The Truth About Marriage, Monogamy & Long-Term Partnership.

Via on Jun 11, 2014

married

Everyone around us struggles in marriage.

But you wouldn’t know it because most people feel bad about their struggle, so they hide it.

I have yet to meet a couple who were not challenged to some degree.

As a couple’s coach and relationship specialist, I work with this all day, every day.

If you are married, or you are going to get married, it’s important to read this thoroughly. It may help you be more realistic.

The media and our culture inundate us with misinformation about how relationships are supposed to be. Many of us still think that when we find the one all will be well and they will complete us. Or maybe some of us think a “conscious” relationship means that we somehow transcend our issues, triggers and neurosis.

When we finally do commit to a long-term relationship and the warm fuzzies of the honeymoon stage wear off after six months or a year or two, we finally get to the goods of a real relationship.

One of the first things we discover is that it is challenging.

We struggle, blame, judge and even hate. We shut down, we distance, we run away. We do and say mean things or we just freeze in fear. We do all the things that we did as a child, (but probably don’t remember) or we act like our parents—the thing we’d swore we’d never do. We then suffer because our fantasy of what we thought a relationship was supposed to be doesn’t match our lived experience of the real relationship we are in now.

We discover that a relationship is full of pleasure yes, but that it is also full of pain. It’s not just happy, but it’s sad. It’s not just blissful, it’s depressing. We don’t just experience warm fuzzies, we also experience cold iciness and rage.

Then, we judge ourselves against the one-sided marriage paradigm that was sold to us. We get depressed thinking that perhaps we made a mistake or something is wrong with us. Or, we blame our spouse and hold them accountable for our pain, which is also depressing.

Some of us might feel alone and struggle to tell anyone about what’s really going on, perhaps because we don’t have those kinds of friends. And, even if we did have friends that would accept us in our funk as we fumble through marriage, our culture trained us to hide our relationship struggles so we put on our upbeat face and continue hiding. We unconsciously embrace the game everyone plays in this culture to be a half-version of ourselves.

But when it’s quiet and no one’s looking, we might be courageous enough to look in the mirror and acknowledge that we are in pain, that we don’t know how to get through it, and that we are in unknown territory.

We might take the next step and admit we can’t do it alone, so we finally reach out to someone for help. We might first talk to a close friend, a pastor, a therapist or our parents to get their councel. But often what we receive is not what we need. The most common response we can get is advice, problem solving and fixing—all well intentioned with the agenda of getting us back to “normal,” which translates into getting us back to our happy place.

This lack of validating our experience has us feeling more alone and even stupid. Remember, other people don’t want us to suffer. Our suffering makes them uncomfortable. So, if we are not careful and we want their approval/acceptance, we might abandon our true feelings and take their advice and try to get back to being happy again. But meanwhile under our mask, our suffering ensues.

Next, if we are religious or spiritual, we may look to our texts and self-help books to support us. We might even pray to God to make our suffering go away. We might even meditate and try to pseudo-embrace our pain all the while secretly wanting it to go away.

Yikes!

This entire process is common, normal, and I see it every day.

In my experience as a relationship guide, people finally get into a marriage and have no idea what’s at stake and no idea how to proceed. It’s like being lost in a thick forest in a far away place with no map.

Add kids to the mix, years of financial stress, miscommunication, less and less sex and an inability to do real conflict, and we have a recipe for affairs, divorce and stuck marriages. If we are honest, we finally start to admit we have few to no skills in the long-term relationship department.

The feelings we bottled up or tried to hide begin to leak out, sometimes as a slow drip, and other times as a raging mountain torrent. Or we feel afraid to move one way or the other, so we stay frozen in inaction, unsure of how to proceed. Meanwhile our body bears the burden as we compartmentalize our pain in silence, all the while we get sicker and sicker year after year.

Eventually we start to see that we learned what was modeled to us. We realize there was no relationship class in school. We just digested what was modeled to us.

We look around, compare ourselves to others and think, “they seem like their marriage is great, so what’s my problem?” But remember that under the masks of everyone around you is a hidden layer, a layer they, like you, would rather hide.

