Why do longtime partners split after getting married?

Updated Oct 12 2015
arielmstallings
The adventure begins
Photo by Bohemian Noir Visions. Thanks to psych0faerie for submitting this to the Offbeat Bride Flickr pool!
One thing that is freaking me out at the moment is when I hear of friend and friends of friends, who marry after being together for 7-8 years, but end up divorced after the first year or so. This terrifies me, as I really want to get/stay happily married, but I wonder why this happens … when people are together for ages, get married and then split. What causes this? -Jan

It's absolutely not uncommon at all: longtime partners who are together for years decide to get married, and then almost immediately decide to get divorced. What's going on? Could this happen to you? Or me? Or any of us?

Obviously, there's no way for us to ever know exactly what makes individual couples split up. But when it comes to this trend, I've got a theory…

For better or for worse, each of us has expectations about what being married will mean to the relationship. For some people, that expectation might be, "Absolutely nothing will change, other than that we'll be wearing rings and will have had a big party." For other people, the expectation might be, "Everything will change. Our whole relationship will be on a different level, and how we interact with the world will be radically shifted!"

Neither of these assumptions is in any way wrong. The problem, however, is when the two people getting married don't talk about their expectations. One partner goes in thinking, say, "This is going to be awesome: once we're married, the sex is going to get way kinkier because the trust is going to be so much stronger between us!" The other partner goes in thinking, "This is awesome: I'm never going to have to travel alone again. We'll go places together!"

The issues arise when they don't talk these things over, and then go home after the wedding and the one partner is thinking, "Wow, the honeymoon was dull. Where's my kinky sex?" And the other partner is thinking, "Wait, did they just say they don't want to go to San Francisco with me next weekend? I thought we were doing everything together now!"

…See the problem?

Obviously, if it were all this simple, the solution would be easy: talk to your partner about your expectations for marriage! And that's a great first step.

But duh: half the time, a lot of us aren't even conscious of what our expectations are. This is hard stuff to quantify and articulate. "Um, when we're married, I want you to stick up for me when your friends make fun of what a geek I am…not like, all the time, but at least most of the time. And I don't want to be the only one to take out the garbage. And I want you to plan at least one special night for us a week. Well, ok, maybe one a month?" It's hard to put your finger on what marriage means to you.

Chances are decent that your own values about marriage are either a reflection of OR reaction against what you grew up with.

Not to get all Freudian on you, but this is where talking about your parents' marriages/relationships can come in handy. After all, these are the relationships that you grew up around, and chances are decent that your own values about marriage are either a reflection of OR reaction against what you grew up with. Talking about other people's marriages can help you better get your brain around your own values.

Is being married all about spending all your time together? Is it about supporting each other in your separate endeavors without insecurity? Is it about more kinky sex or more gentle couch snuggles after work? Is it about building a home together or is it about traveling the world together? Is it about feeling so confident in your commitment that you feel ok about going to grad school on opposite coasts?

In marriage as in wedding planning, you can't doze off at the wheel, or you wake up and realize you're living someone else's life.

For offbeat het couples, I think the most common troublesome expectations are issues of "normative" roles. These could be assumptions about gender roles ("Now she'll cook, and I'll work overtime!") or home/family planning ("Now we'll get a little house and he'll get me pregnant!"). All too often, these aren't even expectations we're aware of … wildly progressive het couples fall into the long-established husband/wife roles without even realizing what they're doing. In marriage as in wedding planning, you can't doze off at the wheel, or you may wake up and realize you're living someone else's life.

I have no idea what marriage means to you and your partner, but when I see couples who've spent years living happily together as partners suddenly fall apart as spouses, I usually figure they had very different expectations about what marriage would mean to their relationship. And either they didn't talk about it, or they couldn't articulate what the differences were.

Moral of the story? Talk lots. If you discover lots of differences, consider pre-marital counseling. Do your best to understand both your own values and your partner's values.

Ideally, they'll just magically overlap.

Realistically? HA! There are compromises to be made.

