Unhappy marriages are prevalent. Relationship articles outline all of the reasons that people hate their spouses. A narrative is created that marriage ends in misery, and our disgust is aimed at our “other half.”
The belief that it’s “normal” to hate your spouse is hazardous for people in unhealthy relationships. Believing that it is the case for everyone leads people to end up and stay in the wrong partnerships and marriages.
Terrance Real, a family therapist for over 25 years, discusses this topic in his book “Us,” in which he dives into how couples cannot resolve their feelings about what they hoped their lives would be and the disillusionment around marriage that leads to marital hate.
“The disillusionment phase is critical. It’s the stuff of intimacy. It’s the collision of your imperfections and how we handle it. Our culture doesn’t equip people to deal with that disillusionment. It’s rough. It’s dark. I’ve run around the country for 20 years, talking about what I call “normal marital hatred” and not one person has ever come backstage to ask what I meant by that.” — Terrance Real, NY Times Article
Marital hatred can potentially tear apart any couple, and the psychological and long-term effects are devastating. The overall sentiment becomes negative; both couples view each other as enemies, creating an environment where love and partnership cannot exist.
Knowing that marital hate is a common pitfall, how can couples set themselves up for success and pick a partner they won’t despise in a few years?
Don’t focus on the timeline; focus on compatibility.
Marriage is often portrayed as a battlefield, day in and day out, as demonstrated in this TikTok.
Choosing a partner that I liked seemed like a no-brainer. However, there were relationships I had in the past that felt like we were constantly at arms with each other. What was the issue? We were not compatible.
Are there moments when my husband and I fight or become frustrated? Absolutely. Do we both say things in the heat of the moment, and do we have to work on our behaviors? Absolutely.
However, when you are with someone you can get along with 99% of the time and quickly work through arguments by seeing eye to eye, marriage will be much smoother.
Paint yourself a picture of the realities of marriage.
As of this year, according to the most recent US divorce data, between 35–50% of first marriages end in divorce, and second marriages are at 60–70%.
The odds aren’t great. So, if you decide that marriage is still a path you want to pursue, you must ensure that rose-colored glasses aren’t blinding your view.
Deciding that you will (ideally) spend the rest of your life with one person is one, if not the most significant, decision you will ever make if you are genuinely in it for the long haul. There will be good times and times that test every ounce of each other’s strength and partnership. Please don’t go into it expecting anything but the reality of life, which is unpredictable and rarely goes according to plan.
Men, you have to be willing to go to therapy, too.
Kelsey, one of my neighbors, is in a tumultuous marriage with her husband, Chris. The birth of their first child led to stress and issues that hadn’t existed before, and Kelsey isn’t doing well. She showed up one night on my porch and asked if I had a few minutes to talk. It was apparent she had already been drinking based on the wine stains on her lips.
Kelsey explained that she was in therapy and kept saying, “I need to fix my issues,” and that “Chris is supportive of me going to therapy.” I asked gently why he wasn’t going with her, and she just laughed and said, “he would never.”
Statistically, women attend therapy more than men, who are prone to turn to distractions such as alcohol and other unhealthy vices.
Both parties have to be equally invested in making the marriage work for it to work. One person cannot carry the weight of an entire relationship forever.
Don’t use your partner as an emotional punching bag.
Sometimes, I worry that my husband receives the worst part of me. Friends, coworkers, and clients get the bright, sunny version, and then it can be tempting to let him bear the brunt of my frustrations.
Targeting your partner with anger and aggression is the most unhealthy and potentially abusive way of making them your emotional punching bag. However, what is often overlooked is how our emotions affect our relationships when constantly venting about our lives.
Another form of an emotional onslaught, venting, can be healthy, but too much can be a negative onslaught and hurt our relationships. After all, who bears the brunt of our venting at the end of the day? Our partners.
All of this is not to say that marriage is without its challenges. Choosing to spend the rest of your life with someone will be incredibly difficult. There will be hard seasons due to the curveballs and unexpected twists and turns that life throws at everyone; however, although examples of unhealthy/toxic relationships may bombard us, that shouldn’t mean that we view that as the norm.
If you partner with someone you like, life will go a lot smoother, so use the tools above to prevent contempt or hatred from creeping into your marriage.