When we don’t want to find out for ourselves what marriage is all about and the wild, rigorous, enchanting, painful path it forces us to face, we end up settling on a myriad of outdated and ineffective views given to us by our parents, culture, traditions or teachers. And in doing so, we perpetually avoid the massive opportunity for healing and growth that is staring us in the face day in and day out for years on end.

So, a gentle reminder that when we bought, without knowing it, the old way of relating, what I call “relational ignorance,” we set ourselves up for a big ol’ fantasy-slow-burn-let down. And, when we choose to keep living it this way, it’s supposed to suck.

Marriage is work. A real relationship is work.

It requires skill, a powerful context, embodiment and our rational thinking mind. It requires what I call “relational awareness and literacy.” A real relationship includes all of us, all shades, all colors, the dark, and the light. It’s happy sometimes and it’s sad sometimes. And, many people bail because they keep trying to live a fantasy that doesn’t match up with reality. In other words, the territory doesn’t match the map they were given in childhood.

Relating well then becomes an art, a master skill, to really see relationship as a path to our own wholeness and freedom.

Relationship is what we are all designed for. It’s who we are.

And marriage, if we have the proper view and tools, is an alchemical journey catapulting and demanding us to become all that we are.

But remember, we must say yes to growth and have a willingness to learn how to face all that comes up within the confines of marriage, monogamy and long-term partnership. And, once we do, we’re on our way to marriage empowerment and fulfillment.

~

Relephant:

11 Ways to Maintain a Healthy Marriage. 

~

The Best Marriage Advice from a Divorced Man.

~

~

Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Editor: Cat Beekmans

Photo: Rolands Lakis/Flickr

About Jayson Gaddis

Jayson Gaddis, is a relationship specialist using the vehicle of his marriage and kids to wake up and live an empowered life. He’s on the planet to help people learn and master intimacy and relationship. He’s a husband and part-time stay-at-home Dad getting schooled by his two cosmic kids. Jayson is the host of Empowering Relationships TV and writes his own highly personal blog, and has also written for Integral Life, The Jungle of Life, Primer Magazine, Recovering Yogi, The Good Men Project. You can find him here: Jayson Gaddis or Fulfilling Marriage.

306,568 views

Appreciate this article? Support indie media!

(We use super-secure PayPal - but don't worry - you don't need an account with PayPal.)

32 Responses to “The Truth About Marriage, Monogamy & Long-Term Partnership.”

  1. Paul says:

    Thank you! A great reality check and important advice about clarifying expectations, accepting the relationship,as a whole (both good parts and bad), and honesty. Cool.

  2. Melina says:

    Thanks Jayson. Really love your work.

    • Guest says:

      Doug….what you wrote is exactly how it should be. Best of everything to you and your wife. There would be so many more successful marriages if couples stop taking marriage, partnership, respect, commitment and each other for granted. The key really is to appreciate your partner and respect your relationship.

      Thank you again, Doug.

  3. dougkzeigler says:

    While I am unsure if it was your intention, I came away feeling that this was a rather glum look at relationships. In my first marriage, I did use all of those mechanisms you mentioned. The anger, the fear, the self-loathing, the self-doubt. After a few years (yes, it took me that long to realize that I did not belong in that relationship), we ended our marriage. And within a scant few months, I found a woman who was my equal and my better. I feared getting into another relationship so quickly with the wound of failure so fresh. I managed to overcome that fear, in no small way thanks to her, and she's now my wife and we have been together for 5 years. I'm unashamed to say every day I wake up next to her, I'm grateful that I have someone who I compliment perfectly and she compliments me perfectly. We truly are madly in love and lust, and do not hide it.

    She has showed me this: marriage/love isn't SUPPOSED to be difficult or hard. Be open. Be honest. Share everything. touch each other daily, and not just in physical ways. I can unequivocally say my marriage is the very best part of me, and never once have I seen it for anything other than what it is to me: a magically wonderful ride through this life with the one person who intertwines with me in totality.

    This is not to say everything is roses and unicorns; we do disagree on some things. However, we approach it with upfront honesty and the knowledge that we both want what's best for each other and our children. We resolve things quickly because we both value the other's feelings and believe in compromise.

