Do You Have Unrealistic Expectations For Your Marriage?

Why I Love My Boring Marriage

This space has covered a lot of ground on passion vs. comfort.

I’m firmly in the camp that says passion is great, but there is no 40-year marriage based on passion. You NEED to have comfort.

So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon this article from a woman who has been married for 19 years and has redefined what is important to her over the course of time. At the beginning, it was exotic vacations and unrealistic expectations. Now, it’s something different, something far more meaningful. Says the author, Lisa Smith Molinari:

“We did not meet our original expectations, we’ve exceeded them. Back when we were dreaming of a life of romance uninhibited by responsibility, stress, and aging, we couldn’t fully comprehend the complexity and depth of the marital relationship.

What we didn’t understand then is that romance is more than candlelight dinners and adventurous travel. The foundation of long-term romance is really commitment, companionship and comfort.”

After all this time, do you still think that a lifetime relationship is based more on passion than on comfort?

And if so, where is the evidence for it?

Please read the original article here and share your thoughts below.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    BeenThruTheWars

    Going on seven years married here (no kids).  That article is right on, in every way that’s good.

  2. 2
    Jenna

    There’s a lot of ground in between passion and comfort, and I haven’t been in a long term relationship as a mature 25 plus adult so I don’t really have much experience judging what’s realistic to expect. Of course, comfort and commitment sound great. But I’m looking for a lot more than snoozing off on the couch night after night in front of the tube. Not even sure if kids are for me, since I don’t really admire the harried, routined, romanceless lifestyles that I see  a lot of parents lead. I’m looking for a man who I have a deep personal and emotional connection with who inspires and challenges me spiritually, intellectually, and to be a better person (and I him) and is my partner on a number of wacky adventures. I recently rejected a string of men who I didn’t feel would be compatible with that vision, and am not so desperate to get married at 28 that I forgo everything just for comfort and security. I live a great single life and am not intent on having kids, so there’s no need to marry the first interested guy that comes along. When I was very young, I had several relationships with those nice types that treated me like gold but whom I had very little in common with in terms of our values and lifestyle and the security and comfort were just not worth the tradeoff. But am I expecting lots of sexual passion, flashy looks, money, and a “you just know” feeling? Definitely not.

  3. 3
    DinaStrange

    Most of unrealistic expectations are created by media, not only on the part of women, but on the part of men as well. Examples, Sex in the City, 50 Shades of Grey – a lot of reality shows that supposedly tell us how things are. Naturally, the more important things such as commitment, loyalty, stability take back seat to glamor, excitement, passion. After all, aren’t we all princesses waiting for our princes. Ahh, not really. 

    In a conversation with a 40 something year old girl friend of mine, when i asked her why she is single, she said she likes this one genius and normal men are not match for her. Well…she is 40 and still the same unrealistic expectations which in my opinion she is gonna be single for the long time. I told her, if he treats her nice, listens and tries that’s all she needs. Being a genius doesn’t mean he is going to make a good partner, husband or father. You were right all along Evan. It’s not the exterior that matters it’s the interior.

  4. 4
    Some other Steve

    Well she’s probably hot, which gives the relationship a much better chance of working out in the long term ;-)

  5. 5
    Julia

    and Some other Steve provides the flip side of unrealistic expectations  expecting your partner to remain hot for the rest of your life….

  6. 6
    Karmic Equation

    Well, I was married for 9 years, engaged for 2 years before the marriage…and would still be married to my exhusband today if the criteria for a successful marriage were only “commitment, companionship and comfort.” My marriage met all three criteria, but it was still unsatisfying because, in the end, we lacked “appreciation” of each other. He took me for granted and I didn’t appreciate some of his efforts on my part.

    Her article anecdotally mentions appreciation, though–He appreciates her handiness with tools. She appreciates his sensitivity to her stretch marks.

    Add “appreciation” to the list and I would agree 100% with the article.

  7. 7
    Fusee

    Jenna #2: “I’m looking for a man who I have a deep personal and emotional connection with who inspires and challenges me spiritually, intellectually, and to be a better person (and I him) and is my partner on a number of wacky adventures.”
     
