[Excerpt from Contentment. Copyright © 2017 Edward K. Watson. All rights reserved. Chapter 2.]
The first thing that happens after you get married and come back from your honeymoon is reality sets in—you’re now married! Awesome! You may be hastily sending thank you notes to all who attended your wedding or gave gifts; giggling like children while looking at pictures and videos of the wedding, reception, and honeymoon; giving detailed descriptions to your friends of what you did and saw on your honeymoon; or having sex in every room and corner of your home.
That’s great, but you’ll also start to notice some things that are disquieting: some mannerisms of your new spouse are starting to get annoying, exasperating, and even disgusting; you’re starting to get angrier than normal over some things that you previously never fought about before; and doubts are coming into your heart and you begin to wonder if you’ve made a terrible mistake in marrying this person.
Don’t worry, all this means is you’re normal and the transitioning process of being single to married is progressing as it should where the reality of marriage is starting to push aside whatever fantasy you initially had of marriage. Infatuation is becoming love.
Love vs. Infatuation
True love is not infatuation. Infatuation is that feeling of giddy and obsessive love one feels when a person enters into a new romance. Infatuation is like being on drugs—thanks to the dopamine, adrenaline, and oxytocin in our brain and body.
It’s easy to confuse love and infatuation, especially if you’re still young and don’t know any better. Just look at the difference in the words and actions of those who’ve been married for decades from those who are just starting new romances!
Infatuation simply doesn’t last long and can be lost very quickly by a big fight or by falling in love with someone else to continue the infatuation euphoria.
Infatuation means always putting on appearances—one is constantly on his or her best behavior so that the other person will like or love them. One is always trying to impress the other and doing one’s best to avoid making the other think poorly of them (such as keeping in their farts and urge to poop until the other cannot smell or hear them). One is thinking that the other is just the best thing to ever walk the earth and whatever flaws they have are just so endearing and adorable.
People who are infatuated daydream constantly about the object of their affection—the way they smile and how their eyes sparkle—and their work or studies are neglected or drop in quality and output.
Love has a quiet dignity that allows fights and disagreements during the day while being able to make love at night. It has leeway to be exasperated at the stupidity and inconsideration of the other while still serving the other dinner and sharing a quick laugh and joke. It has the freedom to be apart from one another for weeks at a time without degenerating into sappy phone calls and grief-stricken sleepless nights.
Love is enduring and is confident in the relationship, flaws and all.
The Euphoria of “Being in Love” Rapidly Fades
Some people claim they’re in love with “being in love” and always try to get it. However, that is not a sign of maturity—only a sign of chemical dependency and is no different from being addicted to cocaine.
The dopamine, adrenalin, and oxytocin chemicals that trigger the feelings of being in love eventually lose their potency or stop being produced by our brains as we spend lots of time with someone we’re having sex with. Why? Because as with any chemical dependency, our brains get used to certain stimulants and we require higher doses to get a similar high.
When we become too familiar with someone sexually, seeing them naked doesn’t arouse us as much as it used to. We will then need to go to more extreme forms of sex to maintain the chemical cocktail that we’ve experienced when we were having sex while infatuated.
At some point, the sex, no matter how wild, doesn’t trigger the same levels of dopamine and the euphoric haze of infatuation disappears. We then get a clearer picture of our partner and wonder what we ever saw in them in the first place.
Those that confuse infatuation with love then assume that they no longer “love” the other and may seek romance with a new person making the infatuation cycle start all over again.
Love is not Enough for a Successful Marriage
“Love conquers all” “All we need is love” “Love is all you need” are all slogans and popular sayings in songs that have no basis in reality. They sound good, but those who’s had long and successful marriages will cite other factors in their marriage such as trust, kindness, putting oneself in the other’s shoes, and self-sacrifice as equally important, if not more so, than just love by itself.
Love is crucial to a great marriage but is just one of the foundations of a marriage. It is the hand that holds up the glass bowl of marriage, but it is supported by the arm of trust, the nerves of empathy, and the muscles of will to serve.
The House Won’t Clean Itself
Holy crap! Keeping the house clean is hard! The toilet bowls always gets rings, spider webs keep on appearing on the lights and ceiling corners, the floor attracts dust and filth like crazy, dirty dishes are always in the sink, the showers and tubs need to be rubbed down at least every other week, and the garbage containers smell.
Fights are breaking out over whose turn it is to throw out the trash, whose fault it was for the food going bad in the fridge, and from snide remarks for unpalatable meals that are nowhere near as good as mom used to make.
This is when you develop a system and schedule for cleaning your home. You jointly clean together at a certain day and time and buy the cleaning supplies and tools beforehand so that one won’t have to run to the store to buy them while the other stays at home cleaning and feeling abandoned by the other.