    Not every relationship is required to be lacking in so many aspects. I'm astoundingly fortunate that my wife and I see our marriage as a blessing to be relished and celebrated (sexually and otherwise) as opposed to a job. The glass can be half full.

    Communicate. Be honest. Touch each other. Love each other. See past small things to see the grandeur of the love you have.

    It doesn't HAVE to be hard. It can be amazing if you and your partner want to be.

    • Judit says:

      Just what I wanted to say!!! Thank you, Doug!
      Everyone else, please read this instead of the article. It has more truth in it.

    • Rick says:

      Truthfully, it is disappointing to see a marriage end. Maybe I am naive (I haven’t gone married yet) and have greater expectations of marriage, but why would you get a divorce in the first place? Was there cheating or physical abuse in your relationship, or did you just wake up one day and realize the person you married wasn’t “the one” (you don’t need to respond)? I want to believe that the ladder isn’t a valid reason to get a divorce, and that is the premise that Mr. Jayson Gaddis makes in his blog entry about the hard work required in marriages.

  4. Courtney Alban says:

    I agree with Doug’s comments that this seems a rather glum view of marriage. I have been married to my best friend and ardent lover for over 12 years. Contrary to the supposed fairytale view of marriage, I have felt that the meme put forth by society is the same as this piece: marriage is hard work. My husband and I have always disagreed on that point. Being alive, aware of your own mortality, conscious, developing a career- those things all take work and are hard. But marriage has only served to lighten those loads for us. Sure, we disagree sometimes, but we always communicate honestly and lovingly, if not right away, before too much time passes. I would encourage people to have a more romantic and forgiving and loving and optimistic view of marriage than the current story we are told. Marriage really can be all that.

  5. Iona Eubanks says:

    "Relationship is what we are all designed for. It’s who we are."
    Designed by whom?

  6. ann says:

    there is no such thing as love. it's all about the money.

  7. Wynn Ray says:

    "t’s like being lost in a thick forest in a far away place with no map." Yes, but remember that there are two of you, and together you can be far more effective to find a way out of that thick forest. You don't look to escape the relationship so much as escape the forest together. Then realize the value of that shared experience.

  8. Irmina says:

    WOW…………that's the type of relationship, marriage, I would like. You are a thriving couple and I am so happy to hear that this is possible :)

  9. Eleanor says:

    We've been married for 50 years and there are good times and bad, happiness and sadness; that's life! In the end we love each other through all of it. So, even when we irritate each other we stick together! We work at it and talk about things, insignificant things and important things. Sometimes one of us feels as though they are doing all the work (me) but in the event we can laugh about it and get on with life.
    PS it is good to spend time apart doing your own thing. We learned early in the piece that we are not joined at the hip. The 3 aspects of a marriage/relationship – each person (2) and the relationship – all overlapping.

  10. gopangaea says:

    >Add kids to the mix, years of financial stress, miscommunication, less and less sex and an inability to do real conflict, and >we have a recipe for affairs, divorce and stuck marriages.

    Please get an editor. Or read your work out loud. This sentence makes no sense. "an inability to do real conflict?"
    I'm going on 23 years of f-ing awesome marriage. No one but an idiot would think ti's always going to be easy.

  11. Vicki says:

    Not unlike yoga, marriage is full of opposing energies that are in conflict when imbalanced. As a posture teaches, when this imbalance presents itself, breathing from the center and applying strength or flexibility where necessary to bring both halves back to harmony needs to occur. No different than yoga, the ego interferes and wants to drive its favored side home so it may relish in its own glory. The struggles we encounter in a posture are rich with life-teaching skills, so are the struggles in a marriage. My husband and I experience the spectrum of marital emotions and we get out of balance. When we do and I can rise above the storm to its calm center, I can gain a clear perspective of what is required of me – not him, me. And just as in practice using breath and conscious, ahimsa based adjustments, I can work to rebuild harmony through being strong or being flexible. May not happen in a moment or a day, but when balance is achieved, it is at a level that is integral to our being together and elevates the relationship. I like to think this is the goal of all struggles – to lead us toward a new level of balance whether off or on the mat ~ NAMASTE and balanced loving!

