What changes when you get married?
I've said this a lot lately, but I need to preface this article with an announcement to explain why me, a man — who “shouldn't” be interested in marriage stuff, according to traditional gender norms — is so keen on love and the prospect of marriage.
Well, I'm engaged.
The reason this is so spectacular (to me) is because I once had a bleak outlook on love. I was incredibly skeptical of the prospect, and after years (and years) of failure, I didn't believe it was in the cards for me. My deck was all spades.
Then, when I confidently concluded I'd call off the search for my soulmate and just be single in a home with two basset hounds (which I was fine with, I swear), I swiped right on a vegan baker.
When we met, I honestly didn't believe I was worthy of this Hallmark love, but for some miraculous reason, she felt the same way I did about her. It was revolutionary. Plus, she's a total babe. I hit the jackpot.
In a way, I was reintroduced to love. For the first time ever, love was not only a possibility, but also an actuality. So, newly engaged, I decided to seek knowledge from couples who've been married (or married and then divorced) to determine what it is about marriage that changes — or has potential to change — a relationship. Because it does in a way, doesn't it?
As I would soon discover, it does, but the answer isn't so simple. Of the 20 plus responses I received from my callout, most read like miniature novels. They were long, but I shouldn't have been surprised.
Love, no matter how alluring, is complicated and can no way be summed up in a mere phrase.
These are the eight most varied insights (because there was overlap) I've received from various married couples across North America.
1. In a sense, marriage is a business.
When people get married, they form a company in the commercial sense of the word. A great many decisions each of them makes now affects the other person. For example, if I decide I need to buy a motorcycle or go back to school to study medicine, that decision hugely impacts my spouse. Obviously, before marriage, that kind of decision affected only me. Many people do not realize the 'corporate' bonds that are established — legally — when they marry. They act as if they can continue to make individual decisions without impacting the other person. Or even if they are aware of the impact, they may think they have the "right" to do what they want. So far, this image of marriage as a business may seem limited: I can't do what I want because I have to consider my spouse's life. But, the positive side happens when two people realize that if they pool their knowledge and resources, they can make decisions that enrich both of their lives. In my marriage, for example, we decided to forgo certain pleasures and instead invest our savings in a new business that my wife wanted to develop. The business was a success, lifting our shared 'boat.' And it wasn't just that I benefited from the cash my wife's business earned. Eventually, there was a role for me in the business, and some of the most creative work I've ever done happened because of the decision we made. Think of marriage as a joint venture, and you will avoid hurting each other in many ways, while also discovering many possibilities.
— Irwin, 74
2. Marriage makes things official and more committal.
Being married meant, to me, that I had made a choice. That now we would find a way to make it work. As girlfriend and boyfriend, there was this feeling that I was "trying something on, seeing how it fit," and so, I was only partially committed. Part of me was still being critical and curious. However, once we decided to get married, I became happily and passionately committed! Much like being a mom, being married has meant approaching problems with an absolute desire to figure something out. Thanks to my marriage, I can now do this in all of my relationships. Because my husband and I are absolutely different, it's taught me to seek sameness underneath. In my marriage, it's a strong love of family, a deep respect for each other and a desire to love and be loved for who we are, not who we might become.
— Tsara, 42
3. Marriage changes people.
I am 27 years old and divorced. What went wrong in our marriage in particular is how much we both changed (for reasons unknown) as soon as we got married. His problem: Before the marriage, everything was wonderful, and he was the most amazing guy. After the marriage, he started to become less romantic, even taking me for granted. He started to slam the door and point his finger at me while we'd argue. Worst of all, he'd ignore my feelings, and as a result, we were no longer intimate. My problems: I settled down too young, as I was still a naive girl before the marriage. I started to demand more attention from him, as I expected we should show more affection toward each other. I wanted to have a baby, and I pushed him too hard.
— Zera, 27
4. People have different views on what marriage “should” be.
I believe marriage can create a sense of entitlement. In the beginning, people believe they have to forsake EVERYTHING else in order to create unity. I believe this creates resentment. In my case, we had two completely different views of what marriage should be. He wanted more of a "traditional" marriage, a "Me Tarzan, You Jane" kind of thing. I, on the other hand, wanted more support and encouragement for my blossoming career. Things really got bad when I started making more money than he did. One of his rules was, "the person making the most money was the boss." (He wanted to eat that rule later.) When I started traveling for work, he became jealous and started accusing me of cheating. The poor guy really couldn't handle having an executive wife. We needed to be more honest with one another upfront. On the bright side, we are now divorced nine years and very good friends!
— Dayna, 48
5. Marriage offers security.
I have been married, divorced and remarried. While I can't speak for everyone, my experience in both the first and second marriage was that the fact that being married settled me down. With my second husband, the act of getting married has given me a sense of security I didn't know I was missing when we were just living together. Could he divorce me? Of course! But for me, the act of being married means I am committed to finding my happiness within my marriage instead of looking for exits.
— Elisabeth, 50
6. Marriage makes things more comfortable.
Nothing changes, really. Now that I've spent eight years with my spouse, I feel that you start getting more comfortable, especially after the first seven years (hence the notorious seven-year itch). So, yeah, comfort is the biggest difference in my opinion.
– Lori, 28
7. Dated gender roles become expectations.
We seemed to fall into roles: happy, cute little housewife and husband who goes to work and comes home to sit on the couch while the wife cooks, cleans and does all the work around the house. It actually destroyed our marriage because we were both equally contributing breadwinners. (I had two part-time jobs and was a full-time university student; he had a regular 9-to-5.) I ended up with all the household obligations, which was too much to add to my workload alone. I was told it was my “duty” as his wife, which didn't fly well with me, a strong, hard-working, independent woman.
– Brittany, 26
8. After marriage, people just want you to have babies.
What I've noticed is that people are all about babies now. The first question people ask me now that I'm married is, 'Babies yet? Babies soon? Are you pregnant yet?' It seems the pressure for having a baby is huge now; it's expected. This is super annoying because we aren't there yet. We just got married, and now people are onto the next thing: babies. That aside, when we got married, everything felt more serious for us. We bought a house six months into our marriage, which upped the game for us. Ultimately, after marriage, the relationship becomes more real and serious. Not that it wasn't before, but it feels that way.
– Kat, 28