  1. you really said it. REALLY.

    in fact – i think your reasoning is exactly why my sister got a divorce after a year and a half.

    before my sister and her ex-husband got married – they really appeared to be perfect for each other, and were very much in love. then BOOM, honeymoon is over, and all of a sudden my sister is more like a mother to her new husband than a wife. totally not what my sister wanted out of marriage – exactly what her ex-husband wanted.

    i think a lot of couples tend to blow off the advice that "communication is THE most important thing in a relationship." does it sound a little cliche? maybe. but is it good advice? it's the BEST advice.

    my guy and i never stop talking to each other. sometimes i have to pull it out of him – but he appreciates it. get to know your significant other. focus on how they communicate. chances are you're both different, and think in different ways – even if it's not that obvious, because you have so much in common.

    i center my relationship around talking to each other, and trying to understand the way we're each thinking and why.

    i think another great piece of advice is – apologizing isn't the end of the world, sometimes you just need to do it. and even when you don't need to do it, your partner will probably appreciate it more than you realize.

  2. 'Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcano's, then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision You have to work out whether your roots are so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.

    Because that is what love is.

    love is not breathlessness. It is not excitement. It is not the promulgation of eternal passion.

    That is just being in love, which any fool can do, love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both Art and a fortunate accident.

    Those that truly love, have roots that grow toward each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree, not two.'

    I heard this at one of the weddings I have been too, and when looking out for suitable and truthful readings, this not only moved me, but helped me. Possiably cheesy, but hey…its form captain Corelli's mandolin.

    Other quote I along similar lines i have found on a card..
    'Love is not longingly staring into each others eyes, it is looking out together, in the same direction'. basically a short version of the above, but still basically considering more about the relationship its self, rather than the lustful honeymoon period, that far too many films etc.. have been drumming into us all our live on how it should be for us ,all day, every day. No wonder some people feel disappointed with real life.

  3. I've seen it time and time again. My ex-boyfriend's marriage fell apart in this manner (years before I came along.)
    They got married because the relationship was on the rocks and they really expected the "semi-permanence" of the marital contract would somehow fix it.

    When a long-term relationship is on the rocks there are different ways people try to fix it. Some couples get married, some decide to have babies, some get dogs… some go to counseling.

  4. Has anyone on here seen the Woody Allen movie "Husbands and Wives"? This thread brings to mind the beginning of that film, where the couple played by Mia Farrow and Woody Allen are horrified — devastated — to learn that a couple they're longtime friends with are splitting up. In that scene, of course, the humor comes from the fact that the other couple seems relatively unfazed. (Later, of course, we find out that they're anything but.)

    I guess my point is that there's something frightening, terrifying even, about seeing another couple who, for all intents and purposes *could be you* deciding to call it quits. And in our desire to distance ourselves from those people, we say, "Oh, but they didn't communicate the way we do, they weren't prepared, they didn't think ahead, they didn't go to a counselor. They didn't read this relationship book or that one or learn erotic massage. Their marriage was a band-aid marriage, not a real marriage. They weren't like me and my fiance/e, not at all. No siree." We want to blame them, in one way or another, to deem them deficient. We want to believe that what happened to them was preventable because we desperately want to prevent it in our own relationships.

    I'm not saying that we can't learn anything from other people's relationships and break-ups, because obviously we can. And I'm not saying that communication isn't important, because obviously it is. But it's a bit naive to think that there's any way armor ourselves against heartbreak and divorce and all the mad messiness of life, any more than we can armor ourselves against death.

