How to find hope in the challenge of marriage

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I recently read an article in the New York Times by Alain de Botton that ignited my thoughts on marriage and I would like to share those thoughts with you. Among many things in his article, de Botton expresses a belief that “Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for.” Further, de Botton supports pessimism rather than the romantic idea in marriage stating, “Pessimism relieves the excessive imaginative pressure that our romantic culture places upon marriage.”  

Marriage is challenging and complex; I would never argue that – ever. And I would never argue that moments and degrees of suffering exist in marriage. In our 25 years of marriage, my husband and I have had our share of suffering. However, I do believe that while some degree of suffering will, at times, exist in marriage – marriage is more of a struggle or a challenge, rather than suffering which implies despair, hopelessness and a lifetime of misery. Struggle or challenge implies the reality of the challenges that will come with marriage, and there will be times that are more challenging than others. Keep in mind – I never encourage one to stay in a marriage of abuse.

Pessimism creates despair, which can create a desire to find your way out as opposed to finding a way to stay in marriage and finding ways to stay in love. At one point in our marriage, my husband and I decided to email each other a weekly positive reflection about the other. In preparing to find a positive reflection, I found my brain flooded with positive memories and serotonin was flooding my brain! And we had decided to do this because we were going through a challenging time in our marriage! What a pleasant surprise! 

It is easy to focus on the hurt, disappointment and pain, but when you balance it with positive memories, it brings a necessary relief of love and hope.

“Marriage is a balance of joy and pain, hope and loss, love and doubt, challenge and victory, companionship and loneliness and so on”

How to find hope in marriage

Love changes over time, as does the romantic aspect of love. I feel romantic toward my husband when he plays with our grandson or when he chuckles at me when I do something that only he knows about me. Or when we enjoy a summertime meal that I’ve created and spend the evening in our back yard, chatting while losing touch with time. And I know that he feels the same in return.

Marriage is a lifetime of learning about oneself, if you choose to do so, and if you do, it can be life changing in a good way. Marriage – rather than suffering – can be viewed as “Commitment to stay in the challenge” and “choosing personal growth”

Marriage is a lifetime investment that has its payoffs and its losses. The payoffs can be personal growth, shared experiences and a lifetime of memories. Even the painful experiences can be transformed into growth if you choose to self-reflect in your marriage. The loss might be recognizing that one person cannot meet all of your needs as perhaps you once hoped. Loss is recognizing that your hopes and dreams for your life together will not unfold as you imagined.

However, you will almost certainly have positive experiences in your marriage that you never imagined. I never imagined that my husband and I would enjoy some of the things in our life. We spent the first half of our life in financial hardship raising four children. During those times I never imagined that we would be able to do some of the things that we now enjoy.

The challenges each of us experience in marriage will vary from marriage to marriage for a variety of reasons. There are those who have had more than their fair share of hurt and pain growing up, therefore being in a marriage may take more work because you have learned about relationships only through hurt and pain. Also, one never knows what life will throw at you – unexpected death, loss and hardship – these unexpected painful experiences will challenge a marriage.

Believe me, regarding personal growth in marriage; I have had times when I have wished for the personal growth to come to an end! Living alone can sound inviting, especially when I have felt trapped in my marriage. I don’t know of many people who have not felt trapped, hopeless and helpless at some point in their marriage. When you make an investment in a life together, it is inevitable that during times of disconnection you will feel trapped. Like so many, the disappointment is something that I never expected to experience in marriage. Sadly, I had only hopes and dreams for a future with my husband. When reality hits, it hits hard. Reality would not be so hard if all of us were better prepared for marriage and if learning about relationships became a part of our education!

The value of partnering in marriage

Marriage is a partnership in which we go through the battlefield of life together and the joy of life. Yes, it has its growing pains – that can cause suffering. With the complexities of humans and the complexities of life, struggle in marriage is inevitable. However, marriage is a partnership that is meant to pull you through life. It can provide safety, security, comradery and collaboration.

A partnership in marriage means that you know you share the same mission in life, that someone always has your back and that you go though it together. This does not mean that you do not enjoy separateness, separate interests and separate friends, but these separate times are even more enjoyable because you know that you always have a partnership behind you.

