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The most disturbing truths about marriage, catalogued

AP Photo / Alexander F. Yuan
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Published This article is more than 2 years old.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What’s the most disturbing truth about marriage? Answer by Ellen Vrana, writer.

The most disturbing truth about marriage is how the actual thing is so vastly different than what it’s purported to be.

Marriage is not unconditional love.

There is hate. Resentment. There is bitterness, isolation, betrayal, and pain. I don’t feel love for my husband 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Nor does he.

Marriage has inertia.

There are times when we cannot access our love. Sometimes, it’s marriage—not love—that keeps us married. This thing manifest in shared cutlery and mattresses, Thanksgiving rituals, and holiday cards—this thing sometimes keeps us together.

Marriage is not the agent nor the perfection of you.

It doesn’t fill your cracks and makes you complete. It’s not what you’re missing in life. It’s not the fulfillment of your true self. Marriage doesn’t do anything; it—perhaps—allows you to do things.

Marriage is not enough.

Marriage is not a signal of success or achievement to the world. I’ve done this, I’m married, stop worrying, stop doubting. Perhaps for a while, but not for long. Not for ever. The What’s next? questions persist. And nothing—not even marriage—is immune.

Marriage can be a bad thing.

Marriage endures beyond lies, beyond broken trust, broken dreams—if you want it to, it can. Marriages—good marriages, ones that work—must exist in dark spaces too, not just the light.

Marriage has no baseline.

With a few exceptions, there is no standard for what is good, normal, and acceptable—and what is not. No one can tell you what to do with it, about it, it is entirely your responsibility to manage your marriage. There is no right answer so don’t seek one.

Marriage is bigger than you. Bigger than both of you.

If my answer sounds like marriage is this mythical thing that cuddles in bed with you and your spouse and at times steals sheets—that’s because it is. Well, it’s not mythical, but it’s there, amorphous. It’s the third thing, between you, in your relationship.

It’s a responsibility, a commitment, a power, an profound intimacy. Ensuring we are seen, witnessed and bound to another before we expire. More than any other social institution we have as humans. (Paying taxes notwithstanding.)

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