Friends of mine recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. While you can never really be inside someone else’s marriage, this couple seems happy.
Not gushing PDA besotted. But during the entire time I’ve know them, they always smile when they say the other person’s name. That’s the “tell.”
Pay attention to the look on someone’s face when they say their partner’s name, and you can probably guess how they feel about their marriage. My friend’s anniversary got me thinking about why some marriages work and other’s don’t.
I have no moral judgment about divorce. I’ve been married for about a zillion years myself, and like most marriages, there have been some lows. As I look at the friends we’ve known since college, their divorce rate matches the 50% average.
If years ago someone had taken bets on which couples would go the distance, I’m sure my husband and I with our 9-year age difference, wildly different backgrounds and less than ideal childhood models would have been long odds. We lasted, while some of the most seemingly compatible couples divorced, as did some of the most romantic couples.
As I look at the couples still together, who also seem to like each other, I realize, it’s not lack of love that causes you to split. It’s the practical things that cause you to lose your love. Here are three areas where differing expectations can break a marriage:
If you’re in a long-term marriage you’ve probably at some low point contemplated splitting up. Then you think about your financial goals and realize it’s really expensive to get divorced. It will undermine all your long-term plans.
It’s not very sexy, but the underpinning is a sense of shared goals and commitment. The fact that you have a plan demonstrates alignment. If you’re not on the same page money-wise, there’s no shared commitment. No one should stay miserable for financial reasons, but when you have shared financial goals, you feel more together, and there’s less angst about other things.
If you think this is a small item, you’ve never wanted to throttle your spouse for asking, “What’s for dinner?” One of the long-standing jokes about my 40-year married friends is her terrible cooking.
They host lots of parties and she serves Sam’s Club mozzarella sticks for every single one. Her husband thinks they’re great.
My own husband is an exceptional cook. As a non-cook, my agreement is to appreciate it. Immensely. If he wants a new kitchen gadget, order it right now. If we can’t eat until 8 because his new recipe is taking a while, no problem. Give the kids a quick PB&J and we’ll all come to the table appreciative of his late dinner.
Differing expectations about meals creates daily arguments and resentment. When you agree – be it Sam’s Club or gourmet – meals become joyful.
Couples who stay together have similar expectations about the importance or unimportance of their home. If one of you prioritizes a clean, well-decorated home and the other thinks Fritos on the coffee table makes life more convenient, you’re both going to be annoyed every single day. Agreement about your surroundings gives you a soft space to land.
There are lots of ways to have a happy life; long-term marriage is not for everyone. But if you want a partnership, get aligned on the practical matters so romance can survive.