There’s an old adage that I hear again and again, floating around with other pieces of advice from strangers and family alike, “marriage is work.” I had never really questioned this– thought, yes, maybe it does take work. But I began to think about what that word meant. Effort, certainly, but work? Sometimes the going gets rough and there are disagreements or bad feelings or tough patches. But when I really thought about it, what that means, “marriage is work,” I realized that maybe I disagree. Being married to Andrew is not work at all, at least. It’s wholeheartedly awesome, hilarious, and wonderful.
I decided to ask him about it while we were lying in bed admiring the beautiful new floral tattoo he picked up in Chicago earlier this week which he forbids me from showing you…
Do you think marriage is work?
Wait. Is today our anniversary?
Come on. Be serious.
No. Marriage is not work. You know what’s work? A fifteen-hour day in a coal mine.
When I hear marriage is work, I hear marriage is a job, a chore. If this is the case, I’ve landed my dream job. The job I am thrilled to jump out of the bed every morning to rush to. The job from which I never need a vacation. It’s the best gig, and I have no idea how I am qualified for it.
There have been times in our 16-year relationship that have been tricky, rough, uncomfortable, even. We met when we were 19 (and 18) years old, drawn together with an electrifying energy that, paired with mutual immaturity and the tumultuous atmosphere of a college campus riddled with a huge alcohol problem, got ugly sometimes. Yet we clung to each other, through all those years, pulled magnetically back together despite the fights and ups and downs of early adulthood, until we grew up. Together.
We finally agreed to get married, almost as an afterthought, when we realized we were ready to start a family. We were already so firmly together; we had bought our first rickety old row house in Philadelphia, I had worked as a school social worker for three years, and Andrew was in the middle of getting his doctorate. We had 8 years of togetherness under our belts and were so in love. We enjoyed going out with friends in Philly, running along Kelly Drive together, walking all around the city, dreaming about our future children and discussing all sorts of heated topics that sometimes led to tears and raised voices, always ended with some sort of understanding between us.
We learned how to talk to each other, when to back off, when to come back together again. We learned how to argue and disagree, when to pull out a joke or self-deprecating comment, when to just move on. But these things have never been work to me, they were just the push and pull of always being with someone, of learning about oneself and another. They are the very crux of marriage, the compromises, the giving of oneself, the sharing of everything, the mutual respect and adoration of another. If by work people mean compromising and sometimes having discussions that you’d rather not have, and maybe feel exhausted and defeated for awhile afterwards, if sometimes you reach an uncomfortable space of growth that you need to navigate, well, then yes, sometimes marriage is work. But I’d say it’s more about being a kind, compassionate person to someone you love and respect on a daily basis. It’s about remembering that, not being lazy about it.
There is no one in the world who knows me better than Andrew, who calls me out, who supports me, who encourages me, teases me, comforts me, and needs me as much as I need him. Being married to him is not work, it is a joy. It is a pleasure, a comfort. It is normal, it is easy. I can and have always been able to be myself, my completely flawed self, around him and he accepts me, loves me, holds me up year after year. It’s hard to put into words what our marriage is to me, but it is never something I take for granted. It is the realization that he is my perfect match, my partner in every way, that is the scariest thing. The thought of losing him crosses my mind from time to time. The fear that a huge piece of me is him, that we are so entangled in each other’s identities and lives and souls (if there are such things — I think yes) that I would never recover if I lost him… that is the work! But not the marriage. The marriage is thoughtful, purposeful, humbling, sometimes compromising, humorous, apologetic, passionate, mysterious, full of kindnesses, quiet, loud, a celebration of successes and a bonding over challenges. Marriage is a delight, when you are with the right person. And I am.
Have a wonderful weekend.
11 thoughts on “Is Marriage “Work?””
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What a moving love letter, to Andrew and to marriage in general! I love the way you describe your relationship. The respect and affection you have for eachother jumps out of these pictures and words.
I always do think of marriage, and all relationships for that matter, as work. I’ve had boyfriends in the past (at this point they were ages ago and I was a baby- but still!) where things felt ‘easy’, but that usually meant that I wasn’t all that invested. James and I are such different people that sometimes just agreeing on a temperature for the thermostat feels like a life’s work 😉 But I love the challenge, and the way all the effort and compromise changes both of us constantly. Hopefully for the better. Being a wife, a daughter, a mother… For me, it all does feel like a tremendoys blessing, and also a tough job. But then again, I’ve never worked in a coal mine! Or even a ‘desk job’ for that matter… so work equates with joyful effort in my life. Lots to think about here! But seeing you guys together puts a smile on my face 🙂
Such a lovely post! I definitely notice all of this when I’m with you both. You guys are amazing people and make a wonderful couple. Thanks for sharing it with us!
woohoo!! love you guys
I love this. (Particularly because in my family growing up if we complained about how hard something was, my parents often reminded me of what “work” really is – and it very often came in the form of a coal miner’s job – must have been the Kentucky raising!)
I was thinking this week, and writing just yesterday in a post, about the fear of losing my husband, or even losing a piece of what makes our days hum along these days. So I’m going to agree with you there – if there is work involved, it’s in conscious effort to not let fear get in the way of what we have right now, in this spot.
Great words to go into the weekend with. Hope yours is a good one.
I love this! Thank you!
I think about the concept of marriage as ‘work’ often, because although it is hard sometimes, difficult for me to compromise, give in, admit I am wrong, realize there are some things (ok, a lot of things) I need to work on, I have never viewed my marriage as work. I see it more about acceptance and respect for the person I love and have loved for the past sixteen years (we met in February 2000). We have so many differences and I have always envisioned marrying someone very different from me – from a different place, background, religion, with different strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. My world is so much richer and broader because of my husband and what he teaches me and I absolutely love that.
Sometimes I think marriage is work because the business of running a household and raising kids and also working an actual job IS hard. But the best thing about being married is being on a team that splits the work, or works together to get it all done. And that’s not to say relationships are always easy–compromise and disagreements and all that stuff are very real, but after 15 years of “dating” the same person, I can’t think of anyone else I’d want on my team.
I love this post. I have only recently discovered your blog, and then for this post to pop up in my reader today – beautiful. It resonates greatly with me; thank you for sharing.
I had no idea you lived in Philly. My family and I live in Ardmore…a very close suburb. Anyhoo…I whole-heartedly agree with you about landing your dream job if marriage is work. I couldn’t imagine life without my husband. Marriage is the best job I’ve ever had. Happy Love weekend.
Every couple is different. I think suffering is part of the human condition and inescapable, but it’s how you respond to it that makes the difference. For some couples, their suffering may arise from financial woes, the loss of a child, or difficult circumstances with external family. For others, it may be marriage itself which is a challenge.
As a child of divorce, my marriage has been a sweet haven of comfort and joy, but we’ve had our fair share of suffering — it just happens to have come from external factors.
This is such a great post, and I agree so much with it. I have never felt like marriage is work, but more of a constant working of mutual respect.