Romantic movies always end the same way: with a white dress, flowers, and a happy bride and groom. But what happens after the wedding? How do they manage to create that “happy ever after”?
To answer this question, we at Bright Side decided to share the thoughts of a woman who’s been married for 12 years. There’s a lot we can all learn from her.
I never understood the frenzied way that some people think they absolutely have to get married and do so soon. I had different yet equally grand plans, much like many other 15- to 17-year-old teenagers who think they’ve got their whole life ahead of them.
But my goals were not meant to come true. A sporting injury put an end to my career and my hope for Olympic gold.
I met my future husband when I was still a student. Up to that point, I had never really thought about the idea of married life. Thanks to my experiences, I knew that life could change at any moment.
In some ways, my married life was no different from that of any other person: my life was filled with love, romance, passion, and suffering. There were moments when I felt it was a struggle to go on; there were times of intense disagreement, misunderstanding, and hurt. There were moments when I wanted to walk out.
Yet here I am, 12 years later and still married, and ready to share the conclusions I’ve reached about a life spent together with someone else.
1. The passion will go
Yes, love passes. By this I mean that kind of love that should more accurately be called “loving dependency” with its crazy emotions, suffering, tears, heartfelt pain, and obsession with that one special person.
Relationships should feel good. Without hysterics, emotional cripples, tantrums when they don’t reply to your message, broken plates, or sleepless nights spent crying.
Relationships should know stability. However, this doesn’t mean they have to be boring.
Relationships should be calm. You should be able to walk home each day from work knowing that what you’re going back to is a bubble of warmth, familiarity, and love. If you don’t know what will be from one day to the next, why are you in it?
2. Married life isn’t just one long party
“Happy ever after” hides the fact that there may be illnesses, bad feelings, tiredness and irritation, anger and offense in your relationship. There is always the possibility of unpleasant moments and difficulties. The more important question is how long a couple decides this can go on and whether they can find a way to reduce these things to a minimum.
3. A couple really should be on the same social level
Cinderella and her Prince is really nothing more than a fairy tale. Romantic nonsense that every girl dreams about when she’s too young to yet know what will really be. The fact is, unequal marriages often end in divorce. Love might draw people together, but when that passes, all the differences between them in upbringing, mentalities, their attitude to life, money, and kids will come to the surface. Attempts to imitate the fairy tales we see in the movies will end in failure.
4. A couple should develop together
You should never rest on your laurels. If husband and wife don’t grow together, then the end result can be a sad one: sooner or later, the one who is holding the other back often gets left behind.
But there’s another conclusion that emerges from this fact: you cannot stop your partner from wanting to grow. It doesn’t matter what the issue is specifically. Whatever it is they want to get better at, don’t stop them from doing so. And if you can, you should try to share their interest.
5. You have to accept each other
On a deep level. Maybe some of your partner’s habits irritate you, and you might not agree with some of the things they do. You might have differing views on some things. But, at a deep level, you have to accept them with all their shortcomings and neuroses. You need to let your partner be who they really are. Of course, you can try to encourage them to change in a positive direction. But this should be an option, not something unconditional.
6. A wife shouldn’t put herself in second place behind her kids and her husband
I find time for myself first and then for my husband and child. A woman who sacrifices herself for her husband’s sake will soon feel a great burden inside. You can’t just dissolve into your family or live in accordance with the wishes of your husband or concern for your kids. Married life shouldn’t be a barrier to you remaining an independent, interesting, and life-loving person.
7. You have to want to be with your man, but he should also be free
In the past few years, I’ve been living according to this principle. I’m not scared of my husband leaving, because he has the right to find what truly makes him happy (even if that means being without me), just like any other person. This is normal. Just as I have the right to find what’s best for me — without him. OK, what we’ve known previously will be shattered, but there’s no such thing as a catastrophe you can’t overcome. There’s no point holding a person hostage in a relationship that’s already died inside. It’s time to take off the rose-tinted glasses and understand that a person might leave at any moment.
8. Each side can have their own interests and desires
Everyone has the right to personal space and time for themselves. Everyone should have their own financial means to achieve this.
This is simply an axiom for any relationship. It should be this way, no questions asked.
For example, my personal time involves exercise and yoga. I might choose to take a trip out to the country, to sit by a lake and think about things. I also have time for reading and doing plenty of other things on my own, while my husband might go off to visit friends — even for several days at a time. I don’t try to follow what he’s doing, as it’s his time. There’s no place for hysterics and paranoia here. We’re both happy with these arrangements because they’re equal.
9. You should definitely have pets
In particular, warm-blooded ones such as dogs, cats, and hamsters. Animals you can stroke or give a little squeeze to, in other words. We’ve had all three simultaneously in the past; now we have two dogs and a rat. They’re all a source of endless joy.
10. You should have similar temperaments
If one half of a couple rushes around to get stuff done while the other barely lifts a finger, then the chances of this marriage surviving are low. You can smooth out plenty of little niggles caused by differing temperaments, and you can even arrange a happy life together with someone who moves at a different pace to you in many ways. But if your temperaments are polar opposites, then sooner or later one person is going to get left behind.
11. Passionate sex isn’t the most important thing
After 12 years of marriage, it’s not possible to always enjoy passionate sex and romance as it was before. In fact, things move into a calmer gear after about three years. In order to retain strong feelings of desire between you and your partner after many years spent living side by side, you need to have very strong emotions for them. But if one person is simply psychologically dependent on the other for intimacy without really feeling anything more, then they will want passion and sparks all the time, and that won’t be comfortable for the other. It doesn’t work when one half — or even both — of the couple are simply in that relationship out of the need for comfort, familiarity, or the desire for everything to stay the same.
Remember — in normal loving relationships, even sex can become secondary. It’s not the most important thing anymore, and that’s not a problem.
12. Decisions should be taken together
Of course, petty little decisions taken from one day to the next don’t require agreement. But major decisions, ones that affect your lives, definitely need to be discussed. And the final decision taken jointly.
How to raise your child, where to go on holiday, which car to buy — these are things that need to be discussed. But to interfere in the way your partner goes about their job, for example — that’s not necessary. The only thing to be done here is to offer your opinion if it’s asked for.
But the most important thing that can help secure a long-term marriage is the desire to reach compromises, listen and hear each other, leave opportunities for the other side to spend time alone, and not combine every aspect of your lives so tightly that it’s as if you’re joined at the hip, leaving no room for maneuver.
Remember overall that family life is a combination of love, trust, mutual support, patience, and strength of will. But the order of these things’ importance can change every few years.