    With all due respect, Jenna, I find your list pretty good in terms of “unrealistic expectations” : ) There are probably 50 shades of unrealistic expectations, and you might find “more unrealistic” out there, but that does not make your requirements/expectations more realistic…
     
    After three LTRs, one lasting 7 years which is pretty much longer than the average marriage nowadays, I learned that you gotta choose your priorities and realize that the relationship might not continue as it started. Sure, you can run around your whole ilfe searching for that partner that would connect with you at all levels and follow you in all your adventures and believe that such scenario will last, or you can simply search for someone who loves you, is open-minded, adaptable, and loyal. It’s been my experience that developing a solid foundation of love, trust, respect, with the ability to challenge oneself and be adaptable is a better bet for connection and renewal through the years than looking for specifics and risking finding them but without the ability to adapt to life’s changing seasons.
     
    You may believe that what you want now is what you will want in 20 years, but it will likely change. Makes more sense to choose someone who can adapt and adjust to the unexpected with you, through the ebb and flow of life. It might mean that your guy would be a homebody nerd who would be accepting a out-of-his-comfort-zone adventure once in a while and staying home the rest of the time waiting for your return with open arms and a cup of fragrant tea. Might mean that you will be more curious spiritually and share most of these thoughts with friends instead of your life partner.
     
    After 17 months with my man, we’re right there. Cozyness, comfort, and acceptance of each other differences. I run around much more, while he stays home and have tea ready for when I return. But I do inspire him to more traveling, and he does inspire me to more movie watching : ) Ultimately I do desire a “boring” relationship that we can periodically infuse with some romance, and that’s exaclty what we are creating thanks to our creativity and sense of humor. And that feels pretty realistic to me for the long-term.

  8. 8
    Jennbot

    Wow, I wasted my 15 minute work break on a useless piece of fluff.  Yes, at some point between 40 and 50 this is what women think, men on the other hand, look at the woman they married that has grown into the same comfort of grooming level and decides that this is not what they signed up for, where is the hot 20 something I deserve after working my ass off for all these years… Sorry Evan, you’re still in glorious newly married la-la land looking through rose-coloured glasses at your hopeful future on this one. 

    1. 8.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @Jennbot - You’re entitled to your own opinion on the passion vs. comfort debate, but you can’t tell me MY opinion.

      If you’ve been reading me for awhile, you should know that I’ve NEVER been in rose-colored glasses, la-la land with my wife. I’ve always seen her quite clearly and been conscious of her flaws. And we’ve always had a comfortable, easy, supportive relationship like an old married couple – even when we first met. I found this challenging at the beginning: shouldn’t it be more tempestuous and passionate? But then I realized that the relationship I had was the one that was going to look like the one I wanted for the rest of my life. So I kept it. And I’m happy. And you can be, too, if you realize that the first two years of your relationship often bear very little relation to what happens after you buy a house, have kids, and get settled into a routine.

      I can’t guarantee that my wife and I will be together forever, because no one can guarantee anything, but I will say that I know exactly what I signed up for – and it looks a lot like the relationship in this article. That’s why I shared it with you. Sorry to have wasted your time.

  9. 9
    Jackie Holness

    Awww, that really sounds nice…but I do hope the sex is good between them…LOL…

  10. 10
    Hope

    Awesome blog post, Evan. This is something I really had to evaluate for myself. I want a partner who I can first call my best friend because I want to still have something with him when the romance simmers down. Is it possible too that romance changes as the relationship progresses? For example, what was romantic in the beginning may not be as romantic later on?

  11. 11
    Jenna

    Fusee, trust me, I’m open to different types of men. I also mistakenly wrote down the interest of having someone challenge me intellectually – a man who I have interesting conversations with is enough. I’ve gotten along quite well with some blue  collar types – no college Ed required. Being well read also not required. 

    But for me, my offbeat adventurousness is one of the most exceptional,unique qualities I have and I can’t fathom being with a man who wasn’t up for trying new things large and small with me. This could be as small at times as joining each other for a hike somewhere new, or as big as taking a road trip across Russia or picking up and moving to peru for a year, or as simple as co hosting regular casual dinner parties where we invite a quirky mix of new and old friends. Luckily, there are men I meet who share that attitude. I’ve also met men who weren’t necessarily adventurous before we met, but had a try anything, up for anything attitude, and that was the important thing. 

    Just saying,  Depending on what’s important to you, you may want more than simply a nice commitment with a nice man. I accept that because my goal is not to live in the same suburban house for decades and have children and put career and travel and friends on the back burner and watch tv after dinner with my husband before dozing on the couch — not that those are your goals, fusee, I’m just thinking of many other women I know —  my dating process  and criteria will be different from those with other life goals. 

