6 Normal marital emotions no one’s talking about
Everyone’s happy and having fun except for you — at least, that’s the way Facebook makes marriage and most other normal parts of everyday life seem.
It’s easy to blame Facebook, but this isn’t just a social media problem. For decades, and probably for centuries, we’ve been doing that thing that people love to do: putting our best faces forward and sweeping all the unpleasant stuff under the rug. It’s not Facebook’s fault (although there is an admitted overload of happy dating, happy engagement and happy marriage posts on the news feed). It’s just human nature.
There is something important to understand about everyone’s favorite social media website, and it’s something that’s taken me years to grasp for myself. Research has proven that comparing yourself to other people on Facebook can lead to unhappiness. Add to that the fact that people who constantly post about their relationships on Facebook might be the most insecure and unhappy (as we’ve long suspected), and you can read the writing on the wall.
What you see on Facebook and what people tell you about their marriages in real life is probably not even close to the truth.
Every couple has frustrations. Most couples have some core struggles they continue to deal with, and quite a few have skeletons in their closets. The more that we talk about this aspect of relationships — the not-so-warm-and-fuzzy stuff that isn’t likely to make it to the Facebook feed — the more we can accept how ordinary and awesome and annoying marriage really is. If you’ve ever felt any of these real-life feelings in your marriage, you’re in good company:
Those who have been married for more than a day knew this was coming — as Dr. Nikki Martinez, a psychologist and licensed clinical professional counselor who is married herself, explains, anger is one of the most common emotions that married couples experience. She says, “They feel anger towards their partner for many underlying reasons. We will see this most often as anger as a secondary emotion which covers up how we are really doing. Another very common emotion is irritation, where things that used to seem endearing do not feel that way anymore. Last is what would border on hate. Do we hate them? Of course not. However, we have moments that we feel that way, where the person disgusts us, and we wonder how we ever loved this person.”
Sound familiar? Dr. Martinez qualifies, “Luckily, most of the times these feelings pass, and the person hopefully remembers why they fell for them in the first place.”
One of the biggest realizations that comes with a long-term marriage is the letdown. Having a lifelong partner is a wonderful thing, but it also brings with it equal parts frustration and panic — until you begin to accept that it’s just not possible for one person to meet your every need for the rest of your life. April Masini, relationship expert at AskApril.com, agrees, saying, “You realize your spouse isn’t your everything. It’s a disappointment, and a coming of age moment when you realize that you can’t rely on your spouse for everything. The symbiotic bubble is broken. The sooner you realize that you need support beyond your spouse — friends, family, work colleagues — and that they fill roles your husband can’t and shouldn’t, you’re ready for a much happier, healthier marriage.”
Ah, the dreaded f-word that comes up in every marriage, sooner or later. No matter how compatible or in love you may be, it’s perfectly normal to fear at least once that you have made a mistake in marrying your spouse, says Chris Armstrong, relationship coach and owner of Maze of Love. “Fear that 'this' is as good as it gets,” he explains. “This is more common with younger couples who, prior to getting married, had very flexible, fun and carefree lives. It can be hard to go from that lifestyle to being married without drawing false conclusions about things like down time and disagreements about what is fun. Example: Raleigh married Mark, and the last two times she has asked him to go out with her and her friends or to host a party, he was not interested. She gets into panic mode and makes the assumption that this will always be how it is, ‘What did I do? Am I going to be a homebody the rest of my adult life?’”
Frustration is no new thing in a relationship, especially in a long-term partnership where you have been sharing the same four walls for several years. But according to Armstrong, many of the most common marital frustrations all boil down to communication, or the lack thereof: “Frustration with communication comforts are actually fairly common, and they are often the hardest to resolve. He will argue that he's just having fun, and he will tell her to lighten up. She will argue that a married couple should not have to walk on eggshells with each other. In either case, emotional intelligence is key, but the first part of emotional intelligence is self-awareness and self-management. Are we aware of how our communication lands on the other person and are we willing/able to adjust based on that?”
Here’s one raw marital emotion that you can bet you’ll never see on your Facebook feed: grief. Grieving change and the death of the “picture-perfect” marriage you expected on your wedding day is a totally normal and totally healthy part of personal growth within a committed relationship. “Some of the newly married couples I have worked with feel grief after getting married — the letdown after the wedding as there isn't a big event to look forward to — just everydayness,” says Dr. Julie Bindeman, co-director of Integrative Therapy of Greater Washington. “For some that have been married for a long time, grief might be associated with the loss of how the couple used to be (such as after having kids and giving up the freedoms to do so).”
The proverbial seven-year itch no longer applies to marriages of the new millennium. These days, restlessness and impatience in a marriage can happen at almost any time since people are getting married less frequently and at later ages. And once they do get married, says Armstrong, most people have held off on marriage for so long that their first thought is: “I got married for this?!” Like many other waves in the marital sea, restlessness is a common reaction to long-term commitment that will continue to ebb and flow at different stages in a relationship.
The bottom line
This long list of unpleasant marital emotions may seem depressing at face value, but the big takeaway here is that these are feelings that every couple experiences, if they’re willing to be honest about it. Adjusting your expectations and knowing that it’s normal to want to kill and kiss your spouse within the same day are part of what make a long-term marriage work. Dr. Martinez adds, “I tell patients all the time that they only see the ‘Facebook’ version of the couple. This altered and only happy times, that is not possible to sustain 100 percent of the time. I let them know that even those ‘perfect’ looking people get mad, irritated, yell, think they hate each other on some days and say things they are not proud of. While the good days might outweigh the bad by far, no couple is beyond these feelings and incidents.”