Why Isn't Marriage As Exciting As Dating?

Why isn’t marriage as exciting as dating?

By Lisa Earle McLeod

Singles searching for a spouse often believe that matrimony is the golden ticket to a lifetime of great sex, matching towels, funky artwork and meaningful conversations, kind of like a Pottery Barn catalogue come to life.

But those of us mired in the muck of real marriage know that once the hormone-induced endorphine buzz wears off, marriage is pretty much your same old boring life. Only now, there’s another person who wants space on the couch. When I was younger, a married friend of mine once said, “You know you’re really married when you quit holding your farts in.” She later divorced. So just to be on the safe side, I’m still holding mine in.

Yet despite my no audible gas policy, I find that marriage is more challenging than dating. That’s because dating is about possibilities, whereas marriage is about reality. When you’re dating, you can easily picture your future spouse flitting about the house in lingerie or cooking dinner in a tux. But after you’re married, and you’ve watched their Saturday toenail-clipping ritual for six months, it’s sort of hard to well up a vision of them in formal wear.

Imaginary, yet-to-be born children are always snuggly, well-mannered and impeccably dressed. Real children fight over an empty paper towel roll, insist on wearing the same grubby T-shirt for eight days straight and have a knack for knowing the moment you shut the bathroom or bedroom door.

During the courtship phase, your sweetheart’s funny stories, work woes and kooky relatives are all part of the fascinating getting-to-know-you process. Yet after you’ve heard him or her whine about their boss for three years and retell the deviled egg story 67 times, their personal thoughts are more annoying than interesting.

Whenever I talk about the truths of marriage, the married women in the audience all nod their heads and smile, but the singles tend to think I’m some jaded, middle-aged woman who didn’t do it right. A little secret part of me wishes I could track them down in 10 years to ask them how their storybook is going.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being married. (Well, most of time.) But, just like a career or parenting or anything else worthwhile, parts of it are not so pretty and a lot of hard work. Nobody fantasizes about dealing with aging in-laws or arguing over child-rearing techniques when picturing their yet-to-be-found spouse pouring them a glass of wine or feeding them brie from a wicker picnic basket.

I married shortly after college, and although I hadn’t really believed in the Prince Charming myth since I wore Bonnie Bell lip gloss and sported wings in my hair, I was still young and naive enough to think that my husband and I wouldn’t have any of the same problem my parents did. Why I thought we could skate through life without ever experiencing job woes, money issues, kid troubles, in-law challenges or broken appliances, I’m not quite sure. But for whatever reason, I thought choosing a tall, charming man who drove a new Mustang would insure me a lifetime of happiness.

The charming part actually did prove to be pretty important, but the Mustang blew an engine shortly after our honeymoon, and as best I can tell, his being tall has had no effect on our marriage whatsoever. However, his endless patience and loyalty, characteristics I didn’t even realize he possessed (and that rarely reveal themselves during dating) have proven to be the bedrock of our happy marriage.

But isn’t that always the way?  The exciting things always fade, but the kinda boring stuff you don’t give much thought to turns out to be really important.

Lisa Earle McLeod is a speaker, syndicated humor columnist and author of “Forget Perfect” and her new book, “Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear” (released April 1st). Contact her or join her blog at

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