Why is Marriage So Hard? (Pt. 1)

why is marriage so hard

Writing this has been heavy on my heart for the last several months.

Tommy and I are almost 10 years into marriage and now more than ever, we’re seeing friends, acquaintances, and hearing stories of strangers around us depart from their marriages.

Hearing about a marriage falling apart literally breaks my heart. For the adults, for the kids, and for every single person involved.

So why is marriage so?

Most of Us Are Ill-Prepared For Marriage

This is entirely an excerpt from “The Meaning of Marriage” by Tim Keller, but I couldn’t have explained it better:

It is hard to get a good perspective on marriage. We all see it through the inevitably distorted lenses of our own experience. If you came from an unusually stable home, where your parents had a good marriage, that may have “made it look easy” to you, and so when you get to your own marriage you may be shocked by how much it takes to forge a lasting relationship.

On the other hand, if you have experienced a bad marriage or divorce, either as a child or an adult, your view of marriage may be overly wary and pessimistic. You may be too expectant of relationship problems and, when they appear, be too ready to say, “Yup, here it goes, ” and to give up.

In other words, any kind of background experience of marriage may make you ill-equipped for it yourself.

And frankly, two people entering marriage will often have baggage- big or small. It may be woundedness from childhood, past relationships, or any type of trauma.

Why should two people with chips on their shoulders become angels the moment they get married? (psst..they don’t)

But that is the beauty of marriage. To come together and bring healing and wholeness to each other through a pruning process.

We Expect Too Much Of Our Spouse (and Vice Versa)

Painfully, so many of us have the wrong expectations for marriage.

We’re shaped by our culture and we see marriage as a “consumer relationship”. We’re the consumer and our spouse is the giver.

There’s one problem with that….they likely see the relationship the same way.

What can my spouse give me?

How are they supporting my goals?

In other words, the marriage we often want isn’t based on self-denial, but self-fulfillment. Your spouse will need to meet your needs while making almost no claims on you.

The biggest problem to this belief is no such person exists.

We Got Married To a Stranger

Before you stop reading, let me explain!

If you think you marry the right person then marriage would be easy and natural. (And in the beginning, it may feel that way.)

I mean if you really worked hard to screen your prospects and ended up with a good one then it shouldn’t ever feel this hard.  Right?!

But so often with a “great” person, it does. And when it does, you’re quick to conclude you married the wrong person.

And in some regard, you did.

As quoted from The Meaning of Marriage, “Marriage brings you into more intense proximity to another human being than any other relationship can. Therefore, the moment you marry someone, you and your spouse begin to change in profound ways and you can’t know ahead of time what those changes will be.”

In short, marriage profoundly changes us and we won’t know how until we get there.

Think about it. How can you add more complexities (job, kids, finances, stress) to marriage and expect to remain the same?

The idea that you married a perfectly compatible person doesn’t exist.

Our character and personal development are fluid and we will continually have to work to stay in love with our spouse. Just because you know your spouse today, you have no idea how you (or they) may be in months or years.

Choosing to love your spouse regardless will push your marriage past this threshold or leave you disenchanted.

We Can’t Face Ourselves

Very often it is extremely easy to demonize our spouse because they are the source, cause, and perpetual reason for our marriage problems.

The problem, however, with blaming them is that we lose focus on our imperfections and the very things we are most empowered to change.

For me, I’ve found that marriage has exposed character flaws and sinful patterns that I’ve long held onto. No one had ever contested them, so they naturally stayed unchanged. 

The beauty of marriage is that your spouse will get to see the best and worst in you. And you know who it affects the most? (Yep, you guessed it)

Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws.

Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it.

I say this as much to myself as I would say to you, but check the plank in your own eyes first.

You’re Really Selling Marriage To Me, Cam

While this might seem like a grim outlook on marriage, that is not my intention at all.

For those in marriage or about to embark on it, I want us all to have an honest look at some of these dangerous assumptions we take into marriage.

It is freaking hard work, but totally worth it.

I was originally going to sum this post up by mentioning all the great things that you can only find inside of marriage but realized it would be way too long.

And I want to keep you in suspense.

So Pt. 2 dropping out next week.




  1. Sometimes a marriage is just over, and that’s not necessarily tragic. It’s ok to outgrow people, to end something that’s not working. I don’t want a marriage like the “olden days” where women had to tolerate philandering, abuse, unwanted pregnancy, or simply an unsupportive environment because they didn’t have any other options. I don’t want your granny’s struggle love.

    And yes, a good marriage is 90% finding the right partner. People try to fit square pegs into round holes and then talk about how “hard” marriage is. Yeah it’s hard if you don’t choose a good partner. With the right partner, you can work together to overcome life’s challenges and enjoy life’s sweetness. I divorced my first husband because he was abusive. I met my now-husband several years later, and it was like coming home. 13 years together, and never a fight. I get to spend every day with my best friend who is the most hilarious, kind, intelligent, caring person I know, and a fantastic partner and parent. I feel so bad for a lot of people I know who are just in “okay” marriages. Both parties are nice people, good parents, pleasant, hard workers, responsible citizens, etc. But they don’t click in the way that good partners click. What they have is workable but not entirely satisfying, but our society tells them to “keep working at it” like there’s some magical fix on the horizon. Just choose wisely from the start, and if you choose poorly, it’s ok to cut your losses and break away. There are better things out there for you, and there’s nothing noble about suffering for some silly patriarchal ideal of staying together just because.

    1. Hi Happy Person, I’m very glad you’re in a much better marriage and I 100% agree there are just some instances where it makes sense to leave the marriage- such as in the case of abuse (physically, mentally, emotionally). Maybe where we differ is instead of focusing on finding the “right partner” I lean towards more becoming the “right partner” and through that, both people change for the better.

      I also think it’s hard to “choose wisely” as people change (including me and you) so how someone today is not necessarily how they’ll be 10 years from now. (I agree that there are signs early on that might be red flags and for sure steer clear.) I appreciate your insights and constructive discussion 🙂