  12. Bruce says:

    20 years in, an 18 month separation 6 years into our marriage and 2 awesome kids, and my wife and I love each other without condition, we could see each other far enough sometimes and couldn’t imagine not having each other in our lives whether we are together or apart. We are actively poly and that adds to our challenge and, like our marriage, this lifestyle is both rewarding and disappointing, joyous and heartbreaking, just like marriage. It is ultimately worth everything we have given to our marriage and, short of having a handfasting ceremony instead of a christian wedding, wouldn’t change a single thing – that took a looooooooot of work for me to realise this. Communication and no fear of expressing authenticity are 2 things we value most. Total support of each others’ individuality, voice and creative expression are also massively important. Stopping the me-mind thinking and dropping into deep-heart space, cutting out all the selfish crap (what about meeee…?!) and listening without opinion; validating my partners’ voice and really hearing without trying to fix or wandering off in my own mind and the stories it will try so hard to distract me with. Anyway, blah blah… I’ll stop now.

    Thank you for writing and sharing a great insight into this aspect of your life. Much metta for you Jayson :)

  13. Keith Kennedy says:

    …………….
    WOW!….This is fantasy land.
    It is almost systemic that women are meeting men and throwing their "nice" husband out the door by calling the police.
    It's easy here in Massachusetts. Women need only say they are "fearful" of the husband, and out they go into the street….No proof of harm needed………While the Father is living in a motel, the wife brings the new boyfriend in the house as soon as the Separation papers are filed…….After divorce, the EX-wife receives four incomes. Her income, the Ex-husband's child support, the alimony income, and the new boyfriend's income…….NO Kidding!…Perhaps you know a few victims of the whole divorce SCAM.

    • Bruce says:

      Hi guest…

      In case you hadn’t noticed, a marriage is ‘we’.

      Maybe it’s cliché because there are only a limited number of ways to say things. Maybe it’s cliché because he’s a therapist and talks the language that you have over-read in books and articles, resisting the wisdom within the words. Maybe it’s not cliché, maybe there are just lots of people saying it all and there are no other ways left to say what needs said. So think on this, how many voices will it take to get the point, now only recognisable as trite and tired cliché, across? When will you start following the directions offered to you to achieve whatever goal instead of being fixed on continually trying to find roadsigns you prefer the look of, criticising the ones they don’t like, and ultimately not really getting anywhere useful? They’re tired words because they’re fed up of not being heard and resonated with, instead being confronted by resistance and shadowy ego-s#*t for too too long.

      I read it as Jayson is seriously committed to his marriage, his partner, his family and everything he says works for him, and it works for you and me and Bob over there. If you choose a path of resistance then what Jayson says doesn’t work.

      And honestly, as a general courtesy when criticising writers here, offer your name. Own your words. Own your shit.

  14. guest says:

    This was an enormous amount of trite and tired cliches and almost no content. we we we… What's the opposite of enriched? That's how I feel after reading.

  15. Guest says:

    Disappointing that after such a build-up, your conclusion is simply that monogamy and marriage are “hard work.” Well, that’s pretty obvious. It’s also a let down that you’re espousing the same tired cultural notions of what a relationship is–monogamous, specifically–and indicating that this is somehow biologically enforced. Maybe one of the reasons people struggle so darn much within the confines of monogamous unions is because it goes against our nature. Only, to admit as much is something we’re taught to be ashamed of. In the typical world-view, agreeing to be intimate with only one person, always, for the rest of our lives is a sign of devotion and commitment; a sacrifice that people struggle with, feel ashamed about when they fantasize about others, and one that’s often broken in secret. Suggesting a different approach rather than a change of attitude might be a more enlightened path.

