Does Life Get Duller After Marriage? Do Women?

Dear Evan,

I’m in my early thirties and recently married. I’d consider me and my female friends to be very independent by nature. We received good educations, advanced in our careers and had the moxie to travel far off the beaten path. Quite a few of these girlfriends are now at that stage where they’re moving in with or getting engaged to their significant others. Being at this point in our lives has led me to make an observation:

For all the effort we women put into finding a mate (and I was no exception), it seems that life becomes a little dull for a girl once her match has been made.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my husband with all my heart. He’s my best friend. It’s just that, before I found him, life felt full of possibilities. I do still try to mix things up. I’ve just started training for my first triathlon. I enrolled in new subjects at the local college. And yet, overall, it seems my life course has been charted. Focus has been set (as in babies & making a bigger/better home for our family) and for the most part, everything seems pretty predictable.

In my girlfriends, I’ve seen various examples of how having a settled lovelife can change you, and not necessarily for the better. One girlfriend, whom I’ve always described as reliable has suddenly become flakey about every activity that doesn’t involve her live-in boyfriend. Another gal pal, who used to be up for any spontaneous adventure, now won’t even agree to a dinner double-date unless it’s at one of a tiny handful of restaurants, her boyfriend being such a picky eater. My friend who used to be one of those women you see jumping around on ESPN in bodybuilding competitions, now physically can’t perform half the fun activities she used to do with me because her fiance’s foot injury has kept them from exercising.

Another friend’s fiance persuaded her to do one of those expensive personal development seminars – you know… one of those $2000 weekends where, once participants “graduate” from the program, their next major “personal development” task is to recruit friends and family to sign up for the next $2000 seminar. Anyway, needless to say, she’s become a bit less interesting to talk to.

I really do GET most of the choices my friends have been making, since I find myself doing uncharacteristic things too for the sake of our relationship. My husband is a solid, affectionate, dependable guy with many things in common with me; he is nevertheless a different person with different interests. Plus, he’s caught up in the same family goals as me, which leaves us less time to relax and have fun together. When you’re married, you just have to put the partnership before oneself in order to make it work. I know it’s absolutely worth it.

It’s just… some days, the tedium gets to me more than on others. It really makes me wonder about how to keep one’s identity intact once you’ve committed to a whole other human being. And the conclusion that all this seems to be leading me to, is that a relationship takes a little bit of the shine off your personality, particularly if you’re a person who really enjoyed her independence.

What do you think? Is there some truth to that? Am I still just adjusting to being married?

Finally, I just wanted to say to all the single women out there, appreciate the freedom you luxuriate in now while you still can. Women invest so much time and effort into the search for love. The reality is that the return on investment is rarely what one expects – qualitatively and quantitatively. So the next time you’re feeling down on yourself for not having found a mate yet, just remember that there is always good to any bad, and vice versa. Then would you please go and book yourself the next last-minute fare to Sabratha or Santigron or Sokhumi… for me? Thanks.

Phia

Believe it or not, I’m not going to add anything to that. All I’ll say is that Phia has articulated my fear of marriage better than I could ever have done. Readers? Married readers? Your thoughts?

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Shannon

    I think that everyone is responsible for themselves. We women are our biggest and worst enemies. We think that we have to change to keep a man. It’s not necessarily the institution of marriage that is the problem. It’s the lowered expectations we bring to it.

    Communicating with your significant other and being determined to lead your own life, not just in theory but in practice, will go a long way in making marriage what you want it to be.

    I think there’s a little bit of the “grass is always greener” going on here as well. I’m in my mid-thirties and not married. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I had the prospect of getting married. But I have a ton of married friends who don’t want to be married.

    I love my independence and will not trade it for a husband. It all comes down to what you’re willing to give.

  2. 2
    Roger

    I don’t think Phia’s experience is that unusual. However, I know plenty of couples who are quite content in their marriage and who haven’t sacrificed their individuality at all. Shannon is probably right, it’s really a matter of the “grass is always greener” on the other side. If Phia were to suddently become single again, she’d probably have plenty of complaints regarding single life and might even find herself pining for the good old days of being married.

  3. 3
    BeenThruTheWars

    My husband and I (married less than two years, my second his first) are both homebodies, enjoy many of the same activities, love to cocoon together and shut out the world. We have little interest in traveling (vacationing, yes — adventure-type traveling, no), having “been there, done that,” and both pursue independent interests with each other’s blessing. Neither of us relished our freedom in the sense of being lonely or having to slog in frustration through the dating front year after year, and deeply appreciate what we’ve found with each other. We are content with our lives together, and for us at least, that contentment is a lovely state of being. So besides an occasional, “Darn, it’s a pain to have to clear your schedule with someone else” twinge, things have been very copacetic with us.

