Anyone that tells you it's easy is lying.
Sometimes it feels like you've been working your whole life to get that ring on your finger. Now that you've both said, "I do," written all your thank you notes, and returned some of your wedding gifts for store credit, you can relax ... right? All that work and struggle to find a mate has paid off and you can reap all those marriage benefits.
You've seen how perfect and effortless marriage is, at least going by your friend's social media posts, so you're ready to kick back and enjoy the effortless happiness envelop you like a matrimonial Snuggie.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but the truth is that any real relationship, especially any long-term relationship like marriage, takes hard work.
When you get married, you don't stop having problems and challenges; you just get an entirely new set of obstacles, difficulties and issues. And these problems, you have to work them through or they will get bigger and more complicated.
"We struggle, blame, judge, and even hate. We shut down, we distance, we run away. We do and say mean things or we just freeze in fear. We do all the things that we did as a child (but probably don't remember) or we act like our parents — the thing we swore we'd never do."
When we struggle in our marriage, we tend to do it silently. No one wants to admit that they're having trouble, because the fact that we're having trouble makes us feel like we're failing or lacking in whatever it takes to have the dream relationship.
Marriage is difficult, and that no relationship is ever perfect and happy 100 percent of the time. Marriage is more challenging than you've been lead to believe and it's that way for everyone.
We tend to go into marriage with the delusion of an effortless relationship that brings you unending joy in every moment of your life. But at some point in every relationship, the rose-colored glasses are taken away and we can see all the flaw of our partners, ourselves, and our relationship. The reality of the situation punches you in the face like a bully.
"We discover that a relationship is full of pleasure, but that it is also full of pain. It's not just happy, but it's sad. It's not just blissful, it's depressing. We don't just experience warm fuzzies, we also experience cold iciness and rage," says Gaddis.
When the real work of our relationships begins, we're hesitant to talk to anyone about it and we try to handle things on our own.
"Our culture trained us to hide our relationship struggles, so we put on our upbeat face and continue hiding," Gaddis explains. And when we can take it no longer, we might finally reach out to someone for help, but too often we don't get what we need. And we can't just go meekly back to how things were.
"We might first talk to a close friend, a pastor, a therapist or our parents to get their counsel. But often what we receive is not what we need. The most common response we can get is advice, problem-solving and fixing — all well-intentioned with the agenda of getting us back to normal, which translates into getting us back to our happy place ... This lack of validating our experience has us feeling more alone and even stupid," Gaddis says.
If we see our relationships as they really are — flaws, injustices, and large and small moments of pain — then both people in a couple can grow and become whole. When we're honest with ourselves and are willing to grow, change and accept how our partners change, we can discover and embrace the scary territory that marriage really is.
We know it won't be perfect and never was perfect, but just knowing that allows us to enhance and enrich our lives.