“Marriage Is Hard”: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Photo Credit: HAMED MASOUMI via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: HAMED MASOUMI via Compfight cc

by Rachel Nielsen

The article “3 Things I Wish I Knew Before We Got Married” by Tyler Ward has been travelling through the interwebs lately. Boasting over 73,600 likes on Facebook, its appeal comes from the author’s honesty about the difficulties in marriage and his feel-good takeaways: “the more you give to marriage, the more it gives back,” “marriage requires sacrifice,” “go home and love you wife,” “go home and love your husband.” His points are valid, and I agree with the suggestions he makes. However, his presentation of the idea that marriage is not always blissful is something I can’t quite get on board with.

Ward discusses marriage as an institution “designed to pull dysfunction to the surface of our lives, set it on fire and help us grow.” This is where my opinion splits. I do agree that marriages refine us because marriages aren’t perfect, but I don’t think he should present this idea by saying that marriage is “designed to pull dysfunction to the surface.” If you go into marriage with the expectation that dysfunction will become a prominent part of your live, that is exactly what you will get. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This issue boils down to word choice. A simple thing with major consequences.

When I got engaged, I heard the phrase “marriage is hard” a lot. This was my mom’s sage advice on the matter: “People will keep telling you marriage is hard. But, if you go into marriage with that attitude, you’ve already put yourself in a position to fail because that is what you are looking for.”

I vote that we never say “marriage is hard” ever again.

Let me explain. Some couples go into marriage assuming that marriage will solve their problems. But this is simply not true.  Life is hard no matter what situation you’re in, and marriage isn’t going to fix that. But the difference between explaining that marriage is not a cure-all and explaining that marriage is hard is huge.

What if engaged couples heard the phrase “marriage is extremely fulfilling but it requires selflessness” instead of “marriage is hard”? Would they be less likely to go into marriage nervously waiting for the dysfunction to come out of the dark?

I will try to illustrate my point through other examples of relationships. When people tell us about a new friend they’ve made, we don’t tell them, “Remember, friendships are hard.” Why? Because we know that friendships are worth it. We do not go into friendships expecting everything to be perfect or expecting the friendship to solve all of our problems. Friendship requires give and take to make it last, but it is not presented as a difficult situation because friendships benefit our lives.

I believe that if our attitude was one that painted marriage as a rewarding and fulfilling union that helps us grow, there would be less “hard” marriages and more marriages where two people are trying their best to work things out and have fun while they do.

I believe that I am part of a healthy and successful marriage because my husband and I never say “hard.” And consequently, we never find problems that don’t really exist—because we aren’t looking for them.

We aren’t expecting marriage to be hard. We are expecting marriage to be rewarding. And that has made all the difference.

Rachel Nielsen