Why long-term partners split after getting married
SANDRA and her now husband Sam have been together a total 20 years, starting when she was in community college. He was the gentleman who would pick her up when he saw her at the bus stop, and because he worked near her school he guaranteed her a ride. Those rides developed into a friendship, then a relationship. The years that would follow saw them moving in together, having three children, and merging their lives. Three years ago, frustrated that they were getting older and weren’t ‘legal’, Sandra got the papers together, bought a dress on Amazon, booked at date at the RGD, and took Sam to get married. Today, again frustrated, she wants a divorce.
“He always told me that he didn’t need a piece of paper to consider me his wife, and now I understand his mindset,” Sandra shared. “We were happier before; now it just seems like I’m tied down and I don’t have options,” she added. “I look at him lying down in the bed everyday, smoking and expecting me to bring his dinner to him, and I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into.”
It’s not unusual for long-time partners, who are together for years and who decide to get married, to get cold feet and consider divorce, says counsellor David Anderson.
“Marriage comes with certain expectations — you expect that things will get better because marriage is supposed to be this move to something better, something greater, that ‘happily ever after’. If nothing changes except the fact that you had a party and now own a gold ring and changed your name, pretty soon the novelty wears off.”
He said usually the misgivings and the regret happen with partners who expected something to change, instead of the same old, same old being the reality.
“You have this idea in your head about how a husband or wife should be, and should act, and expect marriage to elevate you, but if you’re going home after the wedding to the same, exact routine you’ll wonder why you bothered,” he explained.
“And then some people feel trapped, feel the noose around their necks because not only are you bored, you’re legally tied to this boredom.”
He said there is nothing wrong with having expectations, but these should be communicated to your partner even if you think, or assume, that they should know.
“In this case the number of years you’ve been together, the experiences you’ve had, whatever binds you together — kids or house — these don’t matter. You still need premarital counselling and marital guidance because marriage is a big deal and a huge step.”
He warns couples like Sandra about the below:
No, the sex will not get better
“Don’t go into it thinking that things will get freakier, that your partner will fulfil all your fantasies, or that they’ll change,” Anderson said. “If you want changes you have to talk about what you want — don’t expect a ceremony to transform your partner.”
Trust won’t necessarily be stronger
“Don’t go into marriage thinking that trust is going to be so much stronger between you just because of the vows. If either party was a player before or was untrustworthy before, a ceremony won’t change that.”
The relationship won’t necessarily improve
“Marriage isn’t a band-aid to make him start helping out around the home more, help with the kids more, or suddenly turn her into Martha Stewart in the kitchen. Nothing will improve unless you set standards beforehand.”
Realistically, all of us have expectations about what we want in marriage, and if those are not met by our partners — no matter if we tolerated unmet expectations before — we will want out, Anderson said. “What you will put up with as a girlfriend, you won’t as a wife, and vice versa. So, know what you expect and document what you expect before you tie the knot. Know what marriage means to you and what your dealbreakers are, but ultimately, communicate this to your spouse.