  12. 12
    Goldie

    IMO, there’s a time and a place for everything. A time to doze off on the couch, and a time to hitchhike across Russia (yikes, scratch that, I grew up there and I do not advise that! lol) As long as both parties believe in personal growth and like trying new things, it doesn’t have to be every day. There may be days, or even years, when they’re both too tired to do anything exciting. Which is fine, as long as they plan on getting back to it later, when they’re able. I have many friends whose kids are now grown and out of the house. Some of these couples take trips, try new activities, and go on adventures so amazing, just listening to them talk about it makes my head spin. Maybe that’s their idea of comfort — they feel that their work raising and educating their children is done, now they can relax, kick back and climb the Everest! Other couples just love the fact that the kids are gone and they can now relax, eat, drink, have friends over for drinks, and watch all the TV they want. Not my cup of tea, but if that’s what they like doing together, good for them. As long as the couple have each other’s back and work as a team through difficult years, I think they’ll be fine as a family. If they retain mutual trust, respect, and connection, then they’ll be able to figure out what constitutes comfort for them as a couple.

  13. 13
    Sunflower

    Sweet article and can totally relate.  Sounds like Jennbot has some living and growing up to do.  Good luck!

  14. 14
    julie

    Marriage is so wonderful if both parties are equally committed, the problem lies when  one strays and thinks there is a better person out there and leaves. Anyone married to someone who believes in a lifetime of commitment is blessed and eventually all marriages do settle into routine, mine was 17 years and all that happened, it is about character and dedication to the institution of marriage that keeps people together in the long run. Anyone reading this who hasn’t had children should be informed that the children make the marriage more difficult and less romantic, not the other way around. 

  15. 15
    Amy

    Goldie@13, I agree with much of what you said. I remember one season of Project Runway, where a contestant, (a mother of 6) was complimented on the classy attire that she wore on the show, and she replied ” it’s a slippery slope to sweat pants and a mini-van”. Aside from being a very funny comment, I think this is what people fear, that “comfort” means letting one’s appearance slide. That can be a passion killer, when one partner just lets it all go. I think with a little effort passion can be kept alive in some form. Romance evolves over time, but I don’t think we have to trade romance for long-term commitment. At least, I hope not.

  16. 16
    Aisling

    @ Jenna # 11:  I think the whole dating (as a woman) is drastically different when you are not hell-bent on having your own kids.  Somewhere around 35, I realized that I might NOT meet the right guy in time to procreate.  After that, I felt that an enormous weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I have seen too many women panic and marry *anyone* in order to have kids, and sadly end up as single mothers anyway.

    While I would have liked to have had at least one child, I believe without a shadow of a doubt that I did not pass up anyone who would have made me happy.

    So much about meeting and dating is luck and timing, and it doesn’t work out for everyone.  Yet, when I look at some of my friends and relatives and the men they are married to, I feel very fortunate indeed.

  17. 17
    Anita

    I have very realistic expectations of marriage. Because I have NO expectations of marriage whatsoever. And if you’ve read my other comments, you know why…. :)

  18. 18
    morgan

    Jennbot @8

    WOW, you also wasted a whole how many minutes? posting your zero value add comment on this ‘piece of fluff’.  I wasted a whole 40 seconds reading your guff and five minutes getting the sh!ts enough to post this which took me another three minutes to type out.

    Useless.

  19. 19
    amy

    Great article!
    I guess I would have liked to have known more about their life – how is their sex life, how do they look? is her husband happy?
    I also wonder if men want that as well…

  20. 20
    Ellen

    In my experience as a 55+ woman and observing my friend’s marriages I would say nearly all so-called “good” marriages morph into “commitment, companionship and comfort” after 20 years or so.

    The problem is communication and the unwillingness of most couples to keep working the romance angle (date nights, flowers, etc.). Time and again I see most men unable to understand what their wives truly want and need (and some vice versa). After 20 years or so, due to attachment (google) (which men seem more prone to than romantic love) men will stay with less than perfect women, but women? Well, if the children are grown and they have the resources (and sometimes when they do NOT), they are now jettisoning their husbands in their fifties and sixties. Stats back me up on this: Most divorces are initiated by women after age 50. Lots of celeb couples experiencing this now- the Gores, etc.

