It's Okay To Admit That Marriage Is Really Freaking Hard

by Brandi Jeter Riley
Originally Published: 
A couple getting married
photo credit: Brandi Riley

I don’t remember how many months pregnant I was, but I know I was already showing. My husband and I were having an argument about something, when I told him that maybe he should just leave. One of us pulled a duffel bag out of the closet and tossed it on the bed, presumably to pack his things. He stormed out of the house without taking it. I didn’t know where he was going, and I had no idea what was next for us. In that moment, though, whatever we were arguing about (I can’t recall anymore) felt like enough to throw our entire relationship away.

Marriage can be really hard.

My husband and I are absolutely best friends. We do everything together, love being in each other’s presence, and we crack each other up. He’s the man I prayed for, but better. I’m happy, he’s happy, and still, marriage is tough.

When we first met, I was a 30-year-old single mom of a daughter who had just turned one. Up until my daughter was born, I had been alone. I was used to making choices based solely on my needs. I hadn’t had to check in with anyone in at least a decade. My husband was a few years younger than me and not too far removed from a long-term relationship that didn’t work out. He was hellbent on being a bachelor for the rest of his life.

The two of us met, sparks flew, and we had to try to figure out how to become one when we were both used to playing alone for so long. We worked through a long-distance relationship for two years. My daughter and I moved across the country, and we dealt with the growing pains of his learning to add a toddler and a woman who was not planning to be a live-in girlfriend for the rest of her life to his bachelor pad. Six months later, we were married, and everything was perfect.

Just kidding.

That’s when the hard work started. After the wedding, there was no question about whether or not the relationship was going to last. We had vowed for better or worse, and neither of us was going anywhere. This marriage had to work.

My husband and I went a couple of years with barely a disagreement. Then, things just kind of shifted. I was in a period of transition with work, and trying to get pregnant. He was stressed at work and ready to move us from our small apartment into a house. For a little while, we just didn’t seem to be connected. It wasn’t a long time, but it was long enough that I questioned what we were doing. I started to wonder if this is what I had to look forward to for the rest of our lives forever and ever, ’til death do us part.

Nobody ever told me about that part of marriage. Oh, folks talked about how the first year is the hardest, much like they tell parents of newborns, but it wasn’t true. At least not for my husband and me. Our first year was like an extended honeymoon. There were a few challenges, but nothing like the stuff we’ve dealt with since then.

Every year, as we become closer and our lives even more intertwined, some new challenge appears to test the strength of our bond. From frightening letters from the IRS to losing beloved family members, whenever we feel like we’ve experienced every tough thing in our marriage, or that all of the issues that could come up have been hashed out, here comes another one.

Why don’t we talk more about that? You know, about how, the longer you’re married, the harder it becomes. The closer we get, the more comfortable we are with each other, the more likely it is that we shed all pretense and our spouse gets the very raw, intimate core of us—the good and the bad. When we have a rough day at work, for many of us, our spouses are the ones who take the brunt of our frustration. It’s not right, but it’s a natural occurrence, human nature. If it’s not dealt with, it can certainly lead to bigger issues in the union.

When money is tight, that can be a trigger. Family or other outside parties inserting themselves into the marriage can be an issue. Kids. Work. Life. We are human, even after we get married, hard times are to be expected.

It’s how we deal with those hard times that makes a difference.

We have to show each other some grace, expect that there will be bumps in the road in our relationship. We give ourselves leeway as parents to mess up and give ourselves a chance to fix it. Why don’t we do that in our marriage, too? Self-care. Each other care. Intentional actions to express love and commitment, just like we do for our children. Our spouses need that type of focus and attention, too.

And just like we give our children a chance to make things right when they make a mistake, we have to extend that same courtesy to our partners. Marriage is not easy. Being a husband or wife is not easy. Knowing that you are responsible for this other human for the rest of your life is not easy. Worth it, for sure, but it takes work.

Oh, so back to the argument my husband and I had when I was pregnant enough to be showing and he stormed out of the house. He came back. My husband was gone for ten minutes or so before he came home. He sat on the side of the bed, and we talked. He apologized, I apologized, and here we are two years later and I can’t even remember what we were arguing about.

What I do remember, though, is how I felt when he walked back in the room. How I was so happy to see him, and grateful I would have a chance to talk things out and to figure out a compromise. Marriage is hard.

Getting married was my choice, though, and I’m up for the challenge.

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