  5. Excellent advice, everyone! My six tidbits (mostly focused around communication):
    1. Go see a couple’s counselor before you make any big commitments. It was counseling that got my husband and I over the problems that were hindering our relationship while we were dating long term. After we were able to forgive each other, we were able to get engaged and then get married. I cannot recommend couple’s counseling enough. Granted, we were excellent with communicating with each other before, but needed a third, unbiased person to get over a few humps that were making our relationship at an impasse.
    2. Get one of those books with the gazillion questions. Even though we knew each other very well (we were good friends for many years before getting together) it’s still good to cover all those areas and ask questions that you may have felt uncomfortable broaching on your own but still need to discuss or topics that you never thought to ask.
    3. If your partner does something that bothers you (even if it’s minor and you feel stupid about feeling that way), tell him/her right away/anyway. Don’t let it fester and then blow out of proportion down the road. Nip the problem in the bud now, saves much heartache.
    4. Treat your partner how you would want to be treated – with the utmost respect, patience, giving them your full and complete attention when they are talking, and never taking him/her for granted. I always try to thank my husband for everything he does both big or small. Appreciation goes a long ways!
    5. Don’t expect your partner to be a mind reader! You have to communicate you likes/dislikes, etc. If you want to make a fantasy a reality, you have to let you partner know.
    6. Realize your partner is as imperfect as yourself. Cut them some slack when they mess up (just like you would want them to cut you slack when you screwed up).
    I could go on and on but I will stop…
    Cheers!

  6. 7. Give a heartfelt apology to your partner when you mess up. Admiting your were wrong will speed up the healing process!

  7. Hey SM! My wedding will be 3 days before my 10 year anniversary. I too wanted to finish school and grow up some before getting married. For years now friends and family have been making jokes about the long wait. I have decided to laugh along and we have a 10 year anniversary theme for our wedding.

  8. We're getting married one day before out five year anniversary. We've lived together for almost four years, so when the minister asked us what we think will change when we get married, it kinda surprised me. I hadn't really thought about it, but I answered instinctively, "Nothing. At least I hope nothing will change!" My fiance agreed. There are a couple of things that will change in the future, mainly having a child, but for now, we're really content in our relationship the way it is and besides having a piece of paper and the lifelong commitment, I really hope our day-to-day relationship stays on the same track we've been on. When the minister acted like we gave the right answer, I was pleased!

  9. As an interpersonal communication scholar (ok, ok, grad student) who's just seen a friend get divorced after less than 6 months of marriage, I love your advice. People always say that communication is important (and that's why I study it) but saying that, and finding a way to actually do it is very difficult. Thanks for the concrete questions that should be asked before the wedding, and certainly before the marriage.

  10. Hi! I'm not sure if someone has said this but I think you've missed why people get divorced after so long being togther and then getting married.

    I bet you that most of them have been together for ages, they have shared bank accounts and property and maybe even babies. But then they feel they aren't close anymore and so one side of the couple thinks the way to get closer is to be married, so they either propose or try and force/talk their partner into asking.

    Then they get married and marriage doesn't solve it (and it makes it worse because they are in debut for the wedding). So they divorce and move apart.

    I think this is a much more common situation then people finding 'being married' different. Because if you're living together you'd probably be sharing a lot of things anyway.

    [That said I have no married friends, so this is a theory only.]

  11. I recently borrowed the book 1001 Questions to ask before you get married. (It's by Monica Mendez-Leahy) It's meant to offer a spring board for questions couples might not ask.

  12. Great advice everyone! I am glad I read through all the comments – I am what you would call a hesitant fiance. Although we have agreed to get married after 3 years together, I am having second thoughts. Why can't we just stay as we are now – happily committed partners? I have plenty of friends that are in 10+ year relationships without any plan of getting married.

    I suppose part of me wonders what will really be different after a legal ceremony versus what we have now. I cannot come up with one tangible thing that would change. So I keep asking myself "why?"

    I was especially glad to read Lisa's comment about 'Nothing' changing after getting married – I guess this is my conundrum: if nothing will change, why bother?

  13. Wanda, while nothing about my relationship changed after my wedding, there were a lot of social advantages to being married: easier taxes, shared healthcare, cheaper car insurance.

  14. Wanda – We didn't think much would change after we got married. After all, we were already living together and madly in love. Weren't we just making it legal?

    Things did change. Getting married, getting up in front of all our friends and family members, looking into each others' eyes, declaring publicly and legally "you are my new family, and you will forever be the most important person in my life", it really DID take things to a new level for us.

    Being husband and wife instead of boyfriend and girlfriend… that MEANS something to us. We DO feel closer, less guarded, more dedicated – because we've declared, in a very real sense, that committing to each other is more important than keeping our options open.

