Bore­dom does not fol­low mar­riage au­to­mat­i­cally

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN 360 BETS - CAROLYN HAX

Dear Carolyn: I am in a com­mit­ted and happy and lov­ing re­la­tion­ship. We talk about get­ting mar­ried and hav­ing chil­dren at some point. But both of us are scared that the in­sti­tu­tion of mar­riage can suck the life out of some­one and suck the love out of a re­la­tion­ship.

We are equally wor­ried about get­ting di­vorced and just be­ing in an un­happy re­la­tion­ship. I mean, how many peo­ple does one re­ally know who are happy in their mar­riages? I know a few. But not all that many. So what’s up with that?

On the other hand, I want a life­long com­mit­ment with this man, and I don’t know if that’s re­ally pos­si­ble with­out mar­riage. Can you tell me why be­ing mar­ried doesn’t suck?

— Las Ve­gas Lovers

Dear Las Ve­gas Lovers: You say you don’t know many peo­ple who are happy in their mar­riages. Do you know un­mar­ried peo­ple who are happy in their re­la­tion­ships? How long have they been to­gether? Do they share a home? For how long?

In other words, don’t blame it on mar­riage; life can suck the life out of some­one. And I say this as one of its un­abashed fans.

Rep­e­ti­tion is numb­ing, re­gard­less of what you’re re­peat­ing — so a long time in a re­la­tion­ship, a job, a phase of chil­drea­r­ing, a neigh­bor­hood, a club, a sport, a hobby or even just a diet or ex­er­cise reg­i­men means watch­ing the ex­cite­ment lev­els trend steadily down­ward to dust. Ex­chang­ing vows with some­one you love nei­ther has­tens the plunge, nor re­verses it.

Mar­riage is such a charged topic that it makes sense to think more broadly about your choices than “mar­riage or not”; the in­sti­tu­tion of mar­riage isn’t re­spon­si­ble for the suc­cess of your re­la­tion­ship any more than the in­sti­tu­tion of em­ploy­ment is re­spon­si­ble for the suc­cess of your ca­reer.

It’s up to you to choose the right part­ner for you, whether you make it le­gal or not; the less en­ergy you have to ex­pend just on get­ting along, the more you’ll have for things that en­rich your lives to­gether.

It’s up to you to shape your part­ner­ship into one that suits both of your na­tures; what “sucks the life out of” an adren­a­line junkie will fit like an old slip­per on a nat­u­ral home­body, and vice versa (just sub­sti­tute “bungee cord” for old slip­per).

It’s up to you to make de­ci­sions that take the part­ner­ship in a di­rec­tion that at least prom­ises to sat­isfy both of your needs. I’m talk­ing about prac­ti­cal things here, like kids, ca­reers, lo­ca­tion, in­vest­ments, leisure pur­suits and dis­cre­tionary spend­ing, as well as spir­i­tual/in­tel­lec­tual/philo­soph­i­cal pur­suits.

It’s up to you to keep your­self, and your out­look on life, fresh. If you choose to stag­nate, then you can’t be sur­prised when your mar­riage does, too.

It’s up to you to re­main open to a part­ner, and mar­riage, that evolves over time.

And it’s up to you to re­main true your­selves, both of you, as life throws at you what­ever it feels like throw­ing. Be­cause, guar­an­teed, it will.

If you en­joy each other, re­spect each other, trust each other and look out for each other — and if you also en­joy, re­spect and trust your­selves — then no mat­ter how it plays out, things will turn out OK. Tell Me About It is writ­ten by Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post. Her col­umn ap­pears on Tues­day, Thurs­day and Satur­day. E-mail her at tellme@ wash­post.com.

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