Do You Have Unrealistic Expectations For Your Marriage?

Do You Have Unrealistic Expectations for Your 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.

Join our conversation (42 Comments).
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  1. 21

    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.

  2. 22

    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.  

  3. 23

    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.

  4. 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.

  5. 25

    @hespeler # 24:     Well said.

  6. 26

    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.  

  7. 27

    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.

  8. 28

    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.

  9. 29

    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.    

  10. 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.

  11. 31
    David T

    Would you call these layabout and emotionally unsupportive men good friends (companions) of their now ex-wives? Maybe this is a semantics issue, but I think   the lack of “contribution” you and Jackie31 mention is a lack of companionship.   If you are a good friend, you ask how someone is doing, and you help ’em out with their work! You ease their way and lives as best you can. If you are a companion, you are a team.

  12. 32

    To the ladies (Karmic Equation, Ellen, Jackie B, etc) who wrote about unappreciative/lazy husbands:
    I would really appreciate more details about your past marriages as I do not have any experience in transitioning from a relationship to a marriage. Had you discussed prior to marriage about how each party would contribute financially and logistically to the household in the long-term? Did these guys change from appreciative/team-spirited to entitled/unfair after the wedding? I’m asking this question because I’m wondering whether there were little signs during dating that simply got confirmed in marriage or whether these men changed radically and unexpectedly as the routine settled in. I’m definitively worried about the possibility of seeing a loving and fair boyfriend turn into a lazy and spoiled husband…

  13. 33

    @Helen30 and JackieB31  
    EXACTLY.   Many of my female friends* are either divorcing or have decided to “stick it out” in deeply unhappy marriages where they earn more – MUCH more – money than their husbands but also do at least 80% of the child-care, housework, couple’s social planning, etc.   And none of these husbands are particularly affectionate, grateful or supportive of their wives.    
    In my 2 long-term relationships, it was a similar story.   I was perfectly content to date nice fellows who had only a fraction of my money, but as years passed, they took it for granted that I should play both the “male role” of paying for everything as well as the “female role” of taking care of the household, food, social organizing, travel plans, etc. while they sat back and assumed the role of critic: this is good, this is mediocre, this truly doesn’t pass muster.   I’m scared to death of marriage because I’ve learned that even a sweet, devoted man can change to become more of a dead weight than a life partner.
    *Yes, I do also know a few women married to guys who have heaps more money and although these women have nannies and housekeepers – all paid for with husband’s $ – they complain all the time and aren’t particularly nice to their husbands.   I consider these women terrible spouses, too… I’ve noticed, though, that the long-suffering husbands don’t seem to push for divorce but just accept it as part & parcel of married life.

  14. 34

    Thanks for the feedback and interesting thoughts, folks.

    Jackie B: Good for you!

    David T: Yes, it’s largely a matter of semantics. I think many husbands would think they were being good “companions” by standing in the kitchen nursing a glass of wine and talking with  their wife, who is loading the dishwasher and wiping the table and counters  by herself. While we all  wish  we could agree that a “companion” meant  a true helpmeet, it ain’t always so.

    Fusee: You didn’t ask my opinion (because I’m still married), but I can tell you from a marriage that has been generally happy so far: It was definitely a learning process all the way. Thank God for that, because we started out as a very socially conservative couple (wife obedient to husband, etc) and became staunch liberals along the way. We both grew up in ultra conservative families in which the wife literally was a second-class citizen. So, in our own marriage, it wasn’t just me fighting for my rights with my husband. It was me fighting with myself that I deserved to ask for this or that in the first place, and not to be expected to do XYZ just because I am a woman.

    Do not spend too much of your time worrying or fighting, though. That is something I have learned. Trust that if your partner loves you and is a reasonable person, he or she will respond to a reasonable request.  If he does not, maybe that’s a sign that  it’s not meant to be. For your part, you may find yourself needing to get used to asking, all the time, without shame or fear.

    Henriette: Man oh man. I hear you about the male critic who sits back and feels the right to critique all the work the woman does, that they should have been doing TOGETHER. Welcome to my extended family.  Look F-I-L, if those mashed potatoes aren’t salty enough for you, don’t eat them. And make them yourself next time. Oh, and remember to say thank you to the cook, not just to God.

  15. 35

    @ Helen, amen. This was one of the reasons I left. Don’t get me wrong, I had learned to manage well doing everything around the house, with the help of my children and my parents. But I couldn’t help thinking about what my life would be when my parents become too old and the children move out; what would happen if I’m old, unemployed, too sick to do household work? It got to the point where I was less afraid of growing old alone than I was of growing old with my husband. Not to mention what this lifestyle does to love and respect, on both sides.