  15. Thanks for the feedback – Ariel I hadn't really thought about the taxes, that's a good point. We've hadfo shared healthcare for a few years now, and gave up our cars/insurance this year to save $, but I agree some things are better/cheaper when it's legal.

    Hibryd – thank you, that definitely gave me a new perspective on the situation.

  16. I have got to say, thank you! Now I have a print-source for the naggers in my life.

    Both my FH and I are children of divorcees. So whereas we have enjoyed a partnership for almost 10 years now, we have been procrastinating on marriage. Not because we don't love each other, but because we wonder what weird "isms" we'll develop once we are – what inner ball-and-chain demons will pop out.

    In fact, my FH is proposing the idea that in our ceremony we leave out "husband" and "wife" altogether. We haven't decided on a substitute phrase yet, but "spouse-figure" is in the top 5.

    Thanks again!

  17. You are abosulutely right!! Those are the EXACT reasons why my first marriage failed–and it was already in that sort of trouble before the actual wedding day. We were both living up to some preconcieved 'expectation" and niether of us discussed what we wanted.

  18. Smurfybride –

    "we wonder what weird "isms" we'll develop once we are – what inner ball-and-chain demons will pop out."

    There won't be. You've been together for 10 years. There is nothing left to hide. If you didn't change by now, you never will.

    If anything, being the child of divorce (and then watching my parents date a series of disasters for the following few decades) made me believe even more in marriage, because I realized what a rare, special thing it is.

    Personally? I love "husband" and "wife". Those are powerful, loaded words and I love using them. I don't care what those words meant to my parents. They mean something to me. Calling him "my husband" is a handy way of saying "the most important person of my life, to whom I have given and will continue to give everything I have to offer."

  19. My bf and i, who have been together for 4 years now, are talking about getting married. It's been interesting. I kind of unexpectedly realized I really wanted to get married and communication has been kind of hard.

    Anyway, I really wanted to recommend The Commitment Conversation as a starting place for talking about these things. (http://www.equalityinmarriage.org/cc2.html) which talks about all the things that anyone in a committment relationship – whether married or co-habitating – should talk about: finances, household chores, sex, kids etc.

    I think your right that a lot of it is communication issues and even though I think my bf and I are really open with each other, having the Commitment Conversation always brings up a lot of stuff.

    Anyway, I'd really recommend it.

  20. Statistics Canada said that people who lived together before they were married were 50% more likely to get divorced once they got married than people who did not live together previous to marriage.

  21. "We didn't think much would change after we got married. After all, we were already living together and madly in love. Weren't we just making it legal?"

    I want to amend my previous statement, because I think I can more clearly state why marriage really did take our relationship to the next level.

    A relationship is about love; marriage is more, marriage is bigger, marriage is more profound than that, than just love or feelings.

    Marriage is not just about the love you feel now, it's also the love you promise to give for the rest of your life. Marriage is not just a verbal commitment made in the privacy of your own home, it's a commitment made public, legal and binding. Marriage is not just about having fun and enjoying your current life, it's vowing that your partner's fun and enjoyment is now, if anything, more important than your own. Marriage is not just a "celebration" about your "relationship", it the day you promise to shift your priorities and put the "we" above "me".

    Marriage is also a nexus, a focal point, the day in which you lay all you are out on the table and say "this is me, and from now on I am yours." When you're dating the armor is on, your self-interests are alive and well, but as you get to know each other more the armor slowly comes off. The wedding is when you finally cast it all aside and mutually agree to give everything you have.

    I would follow my husband across the country and give him one of my kidneys when we got there, and I feel safe doing so only because, on the day we got married, he got up in front of his friends and family and promised to do the same for me. I can give more than I ever could while we were dating, or even engaged, because we have already given the ultimate gift to each other: the rest of our lives. There's nothing left to withhold. There's no reason left to keep my guard up. He knows I'm not just with him until I get bored or find someone better, because I have said in the loudest, clearest way possible that I would rather live the rest of my life with him than keep my options open.

    Dating is about you, your feelings, your fun, your interests. Marriage is the next level because it is a declaration to the world that your partnership is now a bigger, better, and more important thing than you are on your own.

