This started life as a long comment on a post by Peggy, The Primal Parent entitled ‘When Good Health Destroys A Perfectly Decent Marriage.’
I thought I would share it with you.
I got married for the first time at 34, my husband, also for the first time, at 44. We’ve been married 13 years and have twin boys aged 11. I went Paleo a year ago, my husband did not. I’ve got healthier and slightly more energetic. I lost around 3lbs. My husband would like to lose maybe 5lbs.
But really the outward change effects of Paleo have been minimal. My husband eats my food and buys bread for himself to make PBJ sandwiches and toast. He drinks way too much caffeine for my liking but that’s his choice.
My point is the change hasn’t been dramatic or fundamental. One of us hasn’t lost a hundred pounds.
In my experience of seeing friends go through this kind of seismic change, typically a fundamental review of the relationship takes place and it is finally resolved one way or the other – either by a split, the dieter regaining the weight, the other partner embarking on a similar change or a deep review of values and an acknowledgement of what keeps the relationship going. Balance has to be restored one way or another.
It is a universal principle.
I’m afraid my own views on marriage are rather dull and pragmatic. I think as a culture we way over-romanticize love and marriage which is unfortunate because expectations are much too high and huge disappointment ensues.
Walt Disney has a lot of answer for!
After we become disillusioned, we often think if we switch out our partner for someone else, we will change our outcome. But often we end up in the same relationship just with a different face on the pillow next to us.
And even if we do end up with a better relationship, we continue to evolve and after a while, if we look to another person to fulfill our needs, will need a new model. Again.
Such is life.
I truly feel looking for happiness with one person for life is unrealistic especially when choices are made early. I am very glad that I traveled and had what I considered an exciting life before I settled down. When things get dull, this knowledge comforts me and helps me appreciate what I have now which is a different kind of normal, not less or more stressful or challenging.
I believe it is usually necessary to keep working on the relationship and look outside it for personally fulfilling activities to keep the soul alive and thriving. As a society, we put way too much responsibility on our ‘other half’ to meet our needs and that puts pressure on them that they can rarely, or are willing to meet.
Marriage (or a stable relationship, married or not) becomes most important when children are involved. At this point happiness isn’t about the individual self it is about the larger unit. The more children one has, the more important the marriage becomes.
There is no doubt in my mind our children benefit from our family unit (a unit that has been carefully and consciously crafted by my husband and I.) It provides them with stability, rituals, opportunities, and life lessons that wouldn’t be available if the unit weren’t intact. When times are tough I see how much sustenance they get from this family even if, at times, me or my husband want to run away from our responsibilities.
(And each other ;-))
Wildly differing values or relationships where there is abuse will not work, and if children are already present, that is unfortunate. In those circumstances, I think it is best (and probably inevitable) to separate and live independently while doing the best possible job of co-parenting.
But it shouldn’t be taken lightly and it definitely shouldn’t be a decision based on pleasure hormone withdrawal, misinformation, without plenty of forethought or a belief that someone out there is ‘The One.’
(Please let me spread the word – there is no ‘One’, people.)
Love is really about pleasure points in the brain being activated and as such is a biochemical reaction. There are many ways to get those chemicals set off and it is important to make sure the balance between our stress and positive feeling hormones is right if we are to keep our relationships going. Marriage is a sum of many parts and when the pros outweigh the cons, I think you are doing well.
Realistically, as unpopular as the idea is, the best most of us can expect to achieve is a ‘good enough’ marriage yet we teach our children, especially our girls, that it is the ultimate goal. Is it not surprising then that the divorce rate is so high and that most of them are initiated by women.
I’m not for or against divorce (or marriage, for that matter) – who am I to say who should stay in their marriage and who should leave? Too many variables. Only the individuals concerned can answer that.
But I do think we are unrealistic in our expectations and would all do well to be much more informed about our bodies, about relationship dynamics, our relationship skills and our values so that we can make informed choices instead of knee jerk ones.
Some marriages need tweaking, others need major surgery. And some, amputation.
Only the individual can decide what is worth how much.
And so what are your thoughts? Have I deconstructed marriage too far? Taken out the life and joy of it? Let me know in the comments. I would love to hear your thoughts.