Ben Affleck and the Experts ARE Right, Marriage IS Work!

I am normally not one to comment on articles unless I am really passionate about the topic, like this article I read here entitled: ‘Ben Affleck and the Experts are Wrong: ‘Marriage is not Hard Work‘. My two passions here are Ben Affleck and marriage, in that order, kidding! Maybe

As we’ve all heard/read, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner announced after 10 years of marriage that they will be getting a divorce. As a wife and mother myself, this saddens me (despite the huge crush I’ve had on him for the past fifteen years). While we do not know the private details of this situation, the media will speculate and tabloids will continue to exploit these stars (because remember, they’re not people) during this very public split. When I first saw this article, I was quite bothered. The title alone put my head in a tizzy. Marriage is not hard work? What? I mean seriously…WHAT?

The author states she has been married for 31 years. As someone who has only been married almost four, I believe that marriage is hard work. While I realize I don’t have the miles that she does, I agree with Ben Affleck and the experts. Let’s break down this article piece by piece, shall we?

“You are only as happy as your most unhappy child. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Deciding whom you’ll marry is the most important decision you’ll ever make. Marriage is a lot of hard work.”

She seems to be setting up this first paragraph to be all things that people say/believe but aren’t necessarily true. The first sentence for me is one of those puns I don’t like so I’ll skip it. As for ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’, DUH! There have been studies proving this to be true (a study from Harvard Medical School found that people who ate breakfasts of whole-grain cereals had lower rates of diabetes and heart disease compared to skippers). Some may argue with me saying that there are also studies showing breakfast isn’t the most important meal of the day and that is true. I, however, don’t think they are as supported. Next, ‘deciding who you’ll marry is the most decision you’ll ever make’. Hmm, what to eat for lunch today or whom to marry? Yeah, I’d count that as pretty weighty. You actually repeat the vows ‘until death parts us’ so unless you’re planning to ‘Dateline’ your spouse, it’s kind of a forever thing and in my eyes, I think spending my life with someone is the most important decision….after what to eat for lunch, that is. And she nailed it with the last statement…’marriage is a lot of hard work!’ She could have stopped there, but she didn’t, so I shall continue.

She links Ben Affleck’s Best Director Argo Oscar speech (highly recommend the movie to anyone who hasn’t seen it), where he mentions that his marriage is work. Well, you know what, it is! And I don’t think he was insulting his wife either, I think he was speaking honestly. You are entering into a binding (and legally, I might add) partnership when you get married. You are fully committing yourself to another. You are saying you will love, support and honor that person until death do you part. You speak the words, ‘in sickness and in health’. Have you ever cared for a sick person? It’s work. The author continues stating that she asked her husband and he agreed their marriage isn’t work. Well of course he agreed with you and for two obvious reasons:
1. She was holding a knife (that part of the article made me chuckle)
2. If he disagreed with her then there would have been a long discussion as to why (and we all know men hate long discussions!)

The article continues about how the author and her husband have asked each other this question over the years and her most recent reply was this: “Not at all. It’s never been work for me. Not even for a day in 30 years.” I told him.

I know I have not been married that long, but my follow-up question to this statement would be ‘do you have kids?’ Because if she does, then I would say that answer above is bullshit. If not, I still call bullshit (and I call it Kate Hudson style…if you haven’t seen ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’ this won’t make sense to you).

My parents will have been married for 35 years this August. I, too, asked them both this question. And guess what? They both agreed that it is! My mom did say that some people would agree with this author, but believes the majority would not. So why is it hard work? Because it’s a relationship that requires effort. It requires being present. It requires making time for one another. All of these things take work. Maybe this author feels complacent in her marriage and for some people, that is okay. They get along and go about their lives. But for me, I just don’t see it.

The author winds down the article with the following: “I am not saying that everything is always perfect, that Mike doesn’t sometimes disappoint me, that I don’t get angry at him. I am not saying that there are not hard times, hard issues, hard problems. But I must say that he overwhelmingly makes it easier to handle these things. So maybe if marriage seems like really hard work, there is something that needs a little fixing.

Mike and I spend hours cuddled up on our couch. He scratches my head if it hurts. He hugs me when I am sad. But he doesn’t consider that work either, because when I am happy, he is happy. And I know the reverse is certainly true, so I do what I can to make him happy too. Did I mention that I sail overnight on the boat every summer taking a three-hour shift on my own in the middle of the night? So is our marriage work? It can’t be. Because I never feel like I need a vacation. Does anyone else have a marriage that isn’t hard work?”

I agree with some of what she’s said above, but her overall message, I do not. My husband and I irritate each other. We disappoint each other too. We fight, we forgive and we continue to love. That’s just simply part of marriage. We also have work stress, personal stress and overall life stress that sometimes spills into our marriage. We have a child that requires our constant attention. We can take each other and our relationship for granted. We can fall or drift apart from one another. And then we reconnect. We work at it. We work at it because marriages just don’t magically stay together. They require two people committing to that relationship. No, it’s not a 9-5 job, it’s actually a 24/7 job that when you don’t put your time into, can really affect its productivity.

This doesn’t mean our relationship needs fixing. That means our relationship is real. We have a love that while it is full of joys, affection and appreciate is also full of sacrifices, compromises and hard work (some of these the author mentions). And by the way, when you are sacrificing and compromising you are working…you are working to satisfy your partner, to keep them happy. That takes work, whether you want to admit it or not. So maybe you believe that your marriage is not hard work, good for you (and I say that in the most sincere way). As for me, I will continue to work at mine each and every day because my goal at the end of it all is to bring out the best in my husband and in me…and how can I ever do that without working on it?