  22. I don't know if I agree that having different expectations of marriage is the primary reason that long-term couples split up. For me, it seems to be more of a confinement issue, as I often think I'd feel suffocated in a marriage. I don't know why but picturing myself in a lifelong, unmarried relationship feels much more "freeing" than marriage. I question whether some long-term couples may experience this feeling of confinement once married and then get divorced. This could just be me, though!

  23. Me & Mr. Right have waited seven years before deciding to tie the knot and both of us expect a big change after the wedding, because we want to get preggers immediately! But the key is communication and shared goals. We've talked and talked and talked about it, so we both feel very confident in making these next steps. And if it doesn't work out, at least we know each other well enough after all these lengthy discussions to deal with it amicably. There's absolutely nothing wrong about waiting to get married!

  24. Couples who have been together for 6 years and break up – my theroy is More than likely these couples were together for a few years not living together and then bought a place and realised completely different things about each other. Living together and sharing finances is a big issue in many break ups.
    If couples get married thinking this is the next step we have been together for this many years and this is the reason for getting married – don't!!!!
    When i was single i spent every penny i earned plus money i didn't have to spend and went on holidays every year. I met my boyfriend and we connected straight away. We were so different i spent – he was cautious with money. I changed my ways because i knew he made sense and we were able to buy our own place and now save for the wedding. You have to realise that you both can't be right all of the time and compromise is the biggest relasionship saver.

    If you have doubts about getting married because of everyone else's break up stories you will never be happy. You are the only one who knows in your heart that this person you love is the only person you want to be with and you trust and believe they feel the same.

    You will also find couples who have been in the situation of broke up and found love of life, more than likely are couples who met very young and changed their ideas of what the wanted or one or the other had no real previous relasionships and fell into habit with each other.

    The best advice i can give to anyone reading this is 1. Money how both of you treat this . Remember don't think if your partner is being tight it is a controlling thing, it might not be, just ensuring for your future. I thought this at first but i realised he really did have our best interests.
    2. Compremise – it is okay to give in to each other. You are both different.
    3. Allow each other space to do your own things from time to time. You are both individual and deserve that right. You will be better together also. This shows trust , faith and respect between you,
    Hope i have helped somewhat. preacing over and time to head to bed.
    4. Most importantly know how to have fun together and be happy in each other company
    Best of luck to all and don't loose faith. Marriage is and will be hard work if you don't work at it and don't forget each other no matter what is going on in your life at the time. Discuss your feelings no matter how stupid they seem.

  25. this is a major reason why i'm not getting married. the relationship is good the way it is. don't want to rock the boat for a piece of paper.

  26. I'm getting marry in June 2010. My parnter is a great guy. He has 4 kids they are grown. I also has three kids they are also grown. But I love this man very much. Me and him talk, we listen to he other, we both love TV, we talk on the phone just say we love each other,we both love yard work, also we have great sex. We have know n each other for a long time. We both want someone to respect us,listen,love me for me, still continue to have great sex,And sometime just to say Hi.You good point on relationship. Thank you for good thing to read.

  27. This is actually a question I've been trying to work out since I was a young girl. My stepfather and my mother were together from the age I was about 2 to around 8 or 9(?). We lived together the whole time as a 'family', and then they decided to get married. They even included my stepsister and I in the ceremony in which we all 'married' together. I was in bliss because I worshiped my dad, so when nearly exactly a year later they broke up it shattered my world. In small ways I think I'm still a little off-kilter about it. As I've tried to work it out all these years I've always came to the same conclusion (once I stopped blaming myself) that they were trying to slap a bandaid on a failing relationship. They were both headed on separate paths in life and I suspect this was where they hit the juncture.

    To be clear, when I say I'm still a little off-kilter, I simply mean that I maybe will never learn to 'trust' a relationship, no matter how long it runs, because I saw up close and personal how two people who were seemingly crazy in love one day, divorced the next. I believe 'they' believed they should be married. I don't think it was a conscious step to 'save the relationship', but an honest unconscious last grab for what they had shared for so long.

    I see where my mom is today – how she lives her life – and how my dad did before he died and I know they did the right thing in splitting up. People grow, and sadly enough, not always in the same direction.