There’s no reason for it to be so burdensome—you should get into the habit early in your marriage to clean things that need cleaning without being told or asked to do so. You do it because you love your spouse and want to make a nice clean home for the both of you. You do it because it needs doing. You do it because you have pride in yourself and you know your home is a reflection of your dignity instead of being a battleground of wills between spouses.
Lucky for you, it’s getting easier all the time to maintain a clean home. Unlike your parents and grandparents, you have the benefit of modern technology where robots, self-cleaning appliances and materials, specialized cleaning agents, and cleaner environment make cleaning a much less strenuous effort for the contemporary couple.
Farting, Pooping, Pigging Out, and Other Disgusting Behavior
The rules of behavior are different before and after marriage. Suddenly, that demure, polite girlfriend has become a wife who farts in front of you. She goes to the bathroom with the door open, with the noise and smell of a big dump wafting throughout the room. She snores and drools, and looks so different without makeup. Her legs and armpits are no longer smooth and are suddenly sprouting hair. Her hair’s a mess and she can really chow down, unlike before when she would be full after a tiny salad.
He now picks his nose, wipes or drops boogers everywhere, and shows you his massive poop in the toilet. He thinks it’s hilarious when he covers your head with the blanket while he farts in bed. He reuses dirty socks and underwear and his body and breath actually stink. What’s worse is he no longer goes the extra effort to make you happy and actually rejects you when you ask him to do something.
What the hell happened?
Marriage. He doesn’t have to pretend anymore. She doesn’t feel the need to constantly be on her best and strive to impress him at all times. Finally, you’re free to fart without needing to go to a far room where he/she can’t hear or smell it! Isn’t marriage great?
Don’t Try to Force Your Spouse to Change
Don’t try to change your spouse. Just don’t. You will not just probably fail, you will most likely trigger the collapse and end of your relationship because it usually involves using practices that are deadly to any marriage (CAMO – Controlling, Abusive, Manipulative, Obsessive).
This is because change needs to come from inside a person. Every good and decent spouse will change on his or her own when they see or realize that they’re hurting their partner by their actions or inactions. Trying to force the transformation just breeds resentment and retaliation. Also, you will not really enjoy being with your partner if they were so weak-willed that they couldn’t stand up to you by letting you mold them into whoever you want. You will end up hating them because they were weak and the likelihood of you seeking romance elsewhere becomes more alluring.
You need to establish your standards before marriage. If you don’t want to be married to a smoker, make that clear before you marry a smoker and then demand he or she quit after marriage. The moment you first realize he or she is a smoker, you should’ve told them that you will never go out or marry someone who smokes. It isn’t anything personal against them and you’re not asking them to quit on your behalf; it’s just a nonnegotiable condition that you’ve vowed to yourself before you even met them and you don’t compromise your principles.
Before you marry, draw up a list of things that you do not want in a spouse and determine which are nonnegotiable, which can be tolerated despite not being zero tolerance, and which you prefer a spouse not do but won’t break up with them over it.
My Expectations in a Spouse
Nonnegotiable (zero tolerance – immediate break-up)
Tolerated on Occasion (too frequent will result in break-up)
Prefer they didn’t (won’t break-up but will fight with them)
The table above is an example. Make one for yourself and customize it with your personal choices. Since everyone’s different, your personal preferences may have some of the above examples to be more or less severe than how they’re given, may not have some, or be a completely different list altogether.
When you’re done making your customized list, keep a printed copy handy and review it regularly to see if your expectations have changed. Perhaps you now want a spouse that is controlling or manipulative? Perhaps you have a new nonnegotiable expectation such a partner without kids from a prior relationship or no virgins? Or no Republicans? No Democrats? Or no Mormons / Evangelicals? The point is, identify your personal preferences and write them down so that you’ll remember them. Compare your list with your partner’s before you get too serious to identify your compatibility. Better to find out early if you simply shouldn’t be together or if it’s possible for compromise.
After all, if you don’t want to marry a Mormon, don’t date Mormons. If you don’t want to have a spouse who cheats, don’t date a “player.” It’s that simple.
Comparing lists allows you to go into marriage clearly knowing beforehand what each expects of the other and you can quickly identify when changes are creeping into the relationship. It makes it easier to identify problems while they’re still repairable instead of getting blindsided after they become so overwhelming that separation is the only option.
Good people will change on their own if they really want to be with someone upon learning they have habits that the other rejects in a future spouse. If it’s too late to create a list for compatibility and you’re already married; create one anyway. It helps clarify issues that hurt the owner of the list. Good partners will want to change on their own when their actions give great pain to the person they supposedly love.
That’s part of a loving relationship: we do things to make the lives of those we love better, especially our spouse, who loves us with equal intensity.
 Women are notorious for this. It drives me crazy to see some women go out with bad guys (those who mistreat women and don’t care about their feelings) thinking they can tame or change these men for the better—and then complain that all guys are assholes when they fail in molding them to their desires.
 See Bliss (Volume 2 of the Orgasmic Series) and Chapter 4.