  16. Ty Bowes says:

    I love it, Jayson. Realtionship is probably the hardest path to walk. Your writing here reminds me of the work of David Schnarch (Passionate Marriage).

    p.s. I'm no expert lol. Haven't even close to nailed this stuff…

  17. Clifford Clark says:

    The comments do tend to show where people are right now. Nobody is wrong, they are all on their own path and progressing at their own rate and in their own way. I did like the original article and many of the comments. Buddhist teachers, including the Dalai Lama, state quite strongly that no other person can make us happy – or unhappy. Our unhappiness is our own reaction to a situation, and – ultimately, with effort and training – under our own control. The compassion that comes from practice, whether formal or less formal, makes a person other-directed and accepting of change, two key elements in any relationship. After 34 years of marriage my wife and I are still "getting it", still finding it requires work, understanding, forgiveness…but the rewards to each other and ourselves are immeasurable. Perhaps it get easier with time, perhaps not – it all depends, I guess, on what habits and practices one nourishes. I find marriage still requires effort. But like physical work, that can be its own reward. I hope that all the people who have commented and many who haven't have the opportunity to find joy in their relationships. Metta.

  18. Michelle says:

    Love is a crock of poop. Today, there is a bunch of people who simply marry the first person they "think" they are love with. Nobody should get married until they bedded a few dozen broads, that is UNLESS you are bald and uncoordinated like most of the generation of girly men out there today.

  19. E.B.W. says:

    I wish there was more to this article or a link to a book. I feel that this only hit the tip of the ice berg. The words echoed what I have felt in my marriage for years now. I was thinking at the end there would be some great tips on how to overcome what the author was pointing out was wrong. I feel that he has hit the nail on the head with his thoughts but like many of the other comments leaves us with no real conflict resolution. After the let down of the end of the article I feel like "Well I better either suck it up and live a life of pretend smiles and heart ache or dump the last 15 years of my life down the drain and start over".

  20. right? says:

    Well, as a counselor you only see unhappy marriages! You are a dark cloud.

  21. Karen says:

    It doesn't have to be hard but sometimes it is. Thats just a simple fact. Some people have it easier than others but it doesn't make your marriage wrong if at times it is a struggle. You fall in love with a person and things change over time, your relationship changes over time and you have to learn to adapt. Modern marriage seems to be throw away. If there is a problem or strife you simply throw in the towel. I don't see it that way. I am married for 18 years and at times it has been difficult but you summon up the energy to make it through because you truly love your spouse even when you hate them.

  22. GC Boston says:

    I don't know what all the fuss is about. It's really very simple. Men really don't want relationships. They just want sex all the time, any time, with anyone. Women just want babies and they think they need a man to help raise them. The two sexes need to join up briefly to conceive, but after that, I think everyone is pretty much on their own. Any woman foolish enough to get married should expect that her husband will leave her once the kids are in college or around that time. I wish I had all the time back in my life that I wasted pining away about "love." There is no such thing as "love." There is only lust and/or friendship.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Wow. Okay, it's great that you are weighing in but I think you've made some big generalizations here. You really believe that all men want is sex? I would beg to differ (and I am female). :) ~ Ed.

  23. matt ng says:

    Thank you for a awesome article ..being spiritual myself and coming from a christian background which is engross with layers of personas and fakerage behind pointing everything to Jesus yet still quietly and desperatly suffering in fustrations.. this article makes total sense

  24. chris says:

    Swappies!

    Your partner cannot fill 100% of your needs.

    Your partner cannot always be your “best friend” and shouldn’t be.

    Make good friends with others whom you can share your life with. And if those friends happen to be great in bed, all the better! Who says we have to be monogmous. Live your life how you want to. We are sexual creatures by nature. Go flirt with others, and let your partner flirt as well. Don’t spend all your time together. Surpise one another.

    I found out my life partner or “wife” was really missing the touch of a woman. Well, that touch has been fulfilled which makes her happy. And guess what, she occassionally shares those experiences with me as well. Which is pretty awesome! Then….we get to talk allll about our shared experience, and it fires us up even more, and we even greater sex afterwards.

    It fulfils her sexual desires, all of which as a man I would love to say I can please to the fullist, but that’s not the truth. I give what I can, and vice versa. We truly find ourselves in our other desires, needs, and wants. To share that with someone who accepts you and you accept them, THAT is love.

Leave a Reply