And this is what no one tells you before you marry – isolation is the cause of suffering, and you will feel isolation in your marriage – this is the cause of loneliness. You will always have times of loneliness in your marriage during times of disconnection due to the complexities of a relationship. However, times of disconnection can be productive if used to self-reflect, learn and grow. Pain can bring growth and result in a deeper and more loving connection with your partner.

Learn how to stay in love

We need to learn how to stay in love after we’ve been hurt by the one we love. And we need to learn how to be in a relationship with all of its complexities. We need to recognize that learning is necessary to grow in connection with one another. All of us seek to be understood, accepted, respected and loved, flaws and all, and to be seen (and loved) for who we are as a person, however this takes learning about all aspects of a relationship.

Gaining perspective on our marriage is challenging because we don’t have distance to see clearly. I am able to help couples in therapy because I can view their relationship from a distance. It is much more challenging to gain distance, clarity and a healthy perspective in one’s own marriage. It is easier for me to help others than it is to gain perspective in my marriage! Help from another person who is fair and understands both sides – this can provide hope in marriage. It is when we feel lack of hope, trapped, and lost in marriage that we need support from others.

Remember though – we must learn, learn and then learn more how to stay in love. Learn how to love after hurt, injury, miscommunication, and the challenges that life will present to you.

You cannot “fly by the seat of your pants” in marriage – it is a lifelong journey of discovery

But it is a discovery that can be beautiful, liberating and enlightening if you do it as if you were taking a lifelong class where there is always something new to uncover.

                     *          *          *          *           *

If you want to learn more about relationships – I wrote this for you “Ten Essential Things I’ve Learned About Marriage & Relationships” I’ve included the lesson that saved my marriage. I care about the work that I put out to you, and I hope you find it helpful. Please let me know!

Thanks for reading!

 One more thing… I really would love for you to share your thoughts with me. I know it is not easy to do! I understand because it took me a long time to work up the courage to begin blogging! But I want to get to know you. When you feel ready, please feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comment section. 

And you can keep up with my writing on relationships, random thoughts and more by subscribing hereI’m here to help and to know that you are out there reading means so much to me!

If you think this blog will help a friend, please share it with them or share it on Facebook and Twitter!

Details of any stories told in my blogs have been changed to protect the identity of people that I work with in therapy.

Photo Credit: mrhayata@flickr.com

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How to find hope in the challenge of marriage
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How to find hope in the challenge of marriage
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I recently read an article in the New York Times by Alain de Botton that ignited my thoughts on marriage and I would like to share those thoughts with you. I want to talk about how you can find hope in the many challenges that come with marriage.
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Comments

  1. Jodi Hoffman  July 6, 2016

    I thought this was a beautiful piece. Thank you Pam!

    reply
    • Pam Fullerton  July 6, 2016

      You are so very welcome Jodi! Your comment is very much appreciated!!

      reply
  2. Tinkerbell  July 7, 2016

    I love this! I am not married yet but I WANT the struggles and the commitment that marriage brings! I already believe me and my partner are strong and feel this really articulates how positive marriages and long term commitments can be. I also love it when you said you have to learn to stay in love. This is something I practice every day. Not everyday will you feel in love but it is the days that when we will feel disconnected that we put this into practice!! Thank you. I will continue to read your posts!

    reply
    • Pam Fullerton  July 7, 2016

      How wonderful to know that you practice staying in love!!! Thank you so much for your comment and I’m so glad that you will continue to read my posts!!

      reply
  3. Paula  July 7, 2016

    Thanks Pam! This was a really wonderful blog!

    reply
    • Pam Fullerton  July 7, 2016

      Thanks so much Paula!! I really appreciate your comment!!

      reply
  4. Dawn  July 20, 2016

    I really enjoyed this article and truly appreciate your perspective. I’ve been happily married for 24 years due in large part to everything in this article. I get on my husband’s nerves and Lord only knows he gets on mine but knowing we are in it for the longrun takes the pressure off trying to be perfect. We very much approached our marriage like teammates. Our nickname in our community is Team Blackman. Agsin we are not perfect but we believe we are perfect for each other, flaws and all. Thanks again for sharing your invaluable insight, Pam. Please keep it coming. Peace and blessings????

    reply
    • Pam Fullerton  July 21, 2016

      Dawn, Thank you so very much for your comment!! I think all of all want our experience in marriage validated – the hard part and the good! I love the idea of being called “Team Blackman”! Thank you so much for sharing your experience in marriage!! 🙂

      reply

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