  16. 36
    Karmic Equation


    I didn’t realize that until recently that “appreciation” was what was missing in my marriage that contributed to it’s demise. Bascially I didn’t understand that men express their love by doing things (while women express love with words). I didn’t understand that some of things he did do for me was his way of showing his love. At the same time I felt taken for granted (e.g., there was a period of time where he was out of work and I was the primary earner, yet I was the one who was also taking care of either making or getting picking up takeout for dinner).

    I think if you and your man can make a pact to always look for things to appreciate in each other and communicate that appreciation on a regular basis, you should be fine.

  17. 37

    Fusee #33:

    Not sure you can adequately predict a man’s behavior after marriage when you yourself are only 30 and so  inexperienced. At least that was how old I was when I married my ex…..

    No, he was the typical “good man” but not particularly good  partner (a distinction Evan has made). Before I married him it seemed to me he had a good relationship with his mother but a few years in I noticed he was very ambivalent about her and that she had mental health issues aplenty. He also grew up without sisters, which puts men at a disadvantage imo. So too late! lol

    No, I think what happened with us was my being type A back then and decisive and all we slowly over about 10-15 years changed roles wherein I became the male in the relationship and he the female. I nearly always outearned him and he never pushed himself to earn more; I did the bulk of the household repairs (he lacked confidence somehow, though he would try here and there);   I did the long commutes while he became self employed; I stopped cooking after a while ’cause our autistic daughter would cling too much to me in the kitchen, etc. The only way he was prototypically male was in the bedroom.  Our sex life was fantastic so that kept us together, but over time I grew weary of not being appreciated, never supported emotionally. I  seldom had good ideas according to him and we never agreed on much. It was exhausting and lonely for me.

    The final straw came (and this is where “contribution” comes in maybe) when he became the good cop vis a vis our autistic daughter and I became the bad cop, i.e., I did  most of  the emotional and school-related heavy-lifting and he did what I perceived as the “easy” stuff (doctors appts. and chaffeuring).     I see the latter in a lot of marriages though. A friend of mine is divorcing her husband for much the same thing right now (two special needs kids yet)            

    PS I think we made it to 25 years ’cause  after a while I learned that his doing certain chores like mowing the lawn and being protective was his way of showing his love. Women need to be schooled in this.

  18. 38
    sandra mccord

    My husband and I met and married later in life. He is 59 and I am 56 and have been married six years. This is a second marriage for each of us. We both have health issues. He works 15 hours a week in the mornings, I work 36 hours a week shiftwork, afternoons and nights. I do most of the housework, the cleaning, the laundry, the cooking and all the “paperwork”stuff. He will help me with my hobby by letting my chickens in and out and will make me cups of tea and my toast. If I ask him to do something he normally will do it. However, I am begining to feel like the household help. I’m tired, I want a man to be able to see what needs done and get up off his behind and go do it. I am not his mum or his employee. Every day he tells me he loves me, and in his way I think he really does. But I say, show me, don’t just tell me! I go to work exhausted and come home exhausted, I’m begining to wonder what I get of this relationship. I’m tired of always busting a gut and putting everything in to it. He can be grumpy but I suppose I can too. He gets angry when I try and talk to him about this, but I don’t see me doing this for the rest of my life. So when I read some of these articles, I despair. It isn’t all about love and romance. It’s about the nitty gritty of real, daily life. I am just so lost and if anyone can point me in the direction of an article that I can read that will help me in my situation, please do. Thanks for listening, I have had just a quick 2 minutes to get this off my chest. His Lordships dinner is nearly done 🙂

    1. 38.1
      Karmic Equation

      Why don’t you just make him a honey-do list for the week and say “Hey baby, while I’m out at work do you think you could take a stab at knocking out this list? You’re home more than I am, so it would make sense for you to do this.”
      If you’re mad at him for not reading your mind, that’s your problem not his, unless he could read it before he married you and then lost the ability afterwards.
      You’re making a mountain out of a mole hill. Get mad at him only if he refuses to do the things on your honey-do list. And then tell him you can’t handle working outside the home AND inside the home at the pace you’re doing it and not burn out. See what he says then.

    2. 38.2
      Karmic Equation

      And I think (if you have time) — you might want to read the “Five languages of Love” — It sounds as if your husband shows love with “Words of Affirmation” and YOU need to be SHOWN love with “Acts of Service”. Speaking different love languages does make relationships more stressful, especially if you don’t know that’s happening. I believe if you read the book, you’ll feel better and will understand your husband and yourself better. Heck, ask HIM to read it, too! Good luck!

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