What it Takes to Make a Marriage Work

couple sits in peace on grass beside lake while woman lying on boyfriend shoulder
by Vance Larson

I was on the treadmill this morning, and I heard something that got me to thinking. I normally watch the news, but today I was watching a movie. Long story short, one guy said to another guy that, “marriage is the big lie”. That jump started my mind.

As I have been working in mental health for 3 and half decades, it started a trip down memory lane. It didn’t take long to come to the conclusion that I disagreed with that statement. Not only did I disagree, I strongly disagreed. On both a personal and professional level, I found that not to be the case.

On a personal level, I have been married twice. The first time ended in divorce. Probably one of the best outcomes one could imagine. After 5 years of a pretty good marriage, she decided that she wanted kids (which when we married, she didn’t have an interest), and I wanted to go to India and save the world. I took all the bills, and she took over the house payment. We left on good terms, and remained friends for many years after. People change, but mature people discuss, while looking for solutions. They don’t become jaded and for that reason, both my ex and I have found new partners that were better suited for us. She has a long term marriage with children. I have a long term marriage with a life of service.

When someone tells me that marriage is a lie, my response is have you done the work?

When a new client enters my office and leads with marriage is a lie, I often ask how? I usually hear something like it didn’t work, and therefore I will never get married again. Using that logic, one would never date again, because I believe we all have had some dating scenarios that didn’t work out. Relationships (especially marriages) are all about emotional maturity. Let me throw out a few examples.

couple fighting

You cannot tax your body if you don’t take care of it. Sure, you can get by for a while eating lots of junk food. You may even go a few years adding excessive drinking and little sleep. But eventually, your body is going to turn on you. You can’t get the most from your body if you’re not pouring nutrition into it. It’s about input output. Put good stuff in, get a good result. Put bad stuff in and you can expect a negative return.

I have work in HR over the course of my years, and I have literally seen thousands of people work just hard enough not to get fired. And those who do go above and beyond and get promoted, are usually frowned upon by those who didn’t put the work in. See where I’m going here? When someone tells me that marriage is a lie, my response is have you done the work?

Yes, sometimes good people who have done the work get divorced. However, in my professional experience, that is kind of a rare. If we take a look, an honest look. More often than not, we can see if we truly put our best into a relationship that has failed. And in most cases the answer is no. Sometimes it is harder to look in the mirror.

While I have met plenty of 40 and 50 year old men and women who have never been married, by choice. They made a mature decision that marriage was not a good fit for them. Not that marriage was a lie. In fact, not too long ago I was having coffee with a girlfriend and she was telling me the same thing. Bravo and great self awareness.

Is marriage a lie? Maybe or some of us are just afraid to look in the mirror.

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