Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The Fall of the Rebel Angels (1562)

So, how are you? How is [insert spouse name here]? I ask because this is usually right around the time that people at least start to really fall out of love. Some people by now feel thoroughly out of love. This is when couples begin to really find one another annoying, and wonder if this marriage thing was a good idea. Most of me hopes that that is not you and [insert spouse name here].

But another part hopes that you are…normal. No, I don’t want painful things for you, but, for most couples, now the real work of marriage starts. And that work sucks. And that work is difficult. Oh, and that work is really, really rewarding.

This is a time when some couples find comfort and trust enough in a relationship, and, with that nice context, the demons stir. Past hurts, traumas, pains, etc–they all start to turn up the volume. And why? Because now things are actually good enough for people to deal with them. Early in the relationship–things are too good, too easy, and there is too much sex. Later, there is just enough trust and friendship that, well, it is as if the unconscious mind wants to fix some…stuff…and so all that stuff starts to percolate up. For some it is unresolved sexual trauma. For some it is conflicts with authority or power, and for some it is anxiety in many forms. It is odd how, when things are at their best, we are finally at a place to deal with the worst. And even if there aren’t serious issues or trouble, there are always conflicts over money or priorities or having kids or in-law issues or career conflicts or exactly 10,000 more things. And when the initial glow of love has faded, everything has a darker, gray, gloomy look.

Of course some couples get angry, feel cheated, resent each other, and move toward literal or emotional separation. Some start to look for escape hatches—work, kids, church, online, video games, book clubs, old self-soothing methods, or even an affair (emotional, physical, or some combination). Some struggle, not knowing what is going on, lost in confusion. Some have kids hoping that will help/fix. Eeeekkkk! Some do research, meditate, pray, examine, get help, and reach out to strengthen the bond, the friendship that will be the basis for some wonderful, wonderful growth. It will be hard. It will have its ups and downs.

One difficult thing to get over is how your real marriage differs from what you imagined or what you seemed to start off with or what you think others have and you deserve. It takes time, but the sooner you get over that illusion, that stuff, the better off you will be.
But if you take the risks, do the work, make the effort, love and appreciate your spouse’s efforts, great things can happen. The lives you live together and the demons you dispel, especially the ones that neither chase off alone but both can cast out together, that could be one of your life’s greatest accomplishment.

Peter and Molly live in Utah where they live a perfectly privileged life with their beautiful and perfect modestly dressed 3.5 children.

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