  28. I think many couples end up having a lack of true communication, it's because being completely honest can be scary. My Fiance and I live a few states away from each other and in a way it's been a really good thing for us. We talk, really really talk. There is no way to avoid talking as in conventional dating where you can fill that void with dinner, movies, snuggles, and sexy time. We know so much about one another because talking is how we stay close when 1,053 miles separate us. Remember that communication despite being scary is crucial and you have to be brave and bring up the uncomfortable topics because if you don't they'll still be there in the morning.

  29. I love this post and I have something to add if I may. My FH has muscular dystrophy and cant do things like go to work evey day, take less than 2 hours getting up into his wheel chair or reach out his arms to hold me. But the things that he can do are amazing, he can set up mu computer when i manage to screw it up, take care of my mothers computer, demand that we take time to talk when things get strained between us and make me feel like a princess. In the daily grind that we all go through i think alot of the little things get lost and we forget why we fell in love with that person in the first place.
    keeping in mind to love and respect the other persons abilities and wonderfullness can help even in the most trying of times. Sometimes all it takes is communicating to the other person that despite the problems you are going through as a couple you still see what is amazing about your spouse. ok, thats all lol. sorry it got a little long winded

  30. My husband and I were together 7 years before we got married, 7 months of marriage and it is all over. We went through a rough patch before we decided to get married and decided to try so many things to "fix" it- instead we got married. I read this post at the time and I ignored it- we did talk, a lot, we were working on our relationship and I think we were both incable of recognising that it was over whilst we were in that frame of mind of wanting it to work. Once we got married, we both realised (although I attempted suicide first) that if it felt nearly over now, it would never get better. I don't think we could have split up before the wedding, and it wasn't like we had poured a lot of money into it (it must be so much harder if you have). We were on the we're getting married path and couldn't realise it wouldn't work until we got through it.

    • "We were on the we're getting married path and couldn't realise it wouldn't work until we got through it."

      I think that really sums it up for so many relationships.

  31. My sister, after seeing so many of her long-term relationship friends get married and go through a very rocky first few years, has a theory: Those who have been together for so long, who know each other so well, really hope that nothing will change, and expect nothing to change, when they get married. They usually lived together beforehand (there was some statistic here that said that couples who cohabitated pre-marriage were 50% more likely to get a divorce), so really it seems logical that nothing would change except taxes and such. Unfortunately, things will still change when you marry. Hopefully you will have communicated about what could change, as so many people here have suggested. But more likely you are going to expect your relationship to stay the way it is. And you may not have realized your subconscious expectations that are not being met now. Or perhaps you have spent so much time and energy on the wedding itself, and now it's just going to be boring work and finances, and there seems to be nothing to look forward to. And then you might be afraid that you're together only because you've been so comfortable with each other, and the wedding was exciting and now it's not anymore, so you might be thinking your relationship is boring now.

    I am getting married after 5 years, during which we both lived together and apart, and I was so worried that something was going to happen our first year of marriage that will cause us to break up. But we have indeed talked about all the stuff we should have, and I'm not too worried about the communication bit. But I am realizing one last thing that I think makes for a successful first few years of marriage: While you're preparing for your wedding, stay focused on your relationship, your future together, and your lives ahead of you. Focus on the idea of you two buying houses and moving, or learning new professions, or having children eventually, or whatever you will do when you're married. If you are happy with that, and your partner has the same image of your future, you should be good. 🙂

  32. From something that happened to one of the couples I know: something was messed up with the relationship and they hoped being married would fix it. It is the same idea as some married couples who have a baby thinking that that will fix the problems.

  33. One thing I think that can change after a wedding is how everyone else treats you as a couple. In the case of a good friend, her boyfriend's mother had been relatively hands-off when they were living together but unmarried. Going from "son's girlfriend" to "daughter-in-law" really changed how his mom treated her, and it was not a good change. I'm talking about creepy stuff like letting herself in when they weren't home and repainting the kitchen, or going through my friend's closet and "organizing" her clothes, then getting huffy that my friend didn't collapse in gratitude. My friend didn't know her hubby was going to let his mother's antics slide, because in the ten years prior to the marriage they'd never had that problem. They ended up divorcing after a year.

