Is Marriage Really That Difficult?

Another celebrity marriage has bitten the dust this week, with the announcement of J.Lo and Marc Anthony’s split.

Headlines around the world are proclaiming the couple fell victim to the clichéd Seven-Year Itch, which scientists revealed a few years back to be nothing more than “we’re bored with our marriage.”

In further alarming statistics, there has been a spike in younger couples (under 30s) who aren’t even making it past the four-year mark in their marriages—the media last year coined the “three year glitch” for these attention-deficit couples who seemingly decide to splash out on a white wedding with all the trimmings, then up-and-leave when things don’t go their way.

If you’re not willing to compromise and you still have time on your side, there’s no compunction for Generation Y when it comes to divorce.

Certainly, our modern society has no stigma attached to divorce. So we have this new trend of practice marriages—”starter marriages”, which are a dry run for the real marriage that will come later in life.

Except it’s not a dry run. It’s the real thing.

You’d think the easier option for the warm-up would just be to move in together without signing the papers, pledging commitment, and making your family buy you expensive towel sets and fancy toasters.

But you have to ask yourself: is marriage really so difficult that you can’t last more than 36 months before contemplating divorce?

Are couples weighing up the pros and cons far too late? Shouldn’t you be sure before you walk down the aisle?

And once you have wed, shouldn’t you do everything in your power to try and make it work before divorcing? Is three years a long enough time to say you really gave it your best shot?

There are obvious exceptions—cheating, lying, abuse are all valid reasons to end a marriage.

But studies showing that couples are more annoyed by their partner’s weight gain and spending habits are what really get me. These aren’t marriage-dissolving issues, surely?

Author Christine Meinecke has hit the nail on the head with her book Everybody Marries the Wrong Person. Every marriage will move from infatuation to disenchantment, she says. And there is no “right person” out there. Marriage cannot succeed without mature love, which is self-responsible.

“Self-responsible spouses do not try to change their partners. Instead, they focus on managing their own insecurities and dark moods, expectations and reactions.”

What genius. Don’t blame someone else for your problems. Be self-aware and be prepared to self-improve. This will obviously work only if your spouse is willing to do the same.

Marriage is hard. I don’t think anyone goes into thinking it will be easy. And you only have a marriage just as long as you’re both willing to work at it. But that’s the point of marriage. That’s exactly what you’re committing to do—work at it, no matter what.

What do you think about three-year marriages? Are couples less willing to try and make it work these days?

About Emma

Emma Merkas is the co-creator of couples' inspiration website $30 Date Night and author of the 'How Was It For You?' relationships and dating column in Australian newspaper, mX. You can also find her at her own blog or on Twitter @30dollardate.


  1. I get so frustrated with the divorce rate in this country. I think that so many people go into marriage nowadays knowing a divorce is an easy fix if things don’t work out. My husband and I have been married for 16 years (in a couple of weeks). We have struggled. We still struggle. But we’ve agreed we will try anything and everything we can before we decide to divorce. Counseling is our next step.

    One thing couple have to realize is that life is going to get in the way. We understand that in order to survive we have to take time together and enjoy each other. We had drifted apart recently and dedicated ourselves to having fun, little moments together. We went to a concert recently and danced together (something my husband doesn’t like to do) and we went and hung out together at the pool, splashing and playing like kids. It’s the little things like this that keep a marriage ALIVE!

    With or without kids, if you commit to someone, you should do everything in your power to keep your marriage together.

  2. Marriage is hard work. You have to work at the relationship and just because you put the white dress away doesn’t mean the hard part is done. My husband and I celebrated our 1 year anniversary in April and we both agreed that the first year of marriage was tough. But we persevered and we worked through it together.

    I also think for some people its easier to have divorce as an option rather than looking internally and realizing that they might be the problem. Its easier to start over than to work on yourself and your faults. Its not my fault, it was his/her fault why our marriage didn’t work. I also think there is too much pressure placed on the wedding and not the marriage. A picture perfect wedding day does not make a happy marriage.

