12 Things Marriage Is (And 12 Things It Definitely Isn't)

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bride and groom on wedding day

By: Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Twenty-four years of marriage. That’s what last Saturday meant for me.

We had celebrated earlier so I didn’t remember until I was driving to work. I called him. I told him how much I love him. I got grocery store flowers when I got home, beautifully arranged, by the way. (Whatever did we do without grocery store flowers?)

Between being a marital therapist and my own experience, I have learned a few things. Since I'm on year #24, I’ve divided them into 12s, just to be cute.  

12 things that marriage isn't:

1. Marriage is not for the weak.

It’s hard work.

2. Marriage is not about getting what you want all the time.

It’s not a dictatorship. It’s not wanting to win all the time because that would mean the other person would lose all the time. Maybe okay for you, but not good for the marriage.

3. Marriage is not rocket science.

The principles it’s based on are really pretty simple: Kindness. Respect. Loyalty. That kind of thing.

4. Marriage is not unfashionable.

Even the biggest celebrities get married, after all.

5. Marriage is not in and of itself stimulating.

Since you're with the same person for a long time, the two of you can get in a rut. You have to keep things fresh.

6. Marriage is not about collecting things.

The joys of marriage aren’t tangible. You live them. That’s what makes them so very special.

RELATED: 7 Truths About What Married Life Is Really Like You Must Know If You Want Your Marriage To Last

7. Marriage is not for the impatient.

Some of the best stuff takes a while to develop. You have to stick around to find that out.

8. Marriage is not a place for criticism or abuse.

If it's found there, it will ruin any chance of true intimacy or trust and dissolve the hope that once might have existed.

9. Marriage is not a 24-hour repair shop.

Your marital partner is not supposed to meet your every need. Some of those needs you may have to take care of yourself. Through your friendships or other activities.

10. Marriage is not self-sustaining.

It does not thrive on its own. If all you focus on is the kids, you're making a mistake.

11. Marriage is not boring.

Two lives woven together can be quite exciting. There’s just something about watching someone very different from you, living their life in an extremely different way. Up close and personal. You learn from that.

12. Marriage is not without conflict.

Knowing how to disagree and work through anger and disappointment is probably the key to lots of stuff going well. Getting to that cooperating, mentioned in #2.

RELATED: 5 Signs You're In A Good Marriage That Will Last 'Til Death Do You Part

12 things that marriage is:

1. Marriage is the potential for an intense, deep, and diverse intimacy.

Sexual. Emotional. Relational.

2. Marriage is knowing someone has your back. Always.

You have theirs. It’s about interdependence.

3. Marriage is realizing that you have been seen in your worst times and that you're still loved.

There’s an overriding sense of gratitude and security.

4. Marriage is sharing old jokes.

Or some story that may be told over and over but it still makes you laugh until you're left gasping for breath.

5. Marriage is getting teary-eyed together.

Because even the most stable of marriages need a good sentimental cry.

6. Marriage is thinking about the other one not being there anymore.

And not being able to think about it.

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7. Marriage is getting irritated by the things that always irritate you.

Have irritated you for 24 years, will irritate you for 24 more. And tolerating it because it's way over-balanced by the good stuff.

8. Marriage is not being able to wait to get home to share some little something.  

And no, it's not about codependency.

9. Marriage is wishing you were the one having the operation.

Or the illness. Not him.

10. Marriage is sometimes fighting.

Trying to slowly learn to fight more fairly. To apologize. To listen. To learn. To find a resolution.

11. Marriage is about vulnerability.

Giving someone the right to hurt or disappoint you. While simultaneously giving that someone the opportunity to bring you tremendous joy and laughter.

12. Marriage is a promise.

A vow to try the hardest you have ever tried in your life. Marriage is a place for the achievement of personal integrity like no other.

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Dr. Margaret Rutherford is a clinical psychologist whose work has been featured on HuffPost, Psych Central, Psychology Today, The Good Men Project, The Gottman Blog, and others. Visit her website for more.

This article was originally published at The Good Men Project . Reprinted with permission from the author.