  34. With regards to the conflation of marriage and family planning:

    I know this is is an Offbeat site, but geared toward the offbeat bride, not necessarily the offbeat woman. So I think it's perfectly natural for somebody who doesn't fall in line with the bridal magazines and expectations to conflate marriage and family planning together because for that individual, they go hand in hand (first come loves, then comes marriage…)

    Anyway, if one is planning a family, and not just planning to propagate, they might want to include the biological father into those plans.

    And the truth is that our reproductive physiology has not evolved as quickly as our social structures have. So while you don't need to married to have kids…, you do need to get your s*** together while you are still pretty young, if you want to have kids. I know there are plenty exceptions to averages, and it's nice to think that we can have any sort of life that we want….but our bodies may betray our offbeat sensibilities.

    So…it is possible to wait too long to start a family built on a marriage.

  35. It gets tricky for those of us that already live with someone and are raising children together because in some ways we are already married. The fear of having something so good suddenly change would make anyone think twice about marrying someone but i think that you're absolutely correct. Communication is Key. Thanks for the awesome article. Keep 'em coming!

  36. "…or you may wake up and realize you're living someone else's life…"

    *hums*

    And you may ask yourself
    How do I work this?
    And you may ask yourself
    Where is that large automobile?
    And you may tell yourself
    This is not my beautiful house!
    And you may tell yourself
    This is not my beautiful wife!

    (same as it ever was…)

  37. This is me right now. Together for 8.5y, married 10m and planning a divorce- or as we like to call it "moving forward". There are a lot of things that went into this situation, some that have been discussed like pressure on long term committed couples and differing expectations of marriage as well as an honest look at "forever". It's not something anyone could every plan for.

  38. I think that also, a lot of times couples like this think that marriage HAS to be the next natural step since they've been together so long. So they get married, realize they really haven't liked each other for like the past 5 years, and do what they should have done about one year in – they split! That freaks me out too 🙂

  39. It is a strange coincidence that this was just posted. I broke up with my husband yesterday. We were married only two years, and together for 9 prior to marriage.

    Why we broke up? I believe I thought he would put more effort into our future after marriage, and he did not. I went in knowing who he was and his issues, but I am a highly optimistic person and I thought he would gradually improve. Instead, marriage made him even more complacent and he lacked any motivation to make something of himself or take the steps he needed to be a better husband, mentally. I am thrilled to now have a chance at a more positive future, but understandably still grieving the future I thought I would have with him.

  40. The only thing that I disagree with in this article is the inference that hetero couples are the only ones that fall into "normative roles" after marriage. In my lesbian relationship we fell into normative roles, and in my current hetero marriage (after 7 years together prior to the wedding) we have avoided it. I guess all i'm saying is that no matter your sexual orientation you can always fall into a role that's expected of you, it doesn't just happen to heteros 🙂

  41. I always wonder about this. It's an odd thing that even my other half's nan reported in her age group (50-70). I think we had an advantage because we had a long distance relationship so we had to perfect communication. Even now we live together we 'check in' as much as possible. It took a while for him to share his feelings without feeling 'weak' and for me to not hide my poor finances. But it has to be done 🙂 I love offbeat bride for articles like this.

  42. Thank you for this article!
    My man-friend and I have been together for 9 years and we (and by that I mean mostly myself) are constantly asked about when we're getting married. It will go from innocent-ish small talk to horrifically personal inquisition in only a few moments all because they are unsatisfied with the answer "we don't want/need to". Sure the source behind that answer is more complicated, but that's none of their business. Honestly conversations about OTHER peoples expectations have started more arguments than our own expectations. I do wish that our state allowed het couples to register as domestic partners though… I feel like that option for any couple is important. Instead of married/not married.

    I would also like to see "Offbeat Wife" written… Hopefully it's in progress. 🙂

  43. We're still working our way towards divorce and it's a messy and difficult process, even when the goal is to remain friends after the marriage is dissolved. Having spent 10 years together it's hard for many people to imagine that we are divorcing and our friends and families reactions have often been to distance themselves or over-worry for us. Sometimes it seems we are the only "grown-ups" in this whole process.

