) want what us men (husbands) do to stay the same. The way we say goodbye and hello, and hold hands and open doors and the early gentlemen things. That is good but we know we all get comfortable in what we do in our marriage. But what about the guys and what about the things that change from our end. What about the hairdyrer left out, the millions of bottles left by BOTH sides of the sink. I love my wife as much if not more than the next but it goes both ways

    • fabulousJES says:

      That is funny! — the bottles on both sides of the sink. Somehow we justify that we take less time getting ready if all our tools are accessible.

    • Daria says:

      Absolutely Scott! I KNOW without a doubt I have many “isms” that annoy the hell out of my husband. No doubt about it. I often remind myself of those things in fact when he is irritating me. I am no peach either! Just look at the makeup in the bathroom, the unmade bed, the messy car… it goes on. I tried to write it neutral to cover both sides, but it lost some of the effect so I just went with from a wife’s perspective. But absolutely, you could substitute wife and she for all the hubby references and it would still be true the other direction.

  8. Excellent post, and so very true.

    My husband and I are struggling – after all of our emphasis was put into our children for too long, and not enough on us.

    We’ve recognized this, and are now working on it.

    Baby steps to leave the toilet seat down… Baby steps to cleaning the house… Baby steps to communicating better with each other…

    • Daria says:

      It is really hard Kelly. We found ourselves in that same spot not too long ago. We are connecting better these days, but mostly because my husband isn’t working so his focus is now on our family. Plus we’ve gone on a few dates (mystery shopping) that helped. The first couple of them, we didn’t have much to say to each other – but it’s getting better. That internal self talk is critical to keep focused on the positive. You guys can get there! Just know you love each other and stay positive.

  9. Heather Justus says:

    Thanks so much for this article. It has helped me smile at the end of a very long day. And to recount every little thing that my husband did for me so that I could finish up earlier.

  10. Staying focused on myself and what I can do (or not) helps me through bad days. My reactions and responses are essential to avoid the tendency to get angry and escalate into a fight. What if I chose to NOT take his perspective personally? After all it is his and I have my perspective and I do have a choice.

  11. Daria says:

    Yep. That old adage “The only person I can control is myself.” has helped me with perspective often!

  12. Carrey says:

    You are totally right on! The way you look at everything in life is how you pass or fail!

  13. Miriam says:

    Hi Daria,

    Great post. It made me think of one of my favorite Gandhi quotes: “Whatever you do will be insignificant (mundane), but it is very important that you do it.” I love this quote – it took me a long time to make peace with it and I think it’s related to your post. We have a fairytale – that somehow we’re special or that our relationship is special. Realizing that it is mundane is painful. But when we accept this, we don’t have to be special anymore. We can just be one of “the little people” – a commoner rather than royalty and we are free to see more of the beauty in the everyday little things that you described.
    Thanks!

    • Daria says:

      Thanks Mim, I like that quote. It’s part of letting go of your expectations so you can enjoy what something is rather than always focusing on what it isn’t. Never thought I’d be GLAD not to be royalty. :)

  14. I’d only go further to say that the fairytale we dream of is sometimes based on the actual marriages we’ve been exposed to growing up. In my experience, I watched my Dad and Stepmom and unknowlingly created rules around marriage that I’d based on observing them. Man, oh Man was THAT a bad idea. I was on a counselor’s couch before I knew what hit me!

  15. [...] And They Lived Happily Ever After….Not! – Daria from Mom in Management [...]

  16. [...] How to Fail At Marriage: And they lived happily ever after By Daria (aka Mom in Management) February 14, 2011 This column is a riff on the fairy tale notion [...]

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