    We’re also a bit older than you, Phia (he’s 36 and I’m 47), and thus at a slightly different lifestage. It makes sense that you would feel an occasional tug of restlessness for “the old days,” which aren’t that far behind you. However, if you or your friends are doing the “Is this all there is… ?” type of self-questioning as you lay awake nights staring at the ceiling, that would indicate to me a deeper red flag, as in, have I thrown in my lot with the right person?

    Perhaps a more key difference between you/your compatriots and my husband and me is that we are childless by choice and knew that going in. So we get to be selfish and spoiled and thoroughly enjoy both our couplehood and our independent times outside the relationship (e.g., he goes to a music festival and camps for a week with his college buddies; I go to a spa with a girlfriend for a long weekend; no one gets the least bit upset about these occasional absences.) We have total spontaneity to go out to dinner or go away for a weekend unlike our friends who are tied down with their children’s school and other commitments. So that definitely helps mitigate any sense of predestination for us. We don’t have our life all plotted out, in that we don’t have other human beings we’ve created to be responsible for, for the next 18+ years; we can feel free to change careers, take sabbaticals, etc. knowing there is no one depending on us but us.

    So from our perspective, there is nothing to “fear” re having chosen each other as life mates. But I can see how people with different goals and in different situations might feel otherwise.

    The question of “Why do far too many women give up large pieces of themselves, including their hobbies and goals and friendships, in order to be with a particular man?” is a separate issue I would love to see Evan explore in a future post.

  4. 4
    Elyse

    I am divorced, 51 and with two kids 11 and 14 years old. What I can say is that what Phia wrote about sounds true to me. and that the responsibilities of marriage and later of parenthood both constrain and provide rewards. It is much moreso for parenthood than for marriage without kids, and single parenting is even harder. The amount of day to day drudgery of parenthood is huge, but the joys of raising children are worth it, IF that is what you truly want to do. Enjoy your singlehood, those who are still single and you married without kids folks should enjoy that too, because life gets more complicated with each addition to the family.

  5. 5
    Shawn

    Phia is right on a number of things, however, having been married for a while and now divorced and looking to partner up again, I can say that a lot of what concerns you when you are younger and married or just married for the first time is small and petty. Now that I’ve been there and done that, I know what is important – and worrying about the little things isn’t important. Ask anyone who is in their second marriage or looking to get married again and they will tell you that the small things that drove them crazy in their first marriage are not at all important in the grand scheme. Don’t sweat this stuff, just relax into life partnered up with someone you love and enjoy the ride.

  6. 6
    downtowngal

    I think there’s a maturity issue here. The older you get the more independent and self-aware you become, but I also think that makes for better relationships. I notice that younger women in serious relationships tend to be more accomodating to their significant other’s/husband’s needs at the expense of their own because they get caught up in the idea of getting married (I was I that way in my 20’s). So I can see Phia’s point.

    The key issue is that marriage is not the be-all-end-all. You have to be happy with yourself in order to have a happy relationship/marriage. I wonder how many of the types of women Phia describes in her letter would remain happily married in the long term.

    I believe in marriage and I think it’s healthy for people to have their own friends/interests. Of course you have to place your partnership above all else and make compromises – but that doesn’t have to mean giving up talking to your friends or stop pursuing your own interests/goals as a result. The right partner will support/respect you for who you are.

    So Phia, train for that tri – and look forward to your fiance cheering for you at the finish line.

  7. 7
    Ron Goedde

    Holy Crap!

    I’m 42 and still single – and I always wondered how much better my life would be if I was married.

    Good grief, lady. You just gave me an instant jolt of satisfaction. Glad I’m still single. Maybe I’ll be lucky and die this way.

    1. 7.1
      Carrie

      LOL….enjoy it! I got married at 40 and now 42. Love my husband but for some strange reason my single “superficial” life was a lot more fun. 

  8. 8
    Ron Goedde

    One more thing I’d like to add – why are so many married people reading this blog?

    Nothing wrong with it per se, but if I was in a solid marriage, why would I troll a dating blog?

    I’d be pretty concerned if my wife was doing that.