  44. 7 years is the breaking point of most relationship/marriages. "The seven year itch." I agree that most people think marriage is going to change thing or make things better. The only thing to do is communicate.

    • I'm not sure about other countries, but in Australia the average length of a marriage/long term relationship is 12 years. It's gone up in the last 10 years or so but people still call it "7 year itch" 🙂

  45. I can see how old this post is…but it's still going so I'm just going to add my thoughts. My husband and I have been together just over 12 years and married just over 2. We've been together since we were barely 16, we got engaged at barley 21 (5 years together) and married at (almost) 26 (10 years together). And we are fine…we think that getting married was just a formality. We were already married in the commitment sense; lived together, travelled overseas, bought cars together, planned our whole future together (and that we were doing at 16). I think people who are together a long time and then get married and then split up seem to think that marriage will change things. We tell people all the time, that we were just as committed before our wedding, we still had the same goals/path in mind for our shared future before our wedding. The ONLY thing our wedding changed was now I wear 2 rings and have a different last name (and you don't even have to change that). People kept asking us just after our wedding "How's married life?". We'd respond "Exactly as it was before the wedding". It didn't change anything for us. It was just a formality. Marriage is just a piece of paper (if you're doing it right before hand; you're already committed to each other). You can be committed and in love for all your lives and never get married and that should be just as valid. The mind set of 'things should be different now your 'married" is a bit silly. I tend to think things should be great between you before you get married. Why get married if you were wishing things between yourself and your partner were different? Shouldn't you be already be happy and content with him and your relationship. Why marry someone your even slightly unhappy with? Just the way I feel…

  46. For me, I think things just stagnated. Once we were married, we had no other level to progress to in our relationship and I realized I was bored. I had gotten so caught up in the thought of getting engaged and then married and then suddenly I felt like "is this it?" When I looked at my husband, I realized I was only really interested in him as a friend, and outside the context of constant progression, there was nothing really there. I was complacent and bored. My husband was a wonderful person, don't get me wrong, but he wasn't what I needed romantically. Sadly, it took until the dust settled to realize it.

    • Rhiannon I can really relate to what you've said. In fact I am reading this forum as I am currently struggling with how to deal with my sudden but subconsciously not-so-sudden realistion that I don't want to be with the man I've been with for the past 9 years, and who I married last year. I think it really took being married for me to realise, and I just never thought this would happen. I'm dreading the logistics of breaking up (i.e. dropping the bombshell on our close families and closer group of coupled-up friends) as much as I am anything else. Can I ask – how did it all go down for you?

    • Megan, not sure if you can read this because I can't find your reply, but we were very lucky. We were still very good friends and because we were honest with each other and were able to realize together that this wasn't working, everything was very amicable. We decided to tell our family all at once in an email so we didn't have to say the same things over and over again. We explained that we were still friends, but that romantically we weren't compatible and we each needed different things. I know that this isn't the way things normally go down, but I think being open and trying to work things out is key, rather than just blaming or being closed to discussion. I also suggest a marriage counselor; they can be really good at helping everyone understand the root cause of issues.

  47. As a divorced woman, I can lend the perspective of when you get married is just as important as who you marry. I got married to someone I dated all throughout college and graduate school right at the beginning of my professional career. Nothing could have prepared me for the fallout of my career taking off while his didn't. It upset the power dynamic of equality in our relationship, and emasculated him. While money and status had never been important to me, they mattered to him. Instead of viewing us as a team with cumulative wins, he became mean and withdrawn, eventually resorting to physical abuse, no matter how "good" (read submissive gender role) wife I tried to be to diminish my accomplishments.

    I'm now with someone with similar ideas of what's important in egalitarian relationship. Way smoother sailing since we had separate, established identities before we got together, and our relationship complements rather than defines us.

  48. Well with much more men and women Cheating a lot more than ever is a very good reason why many marriages are failing today as i speak, and years ago most marriages did last very long like our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles did.

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