    I think I waited for my mother to lapse into a kind of slight dementia brought on by Parkinsons before I made my move. One day I entered her assisted living and despite being 91 overheard a quiet phone call and said “You getting divorced?” lol

    My dealbreaker was 20 years of being unappreciated and never told I was 1) smart, 2) capable, or 3) had good ideas.  So I agree with Karmic. Appreciation is key and incidentally studies show the chief reason men stray is feeling unappreciated at home.  I was his cheerleader, but he was not mine in the way I needed (his compliments were always about my appearance which got old. I also begged him to BE my cheerleader three times in the marriage but he wouldn’t change, said “I am no cheerleader Ellen”).  Listen, you NEED a cheerleader when you have to deal with unemployment, and children, and difficult relatives and an autistic child. Not to mention all the petty indignities life throws your way…  

    Still I count my 25 year old marriage as a success in that I was loyal for many years and a good mother and wife. We made it work, in our fashion, for 25 years. Btw, I feel we put too much emphasis on “making it to the goalline- marriage til death” when that, imo, is da*ned near impossible given our formidable lifespans now.

    No, right now I’m enjoying romance again and true love and appreciation for the first time since my 20s. It is extraordinary and I am one lucky girl indeed.

  21. 21
    helene

    I think it is entirely normal for relationships to start out passionate and then evolve  bit more towards comfort. But to START OUT dozing in the recliner together – what’s the benefit in looking for that in a partner??? Plenty of time for that later on, surely.. If a guy was snoring in front of the TV at 28, what on earth would he be like at 50 – catatonic??! Young people are energetic and idealistic – and that is as it should be. Yes marriages evolve away from that, but the shared, crazy dreams that drew you together in the first place were importnat for a sense of bonding in the younger years of the marriage.
    Clearly if people marry later in life they are likely to be further along the spectrum towards comfort already, and that, again, is normal, but there will still be shared dreams for the future, even if those dreams are buying a retirement cottage at the beach rather than sailing round the arctic circle.

  22. 22
    Mark

    If this blog is a micro-cosm of single-dom, I can see exactly why so many people are still single.

    Key word here IS UNREALISTIC. 

  23. 23
    hespeler

    Of course the article seems to be an accurate reflection of marriage.  Now that I am dating my late-30’s as a divorced man who knows what long-term commintment is all about, I seek the comfort and security of a relationship but not without some passion at first.  At least this is my default attitude of which I try to supress all the time but to no avail.

    It happens be a popular refrain that I hear from singles all the time, both men and women.  Everyone says that they want to at least be able to look back on chemistry and romance in the beginning before the relationship settles into its comfort phase.  Therefore, we date and we date, then we date some more until we find that person that can give us the early stage butterflies.  Purely illogical but try instilling logic in someone who’s looking for “the one.” 

    Seems to me the ones who were already married are even more bent on getting that chemistry and romance high as if there looking for a second chance of what they once may have already had.

  24. 24
    David T

    I recently turned my back on a very kind, much younger, good looking , LTR oriented woman who showed clear interest in me. We dated for about two months. It was nice having someone to do things with and flirt with and go on dates with.  It was nice feeling appreciated. It wasn’t a lack of chemistry (it wasn’t off the charts, but it was present) or different life goals that killed things.  She was very stable, eaceful, accepting, truly a wonderful woman in a lot of ways, but there was a lack of some key common thinking patterns and world outlook. Also (and I left this out of our ‘talk’) the conversation was not terribly stimulating. Time spent with a stimulating close friend recently reminded me of how much I value that.
     
    I can hold a monologue (not one of my more endearing traits, especially when it takes so long it wanders off the main subject my conversational partner began!) but I need more of a back and forth. I need someone who sometimes injects things into my mind that get me to question my  assumptions or think of something new or make me go “wow!” 
     
    If I am planning to spend the plurality of my waking hours with someone, (if not the bulk of them, stupid job!), I want to be with someone who is stimulating and brings new things into my life. Married parenting life is not continual conversation, but there is a lot of communication in bits and pieces  between the kitchen and the project in the hallway and working in the garden that it all a lot more fun. :)
     
    I don’t find what I like in another person very often, so the question for me comes down to whether being with someone less stimulating beats being alone. Having seen a few LTRs from both inside and outside where the parties admitted they were with their partner primarily  because they liked them and it was better than living alone, I think I do know the answer.

  25. 25
    Aisling

    @hespeler # 24:   Well said.

