marriage and family therapist

The Courtship Ends, Roommate Behavior Begins, The Marriage Ends. Why?

If you feel like the “spark” that once lit your marriage has gone out over time, you are not alone.

After the dating and courtship process ends, many couples find themselves in a relationship that feels completely different from their pre-marital life. The grand gestures stop, the newness wears off, and the realities and stresses of life begin to sink in. The reasons behind this behavior are varied and often individual, but examining the “why” is an important step toward correcting the problem.

Novelty vs. Longevity

One of the biggest reasons couples struggle with the dating-to-marriage transition is that they have grown accustomed to a glamorous, romanticized version of what their life together will be. While marriage can be wonderful, it can also be incredibly difficult—and you have to be able to love your spouse for better or for worse.

During the courtship process—especially if your relationship began fairly recently—everything seems to feel new and exciting. When you are still getting to know a person, you tend to be on your best behavior. It is natural to want to impress the person you are dating, even if that sometimes means putting your best interests aside. In the early stages of relationships, we will often go above and beyond what is expected of us mentally, physically, and financially in order to maintain a level of excitement and novelty in our romance—a level that is typically not sustainable over a longer period of time.

The early stages of relationships are fun and exciting, but problems can arise if one or both parties hold their partner to an unrealistic standard. If your time spent dating was filled with frequent vacations, lavish gifts, uninterrupted time, and little responsibility, it is unlikely that the challenging and often ordinary routine of marriage will live up to your expectations. If you and your partner enter marriage completely unaware of how your relationship will need to bend and mold to fit your new circumstances, things are almost guaranteed to be rocky from the start.

For many people, the inability to maintain their dating “self” often leads to feelings of fear or inadequacy, causing them to give up and not really try at all—landing them too far on the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead, it is important to create a marriage that combines the excitement and anticipation of dating life with the consistency and strength of married life.

Finding the middle ground

If your marriage currently feels more like a roommate situation and less like the passionate, spontaneous love affairs seen in movies, it does not mean all hope is lost. It is normal and natural for relationships to change and mature when transitioning from courtship to marriage—but too many marriages end as a result of partners becoming complacent. Once you have “won over” your significant other, it is tempting to believe that the hard work is done and that you no longer have to try or go out of your way to make him or her feel loved. Ideally, however, marriages should combine elements of courtship life with the new traditions and expectations of post-wedding days.

If you feel that you and your spouse have become stuck in your marriage, keep in mind that the courtship process does not end entirely with the exchange of “I Do’s.” Long after the wooing years have ended, it is important to keep dating and getting to know your spouse. Marriages fall apart when one or both parties stop putting in the effort required. When thoughtfulness and sincerity leave a marriage, love is not far behind. While it is unrealistic to expect that every kiss, every birthday, or every date will be as exciting as it once was, you can breathe life back into a static marriage by making the effort to continually win one another over. By extending the courtship process far into marriage, roommate behavior and unhappy spouses will become far less prevalent.

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