One of the biggest advantages of a long term marriage (20+ years) is that it is comfortable, predictable, and safe.
One of the biggest challenges of a long term marriage is that it is comfortable, predictable, and safe.
Yeah, it's confusing.
Comfortable becomes complacent. Predictable becomes boring. Safe becomes smothering and restrictive.
Other times comfortable means you can just relax. Predictable means you don't have to deal with the stress of constant change. Safe means the experience of both physical safety and emotional safety.
Usually, you experience it both ways at different points in the marriage.
Some people deal with this situation well. Others don't. Most get divorced because they can't stand it. Many find relief by cheating. Others drink or find some other way of dealing with it.
Sometimes it's all you can do to just hold on to get through the hard times, the years of feeling invisible and realizing that the life you're living is not the one you want.
If you deal with it by cheating, most folks just don't get it, and (if anyone knows) you get subjected to pot shots from the cheap seats - moral judgements made by people who simply don't know what it's like and moral judgements made by people who do know what it's like, but have chosen another way of dealing with it, therefore allowing them to feel superior.
The big payoff comes for those who weather the storm - no matter how they have to do it - and grow through it. The payoff is a lifelong, intimate and special connection with another human being.
Imagine that the only way to get to heaven would be to have to walk through parts of hell and purgatory to get there. That's what I'm trying to describe.
If you have been married for decades and you have never gone through any of this and you don't really know what I am talking about, you are a very fortunate exception to the rule.
I'm reading a book right now in which the author refers to marriage as a "people growing institution." Experiencing wedded bliss at all times is not the point. Growing together over decades as you walk through mud and fire and flowers and sun---all while raising a family...that is the point.
Together you experience the best and the worst of who you each are. And you choose to love each other anyway.
That is the point.