  26. 26
    Lucy

    Comfort scares me. I want passion and if I meet a man without it, it really puts me off. I don’t really want to be someone who stops making an effort and takes you for granted. But anyway, I know this is not what you were getting at. I think there should be passion to begin with so you have that to look back on. I know people with less experience think that when they lose the passion, they no longer have the love. But I know this isn’t true. But I’ve banned myself from romantic comedies and cosmopolitan magazine because I don’t want to live in a fantasy world. I want to distance myself from all the fluff that gets in the way of seeing people for who they really are, if that makes sense. As I mentioned, I’m 23. Maybe I’m a commitment-phobic because when I think of marriage, I think of drudgery. 

  27. 27
    nathan

    The original article doesn’t really give a full enough picture of their marriage to comment. Other than it seems to be working for the wife. It seems to me that comfort is a baseline for any long term relationship, but it’s definitely not enough to sustain most of us over years and decades. Neither is commitment, if it simply means not straying from your partner.
     
    Companionship – of the three – may be where the conversation hinges here. I’ve known my share of older couples that stayed together for decades out of duty to children, religious obligation, or fear of social stigma. All of which reduced companionship to mostly putting up with each other, and/or staving off being alone for another day. That’s not to say there aren’t good experiences mixed in there, but that those experiences were outweighed by the dullness and/or negativity. To me, companionship needs to be more than just being able to live in the same house, put up with each other, be decent parents if you have children together, and being comfortable enough together. Ellen’s comments are plenty realistic, and based on personal experience as well.
     
    Seems to me that people need to figure out what kind of companionship they desire, consider if that’s realistic to expect with a single person, and then date from there.

  28. 28
    Essie

    This article make perfect logical sense, but I am wondering if Evan has much of a business left if all advice boils down to being more realistic and valuing character, comfort, etc.. over passion?
    Evan’s message to women is akin to what most mothers would tell their daughters- just from a male perspective.  I’ve enjoy reading this blog and it has helped me gain perspective. However, it is getting predictable.
    I would love to see a “HOT or NOT” type of dating website where you post your pics and profile  online and then get to see how others score you along with their pics and profile.  And then there will be a follow up section where if you went on a date, you would have to post a new rating based on the date ( and comment on whether or not pics were accurate)
    I think very quickly, all of us will be humbled. Women on this blog who claim to be “great catches” might not get ranked as highly as they think. Vice verse for men.  This harsh, real data might make all of us more realistic…. and probably do a better job of changing some deeply entrenched thinking patterns than the most eloquent essay ever could.
    Evan, love your work, but sometimes I sense your frustration. Sorry, this comment is not directly related to the article, but just putting in my 2cents after reading your comment to @Jennbot.

  29. 29
    Helen

    Been in a LTR here for close to 15 years, one that I could consider happy and generally successful. We’ve also known many such couples, so here is my take. While those three Cs are of course important, one item that isn’t mentioned here – that is crucial to a sustainable relationship – is the sense that both sides are contributing fairly to the work of maintaining a family and a household.

    We’ve had extended family members and one of my dear friends break up their long-term (over 15 years) marriages recently. It wasn’t infidelity, it wasn’t financial issues. In all these cases, the woman initiated the divorce because she felt that she was doing all the heavy lifting in both the relationship and the business of running a household. She was not only bringing home the bacon, she was frying it every night, doing the lion’s share of childrearing, cleaning, trying to be emotionally supportive to the husbands… while the husbands did nothing. They sat in their chairs websurfing or watching TV, not helping the wives in the household or childcare duties, not even asking the wives how their days were. Hence, the women felt exhausted and emotionally empty. In two of these cases, the man was unemployed, and STILL he did zero to help out with the household and kids, though his wife was the only one working.

    After a while, that sort of inequality wears on couples. After a while, the woman asks herself (or the man asks himself): “Why am I doing all this work while my spouse does absolutely nothing? I’d be better off on my own. At least I have one fewer person to cook for and pick up after.”

    I point this out because the truth is that I have never, personally, seen a couple break up their marriage from infidelity or financial issues, which are often cited as the main reasons for divorce. In most, not all, of the couples I’ve seen break up, it is because of this lack of equality in contributing to the family and household.  So let’s add one more C to Evan’s and Lisa’s list: Contribution.  

  30. 30
    Jackie B

    @Helen #30

    Thank you SO much for your post.  It is exactly right and the reason my marriage broke up after 13 years.   I had an executive job, did all the housework and made every meal for the two of us.  He worked part-time usually not very hard and never made more than $18,000 in a year. When we got divorced and I became a single mom of a 13 month old baby, my life became a 100 times easier.

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