    I also think my generation (I’m Gen Y) has little to no coping skills. We have great parents who struggled and overcame obstacles and wanted to ensure their children did not go through the same thing. As a result, we don’t know how to cope when things get tough so we call mom and dad or we cut and run. We’ve never had to endure anything, so why endure a marriage once it gets uncomfortable?

  3. The three year marriages are horrible. To be honest I think it has a lot to do with greed and this new generation I happen to be apart of (I am Gen Y as well.) Being that I have worked in retail and marketing, we are always saying, ‘remember WII.FM.’ What’s In It For ME. I think this is the mind frame of a lot of people.

    So instead of looking at what they can put into the marriage to make it better and happier. They look at what they think they should be getting out of the marriage to make themselves happier.

  4. georgina says:

    Wow 🙂 I’m intrigued by these comments.

    I personally think Gen Y has a pretty average example to go off — the Baby Boomers and Gen X pioneered divorce and brought us to the point where one in three marriages ended in breakup. If your parents couldn’t work out their differences and show you, by example, how marriage is “supposed” to succeed, then you may find it difficult to access that information, or even know that you lack it.

    That said, I’m a bit of a die-hard romantic, so these ideas of people breaking up over spending habits just seem a bit ludicrous to me. Where’s the love in that scenario? Sounds like they made a pretty dumb decision in the first place…

  5. Hi Emma,
    I believe that most couples go into marriage with unrealistic expectations of themselves and others. At the rate of thing maybe only 1/3 of people will opt for marriage.

    People are always evolving and changing as human beings, the person we were when we met and got married may not be the person that we are now.

    Maybe marriage is no longer practical, perhaps we could re-adjust the rules.

    “Self-responsible spouses do not try to change their partners. Instead, they focus on managing their own insecurities and dark moods, expectations and reactions.” This line is brilliant btw. 🙂

  6. This is so true. We all need to be responsible for our actions. We also need to nurture and respect our partners. Hmmm I notice so far 1 in 6 respondants are female. Marriage should encourage an equal amount of effort to make it work. Just a thought.,

  7. It is a shame some of the quick divorces. I wonder how those people handle other difficulties. Is the problem really divorce or is it a more broad problem with society not willing to work at things when the going gets tough? Not to get too philosophical, but I think high divorce rate is just another symptom of a “soft” society.

  8. Personally, my husband and I are going through the “seven year itch”. For us it consists of me losing my job, us having three children in four years…. and I could go on. What is important is what is keeping us together. The number one thing is the pre-marital counseling we recieved prior to our marriage. People make fun of the Catholic Church and the strict beliefs they have. But Aaron and I are happy they were so strict and that we followed them. We knew in the beginning what our major communication issues would be because of our premarital counseling. It has made it easier for both of us to communicate and stay together, especially now that we have four children. We will celebrate 9 years together this January, and although we may not always be on the same page, our love for each other has never changed. And we have never thought of divorcing…… We have only thought of how thankful we were for the premarital counseling we received prior to our marriage!

  9. Janet hutchens says:

    I think Gen Y doesn’t have an understanding of what marriage or building a life together is all about. The pressure of having “that” wedding and then having to have “that” car and then needing to have “that” apartment.. Living off credit cards or borrowing money off parents for a lifestyle that they can’t afford or a mortgage they simply cannot afford to maintain. I see it all the time. My good friends daughter is wanting to divorce her husband because he spends so much time at work.. But they have incredible bills to pay and lifestyle to maintain… What do you want?

  10. starter marriages? first time I have heard of that! how ridiculous! I certainly wouldn’t buy them a wedding gift!

  11. the problem is many people are not very compatible and they find this out once they get married. but that does not mean they will divorce. many couple stay married forever even though they are not compatible and their emotional needs never met. that is why marriage is “hard”. marriage really does not have to be hard, two people have to be mature and have experience.
    the other problem i find is that many people think that if a couple have been together 3+ years the next step is marriage. i think people in the US should have more long term relationships. they dont have to jump into marriage. girls romanticize weddings. i think its sad how they think of marriage. they think its just about their day, they are the ‘princess’ for the day, with their 3,000 dollar white dress, and its the thought of being chosen! then reality hits them.