  9. 9
    Bev Holloway

    I’m 51, and after having been in relationships most of my life and never having lived alone for any significant period of time, I found myself growing impatient with my last partner and decided to go it on my own for a while. I have days of loneliness and tears, and I have days of soaring in joy at my freedom. I’m not sure it’s possible to have freedom and a husband or significant other. Some days, my thoughts drift to having a “friend with benefits” – someone to hang out with, attend events with, and . . . yes, a lover. That would allow me to maintain my freedom. But then I wonder if jealousy would come into play. Can a man have an exclusive relationship with a woman and not be “in a relationship” per se? I do believe that I’m not the type of person to be in a long term relationship with one person. Until my second marriage, my record of commitment had been 3 years tops. My second marriage lasted 17 years – mainly because there were children involved. Soon after they left for college, I left to find myself on my own. I’ve been through several attempts at relationships since then and at this point, I think I’ll choose a solitary life, seasoned with friends and pursuing my own interests.

  10. 10
    Jenny

    Phia,
    I cant relate to you by a long shot. But you are clearly trying to seek logical answers for things that are emotional and there is is NEVER the right ANSWER to anything, just different perspectives. Marriage adds stress, babies add more stress, and in our ‘comfort my need now’ world, we tolerate less, and demand more and many times at the expense of kindness. Marriage is tolerance of another, and more importantly its about love, kindness, trust, and, learning – lifelong learning based on a moral and ethical foundation. Once you start letting fears, anger, lust, jeaulously, greed and hatred towards anyone that takes away your ‘needs’ you are in big trouble with your own relationships. Stomp out your fears and work on strenghtening yourself and your spouse- they affect your health.

  11. 11
    mrs. vee

    Ron – we married types read Evan’s blog because he gives fantastic relationship advice.

    His book, Why You’re Still Single could easily have carried the subtitle, (Or How to Avoid Sending Yourself Back There).

    I’ll respond with more comments after I think about the letter a little more.

  12. 12
    mrs. vee

    Well, Phia, I thought your letter was wonderful. You drew a pretty accurate depiction of the subtle strain that compromise can place on even the most solid longterm relaionship. And contrary to what some readers may have inferred, you don’t seem immature, insecure, angry, resentful, whiny, or a pushover in any way to me. I don’t see how anyone can conclude that your letter was a diatribe against marriage.

    Can I venture a guess that the day you wrote this letter was one of those days that the “tedium” had gotten to you? So, you were having a bad day and dashed off a letter asking Evan and his readers whether or not they thought the institution of marriage causally effects a decrease in a woman’s natural effervescence?

    Did you really need an answer to that?

    I think you know you were just venting. That’s understandable. Like most intelligent women I know, it’s easier to deal with complex feelings by waxing philosophical about them. The thing is, it doesn’t matter if this spiritual dampening you speak of is an empirical certainty for all women or not. They’re the feelings you’re going through. All the rest of the stuff we have here under the microscope about marriage and life…and even the way your friends are turning into snoozers… is just irrelevant.

    So, not that you really wanted to hear the answer to your question, but here it is anyway: No, I don’t think marriage inevitably makes a girl duller. You must be aware that you’re a special case. There aren’t that many women out there with your level of enthusiasm for adventure and endurance sports. So given your proclivity for that much intensity/excitement, it’s no wonder that domestic life is a rough transition for you.

    Now, I’ve always wanted to go to Libya too, but obviously, for some women, traveling that far afield is unthinkable. For some, finding a partner is the singlemost exciting thing that will happen to them in their lifetime. A boyfriend or husband can introduce a girl to new hobbies or a bigger circle of friends. A man’s love can give a woman the confidence to come out of her shell.

    By contrast, you sounded already like a pretty darned whole person before you even met your husband. So I really feel for you. I can honestly relate. And I don’t mean to sound dismissive of your feelings, but I don’t see too much of a problem here. You have a great attitude about marriage. You’re willing to put in the work. You shouldn’t feel guilty about how you feel. Just accept that you will feel this way once in awhile, and enjoy the good that comes with the bad.

    If it’s any consolation, I’m sure parenthood will be the next great and humbling adventure. Good luck with everything, sweetie!

    1. 12.1
      Annabelle

      Lovely commentary!

  13. 13
    juLiette

    if you feeL a LittLe bored with Life, Phia, get back into a hobby you enjoy, make new friends, or taLk to the ones you’ve got. they probabLy feeL the same way. i am one heLL of a co-dependent girLfriend, and i HATE it! i WiSH i had friends there to puLL me out. ONCE again- grass is aLways greener girLfriend. you even stiLL checkin’ these??
    RON is hiLarious
    and MRS.VEE- so right on HOW TO AVOiD SENDiNG YOURSELF BACK THERE!

  14. 14
    Lisa Steadman

    I totally hear where Phia is coming from!!! Being single means life is full of possibilities. But so can being in a relationship. They’re just different possibilities. Having just gotten engaged, I will take this to heart and do my best to keep things interesting!

