Like, Not Love, Can Make Marriages Last

My husband watches Fox News.  He loves Bill O'Reilly.  Mike Huckabee, too.  He's against allowing immigrants to remain in this country.  And he's not too crazy about the Affordable Care Act, or President Obama.

We don't see eye-to-eye on anything.

So how are we still together?  I like him.

I wouldn't have said that  half our relationship ago.  In the beginning, there were many years when it was a competition.   Who could win first?

But then, life intervened.  We had a child, I got cancer, our mothers both developed serious illnesses and died. 

And suddenly winning didn't seem the point anymore.

Of course, everything isn't perfect.  He still makes me furious, pretending he doesn't hear me when I ask him to take out the garbage or vacuum the family room floor.  He still comes home and drops his coat on the floor (as does our son now, too). And his idea of a birthday gift (even a big one) is well, a card, if I'm lucky.

But something has happened.  No question, the honeymoon period is long over.  (To be truthful, I was afraid of him at that time, terrified he'd leave me.)  I didn't like him very much -- he was spoiled and selfish and thought mostly about himself.  But I was very attracted to him and euphoric that he felt the same way about me.  And now something new has taken its place.

Marriages change, of course.  But a new study has found that it's good to get -- and yes, stay -- married.  Turns out being married makes people happier and more satisfied with their lives than those who remain single – particularly during the most stressful periods, like midlife crises.

I'm not going to lie and say I didn't think of divorce, not once, but many times, especially right after our son was born and, as (much) older parents, we couldn't seem to handle the stress.  We fought constantly and I can even remember him shoving me once when I was holding Phillip as an infant, or the time I brought my cellphone with me out jogging, just in case I needed to call 911 when I got home.

Thankfully, these terrible times ended as our son grew older and we adjusted to having him in our house. 

The reason many people are happy being married?  Those who consider their spouse or partner to be their best friend get about twice as much life satisfaction from marriage as others.

I never thought of Larry as my friend.  He was my romantic partner, then my son's father, then someone I knew but didn't want to spend much time with.

Growing up as a Baby Boomer, I was taught to regard men as Other.  Boys were not for liking.  They were for holding the cards over whether you were asked to the Junior Prom (not).  Or deciding  whether you'd spend your 30s in bars or at singles' functions (we didn't have in those days).  Or whether -- biggest card of all -- you got married, or had to spend the rest of your life alone, with cats, giving great gifts to your nieces and nephews.

All my life, boys (and men) carried the power.  Were you pretty enough?  Worth asking out for a date?  Getting married to? Though I was the one, in the end, who decided that.  I told him he had three months to propose or I was evicting him; only my name was on the lease! 

I spent most of my life if not fearing men, then at least giving them a lot of my power.  I did have a lot of male friends (still do), but having my husband as one?  Not so much.

Then a strange thing happened.  Our son stopped going places with us and we began getting to know each other again.  And then an even stranger thing happened.  One night over dinner out, he was talking on and on about some Fox News thing and I realized, okay, so I didn't want to hear about that, but it wasn't making me mad anymore.  It was just a friend talking about something that meant a lot to him. 

Of course I do still get aggravated when I ask him five times to get milk and he comes home without it, or insists on telling me the latest great thing Bill O'Reilly said (not). 

And I do miss our marriage, when it was exciting, but it's like the smoke has cleared.  I can now see my husband for who he is, not someone with power over me.  And I like him.  I really like him.


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