I was raised by my single mother. My parents divorced when I was five years old and I have very little recollection of my father being around though I hear stories about him being a pretty involved father in the early years. It is a shame how little we remember from early childhood when parents spend great efforts making their children happy. Anyway, my father was not part of my life after a couple of years of obligatory custody post divorce; he just could not handle his own guilt and checked out. I never had a model for healthy romantic relationships. I dated a bit in high school and had a serious relationship in college but did not truly love someone until I met my husband.
He came from a divorced family too and was raised by his father. I have joked before that we are like the blind leading the blind down the marriage path. We have had our fair share of differences and growing pains along the way but are gaining more confident and insight the further down the road we get. We are like a “well-oiled machine” these days with a realistic and healthy dose of marital strife.
In the early days, I think I expected non-stop romance in marriage and this expectation lingered into the later days. My perception of what marriage was “supposed” to be like came from books, movies, and some vague idea I created in my head. Facebook came along and took expectations to a new level because people love to post about how blissful their lives are in a status update. Comparisons are the worst thing for a marriage and the easiest trap to fall into.
Then of course, there is The Bachelor which I reluctantly admitted recently that I am an avid watcher. I laugh at its ridiculousness all the time and I think the silliness is part of its appeal for me, along with its mindlessness which I crave every so often. For example, the cheesy one-on-one dates are so extravagant and really have nothing to do with getting to know each other:“Today we are going to jump out of airplanes, wrestle with tigers and then scale a high-rise building finishing with a nice dinner on a scaffold overlooking burning lava” all set in a tropical paradise. Then they go on to relate these activities to relationships; how these activities are symbols of trust, taking leaps and other such nonsense and later the contestant says she/he fell in love on the date because she/he “opened up” and learned that they share a same favorite color. And finally, the “fantasy suite”. After a long date on a secluded island, the Bachelor and one of the contestants get an invitation including a key to share a room where rose petals are scattered over the bed , candles burn and buckets of champagne erotically drip with condensation…all in the name of “having more time to talk.”
I always give my husband a run-down of the show or what is upcoming because I know he could not care less and I give myself the giggles making fun of myself for watching. “Hey babe, next week is home towns” knowing he has no idea what that means. Monday after watching the “home towns” episode, I almost choked laughing when I said, “tomorrow is the “fantasy suites episode!” It could have been that second glass of wine, but we both laughed at the complete ridiculousness of the “fantasy suite” to decide who is in the final running and his “true love”. I asked, “so, what was our “fantasy suite?” I think it was likely the dirty hole in the wall bar in Washington, DC called The Big Hunt, that dingy bar might truly be where our love really blossomed.
I am so thankful that I finally see marriage for what it is and how it should be instead of how it is depicted in the media setting unattainable expectations. For us, marriage is friendship first. We were long-distance when we started dating and that helped us to develop a strong friendship above anything else. And like many good friendships, it holds trust, respect, and honesty. That is invaluable and I believe, what makes me love my husband so much, because he is my best friend. He is stunningly handsome but attraction, lust and romance can only take you so far in marriage and at times it fizzles out for a while until it ramps up again later. That is the reality. Where is that reality show?
I love romance, who doesn’t?. But I also know that my husband is not a sappy romantic. He never has been and in fact, it was one of the first things I loved about him because I’m not either. I was in a college relationship with a guy who sent flowers for no reason, wrote love poetry and songs and planned special romantic dates. And I was turned off by it because I did not love him. For me, my husband is exactly right for me. We both value our “me” time and our space but love to be together and spend time in whatever way feels romantic at that moment whether it is sitting by a fire outside, dinner in a restaurant without kids or just being in the same room reading or working on our own things.
Is cheesy romance killing happiness in marriage by setting unattainable expectations?
The average length of an American marriage is 8.8 years; that is a disheartening and sad statistic. Having been married 10 years this coming May, that statistic translates to me that just when things start getting tough, around the 8 year mark, is when couples decide to call it quits. Is this the time when the honeymoon has officially worn off? Speaking only from my small piece of the pie, I wonder if our expectations of our spouse and what they “should” do even when we are too tired or lazy to do the same in return is what weighs down some marriages . Maybe it is time to revive our marriages by killing the romance that is fed to us in the form of illusion.
Related post: What Do You Do With Your Partner After Your Baby Is Asleep? by the lovely kukolina