  15. 15
    mrs. vehement

    oh, you single girls out there who bravely swear up and down that they’ll never sacrifice their independence for a relationship…you may wana take note.

    making sacrifices for the relationship is also called COMPROMISING.

    there are some days when your wants will come in direct conflict with the greater good of your coupledom. if you choose your independence every single time, you’ll end up single again real quick.

    most single women I know are the ones who never learned how to back down. believe me, it’s a valuable skill in marriage.

    jaclyn

  16. 16
    giovanna

    Phia,
    I so needed to read your thoughts today. Having just realized that things aren’t going to work out with a guy I was seeing, I needed a boost– and a reminder of how much I love being single and able to go anywhere I want!

  17. 17
    Erika

    Boredom is the natural consequence of thinking that once you meet “the one,” everything in your life will magically fall into place and you will live happily ever after.

    That’s why you have to keep finding new ways to challenge yourself. Both in the relationship and outside of it. What’s so wrong with doing things separately? Do you have to do everything together?

    So, take a piano class. Travel on your own. Sign up for a book club. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean that your social life has to end. It just means that you have to consider someone else now.

  18. 18
    lorelei

    I’m hearing a lot of recycled rhetoric here on this topic – much of it the type of stuff single women say to reassure themselves life’s ok while they’re still single. Stuff that doesn’t necessarily come close to addressing her problems with any depth. So let’s instead pay closer attention to Phia instead of lecturing her.

    What she describes seems way more subtle than boredom as a result of her playing shrinking violet to her husband. I’m fairly certain she was never one of those women who expected everything in her life would magically fall into place and happily ever after, etc. etc post-nuptials. And it doesn’t sound to me that she’s “given up large pieces of [herself], including …hobbies and goals and friendships, in order to be with a particular man”. She still has independent interests, a healthy number of friends, and, as Mrs. Vee said, a great attitude about marriage. I mean… going back to school AND training for a triathlon? That’s a second full-time job right there.

    It seems to me she really LIVED her life (we should be so lucky) and is now asking “But what if you know all that stuff about maintaining your separate interests, and it’s coming in direct conflict with the long-term goals of marriage and family?”

    Well, shit, I don’t know. I think it’s a really tough question.

    Maybe, Phia, you just need to reshuffle your priorities. Perhaps consider a change of career that allows you to do something related to travel or sports for your job, so you still have that element in your life, even as you try to raise your kids. That’s one idea.

    As for me, I’ll think about Phia’s predicament when I think about my own lovelife. The major point I’m getting from reading her letter is that it’s all good on either side of the fence. We’re each doing just fine right where we are – single, engaged, married, divorced. There’s good and bad to every situation, so why get to hung up about it either way?

    Thanks for such a thoughtful letter, P.

  19. 19
    rose

    Gosh, thank you for that letter, Phia. My best friend and I were just discussing these issues last week when I visited her. She and I both have wonderful, loving, caring and dependable husbands. On the surface, we lead perfect lives filled with love, friendship and successful careers. But something very important is missing. There’s a joie de vivre that we all had when we were single – hoping off on trips, volunteering, spending tons of time chatting with and hanging out with girlfriends. I remember one Valentine’s Day, my best friend and I went out, watched our favourite cheesey movie in IMAX, got take-out food and ate it by the sea shore and we were talking about how much fun it was being together – men often seem so much more fussy and are certainly less prone to giggling fits!

    I don’t really have advice here but just resonated so well with Phia’s letter that I had to share my experience. My best friend and I have both resolved to do more to regain our independence, our vibrant, confident personalities. We both feel we have given in too much – and mostly it has been our own doing, not at the request or commandment of our partners, who are actually very understanding men. The hard truth though is that there is no switch one can turn on. It will take time for us to rebuild our identities….the comment someone made about younger women (in their 20s) being more likely to give up more of themselves after marriage is so true. That is what we did and now we are embarking upon the painful and “effortfull” process of regaining what we’ve lost. I think as long as we are honest to our partners about our feelings, they will be understanding and support us. Our relationships will change – but perhaps for the better. Because our husbands married us for the smart, independent, vibrant, fun-loving and colourful women that we were. We are shortchanging them by evolving into dull, lifeless creatures!

    Wish us luck 🙂

  20. 20
    downtowngal

    People have mentioned that compromise is part of any LTR or marriage, and Evan even suggests that Phia’s comments echo his own fears about marriage.

    There’s a diff between compromise and giving up yourself – or being expected to. And women are often more compromising in relationships than men. There are some guys who resent the woman in their lives wanting to embark on a personal goal, i.e. marathon training or education. Allowing someone to impede your life goals is different than compromising on who’s parents to visit for the holidays or which side of the bed to sleep on.

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