Why does marriage lose its beauty over time? Why are so many men and women either unhappy overall in their marriage, or report that some days are good and some days not so good? Why are so many people not feeling the joy of marriage, of being with the person they chose to spend the rest of their life with? What is the truth behind the WHY? Really? And . . . is there anything that can be done about this problem? Specifically can couples shift from not happy to happy?
The theory of chicken parmesan-
Just the other day I was having an analytical discussion with an old friend and colleague about this very topic that so many couples struggle with. He shared with me his theory of; chicken parmesan. It is relevant for many and thus I wanted to share it with you, my readers.
If you enjoy eating chicken parmesan, in fact, if it is a food you really love, you likely get happy just thinking about a delicious well-cooked fabulous meal of chicken parm. The local deli/pizza place in your neighborhood serves sandwiches, pizza, chicken parm, mozzarella sticks, snacks and drinks. You love chicken parm, but at the local deli it’s not the best chicken parm you have had, so on occasion you will eat there but eating there often is not so enjoyable. What if you married the chicken parm from the local deli/pizza place? Likely one can understand how early on and over time your enjoyment of marriage would be on the low scale, if you were rating your level of joy, of happiness within the category of marriage. Why? Because if the chicken parm is not so great to begin with, and it is the only meal you eat day after day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and dessert, likely you will not experience joy thus you will not experience fulfillment in your marriage.
So, here is the question; rather if you married the chicken parm from the upscale Italian restaurant that is known for its specialty of delicious chicken parm, although early on you would be quite happy in your marriage, would you still be over time? Is a great dish of chicken parm, the best even, still great and make you feel happy inside over time if it is the only meal you eat?
Perhaps if we compare the 2 scenarios; the person who married the initially great chicken parm will be happier in marriage longer over time and overall, than the person who married the initially low end chicken parm. But, ultimately is it “sameness” that just simply becomes monotonous, boring? Is the lack of difference in and of itself the ‘why’ behind why so many men and women are unhappy in their marriage, regardless of whether the chicken parm was fabulous or not so fabulous from the onset? Do humans get tired of eating the same meal day in and day out even if it is a yummy meal? Perhaps the not so fabulous chicken parm leads the spouse to not feel happy more days then not and for a longer period of time. In contrast the initially fabulous chicken parm and thus still fabulous in many ways yet lacking because it is the same chicken parm day in and day out, leads that spouse to report that there are good days and not such good days. In essence, rather than reporting a complete and total marital dissatisfaction, this spouse reports marriage is a journey with days that are not so good and others that are. Whereas the not so fabulous chicken parm scenario the spouse would likely report complete marital dissatisfaction.
If your desire and plan is to remain married, then in the case where you married the chicken parm that was not so great for you from the start (certainly one person’s not so great is another person’s great, but let’s not digress), the solution would be to find greatness within the chicken parm. You see, even though the whole chicken parm is not fabulous, when you dissect the chicken parm, you likely will find aspects that you enjoy. Perhaps when you take the cheese off the chicken parm you realize you really do like the cheese even though the chicken you are not so thrilled with. Or, perhaps it is the sauce that is yummy, but regretfully not the chicken nor the cheese. Maybe the particular pepper on the chicken parm you like (yup, that’s really finding something small that is positive I know, I know). When being mindful of truly making the time each day to consider just but one ingredient within the chicken parm that you like, that you value, that you appreciate, that you find attractive, perhaps that method/strategy can help you to find the small joys about your spouse, to help with how you feel about her and the marriage. Thereby leading you to feel a notch happier about your marriage. Another alternative is to accept what is. And yet another alternative is to discover a next phase of relationship with this person (e.g., similar interests and enjoy the time together). And finally another option is to do the combination platter of; finding the small positives, acceptance of what is, and discovering interests together and relishing in those interests/time together.
In the case where you married the chicken parm that was great initially but has lost its luster, the solution is to create spice and add it to the chicken parm. Add an ingredient here or there to spice things up is not an attempt to change the chicken parm. Rather you still value the base of the chicken parm as its whole is delicious. You are simply bored of the sameness of it. So, throw some garlic on it. Perhaps add crushed up spinach to the sauce.
Those who are married and plan to remain married over time, and are currently married for several years I urge you to spice up YOUR chicken parm self. Remember, if you take ownership of enhancing the person who you are, growing as an individual through the years, then you will not become the boring chicken parm to your spouse.
The theory of chicken parm is certainly one theory, in my opinion one of several theories as to why marriages lose its beauty over time. As a marriage therapist for 20 years, I agree with the theory of monotony as a significant component that leads some couples to feel blah about their marriage. Provided below are several other reasons for the decline of happiness in one’s marriage that I have seen through the years in my work with couples who come in for marital counseling.
Additional reasons for the decline of happiness in one’s marriage includes:
- Expectations (What you thought marriage was going to look like and the reality of what marriage is – is quite different. This consistent disappointment can be quite devastating. And/or who you thought your spouse was, is different than the reality of who he actually is)
- Your spouse does not treat you special nor with value, and/or mistreats you
- There is a lack of marital relational connection
- Lack of intimacy (Emotional, physical, sexual) or although intimacy exists it is monotonous/lacking in exciting fun intimacy in that it has become boring over time
- Addiction, mental illness, physical illness
- Communication problems (E.g., feeling misunderstood, consistent arguing lacking in conflict resolution, disharmonious/unhealthy communication patterns)
- Too much time together (With many jobs being over the internet, or in-home run businesses, or family run businesses, couples report feeling “suffocated” by being together too often. The lack of individuation and/or time to ‘miss’ the other person is the piece of this puzzle)
- Not enough time together (With many jobs requiring travel, some couples do not have enough time together to enjoy quality fun time together, so they feel disconnected from one another over time)
- Lack of partnership (Parenting, financial obligations, home)
- Business partnership (The focus over time became on all of the business aspects of marriage e.g., parenting, chores. The passionate fun friendship/dating side of the marriage got lost)
- Hurt/Trust (Being hurt by your spouse by their actions leading to a lack of trust e.g., infidelity)
- Annoying and/or unattractive qualities/traits in your spouse that either didn’t bother you early on, or bothered you but you figured would improve over time. It is these traits that when living with for years grinds at your nerves
If you desire concrete do-able tips to help your marriage go from surviving to thriving, I invite you to take a sneak peek into my latest book; Dr. Karen’s Marriage Manual. I provide insight, strategy, and answers to the most common questions and problems men and women have at any and all phases and stages of marriage. Learn how to have a long term healthy and happy marriage now. No marriage is easy day in and day out. Most marriages go through their ups and downs, their challenges. It is normal to experience a lack of joy at times during your marriage. The key is, if a few days pass and you are feeling like you are not in the mood to do what it takes to help your marriage – do what it takes anyway. Rally, get on your game face, find within you the strength and courage to take action and be the person that helps the marriage. Marriage is a journey, it requires effort. So, if your plant of marriage is dry and you have not watered it in a while, get your watering can and water the plant of marriage. Revive it. Marriage can go from unhappy to happy with work, with effort.