  12. I don’t know if I’m just insanely lucky or what, but I have never thought marriage was hard. I got married at 22 and am still married (yep, to the same man!) now, 11 years later. Yes, we’ve had our fights and arguments, but there has never been a time when we have been “having problems” to such an extent as to think of splitting. I hope there never is!

  13. sadbuttrue says:

    So, really and truly, when the going gets tough, what would you do? I have one life to live and I want to be happy for the most part! I am NOT going to hold on to “marriage” while dying inside! That’s me! Married for a year and 13 days exactly…So far I have been happy.. for the most part 🙂

  14. I feel like a total failure…………I am on my 4th marriage! This one was so I would not end up on the streets after my 3rd one kicked me out after being injured at work with no savings or family to lean on.

    Now after only 5 months I want to take my life………………………how pathetic is that?

    • To Danya: Believe in yourself. You can get your life back together!! Maybe being a single woman is what you need to find your inner strength. You don’t need to have a man. Use any resources you can find in your community to get on your feet financially. I’m sorry to read that you’re feeling so desperate.

  15. Mine was an arranged marriage. I was only 22. My husband is 7 years older. We never even talked properly before marriage. He has so many expectations of me. Its been 9 years two kids I dont know how this marriage will last. Marriage is very very very Hard!!!

  16. I think some couples enter into marriage frivolously without considering important knowledge about each other and committing to what it’s going to entail.
    Also it’s worth considering that the older generations marriage structure had the wife relying on their husband, without education or a means to leave. Their steadfast relationships are not necessarily indicative of happier coupling.
    I believe it’s complicated why marriage isn’t working and young people today approach marriage the wrong way often.

  17. My husband and I have been married seven years and only recently my husband told me he’s not happy, hasn’t been happy for a few years, yet never told me anything was wrong. He has been so distant towards me lately and I knew something was wrong so I, as usual, started the conversation. What came out of him was hard to hear. I know I am not perfect, but some of the things he is angry at me about are simply not fair. His expectations of me as a wife and marriage in general are unrealistic. He is very closed off emotionally. I had a lot more relationship and dating experience than him. I know how important communication is in a marriage. I have to constantly ask him questions and he never wants to open up. He’s a workaholic, I’m a stay at home mom. Educated, but he wanted me to stay home with the kids. He didn’t want me to work. We don’t really fight all that often due to the fact he just bottles it all inside and avoids confrontation.

    I know we are very different people and we are contemplating divorce. I took my vows seriously and hadn’t thought things had gotten to this point, but he obviously is feeling the seven year itch. It hurts. I don’t want my kids to go through a divorce. My parents fought all the time and that word came up a lot in my home growing up, yet they’re still together. I saw friends of mine go through it. He has NO IDEA how awful it is. So here I am looking for marriage advice on the web and looking at books on Amazon cause I want to save our marriage and he refuses to do anything. He’s just plain lazy. I don’t mean to sound negative towards him, but it’s the truth. When things in his life get tough, he just bails. I’m not ready to end it, I know I’ll be fine, and actually make it out better than him cause I have a lot more life experience, but it’s not what I want. He has no idea what it’s really like. None of his friends watched their parents divorce, several of my friends did.

    His words to me hurt. He brought up things that happened when we dated. Things I apologized for and hadn’t been done since, yet he was still holding onto those negative feelings? That is completely opposite of me. I’m an optimist, he’s a pessimist, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make it work. How can I get him to make an effort to save our marriage. He always relies on me to make all the difficult decisions in our marriage. He works as a manager of his father’s business, a job he basically inherited and will always have. It’s a good job though and I respect him for it. He pays all the bills and I do everything else. I need him to take responsibility. I knew marriage was difficult from what I saw from my parents. I don’t think we have a bad marriage but he has caught me completely off guard.

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    It has been a wonderful experience and I have learnt very much, it was never really a marriage though.

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