1. “Twenty-five years married here. The person you marry is going to change in each season of life, and you have to abandon your own selfishness and put in an effort to fall in love with them anew each time…and to help them find new ways to fall in love with you as you change, too. It’s super hard because you’re going to miss the person they used to be (before kids, before menopause, etc.), but if you put in the work and keep an open mind, you’ll probably like the new them a lot, too.”

axj66

2. “Remember the wonderful times because they’re precious if you lose your spouse. But truth? Marriage is flat-out determined work every day; you must keep at it and not give up, only thinking about yourself. I loved my wife; some days, I’m sure she wanted to kill me, but she still loved me — only married people will understand that. But to make it work for us for the 38 years we were together, it was truly day-by-day solid effort every day.”

quizzycat72

3. “The hardest thing for me has been lack of time for myself. I’m an introvert and need time to regroup and reenergize after spending the work day around people. As we’ve had kids, that free time has become less and less, as we have to run to sports practices, deal with school, go to things for my wife’s job, etc.”

“Every once in a while, I’ll get to travel for work, which turns into a much-needed time of decompression. I find moments for myself when I’m home, but they aren’t much. As a dad and husband, I try to be as present as possible around my family, even if it further drains me.

robert_dunder

4. “Twenty-one years married. The cornerstones of our marriage are communication and honesty. Communication is tough because sometimes it’s hard to articulate what you mean or to be patient with trying to express yourself and to understand what your partner is trying to tell you.”

Honesty is more than not lying to your partner. It’s being honest with yourself, to accept when it’s your fault, or when that little thing you said doesn’t bother you is going to grow into a major issue.”

moncynnes

5. “The hardest part by far is in-laws. I have been married twice, and both times my in-laws were insufferable. For the first time, the mom-in-law thought her daughters were the most talented and beautiful women on earth and could have done better than me. Unfortunately, the daughter (my wife) thought she would get by on her looks and, therefore, couldn’t hold a job. She cheated on me and her second husband. With my second wife, it was the father-in-law.”

“He told his daughter she was the smartest woman alive. She was smart in some ways but dumb as a box of rocks with common sense. We divorced because my job required that I travel, and she realized marriage wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and she liked being on her own better. She didn’t want a divorce; she just wanted me to move out and keep paying all the bills. Needless to say, that was NO from me.”

—61, USA

6. “Honestly, it’s the absence of a definitive model of what constitutes a ‘good husband.’ Instead, those of us who desire to be good spouses, parents, and partners are on this endless treadmill, chasing a moving and invisible target because our society values wealth, fame, and athletics, and not character. I’m exhausted.”

—43, Minnesota

7. “When after 25 years of marriage, you look at your life and realize you should have taken more time to pick the right person.”

“My wife focuses on our adult children, I’m always last and doing mostly everything alone. This is not what I had expected.”

—50, Canada

8. “A major challenge I’ve faced is navigating the complexities of intimacy and vulnerability in a long-term relationship. This isn’t the typical story of a stoic man who holds his emotions until he is numb; instead, it is deeply wanting a connection with my wife but finding real challenges in having it reciprocated fully. First, there is the common challenge of a lack of physical intimacy in a long-term relationship. In the first few years, everything was great, but then my wife’s libido faded, and that created real emotional pain in me. Physical intimacy, not just intercourse but all of its many forms, is really about making an emotional connection. It’s about sharing something special with the love of your life that is unique between us and no one else. It’s a way to express love, and it’s a way to know that I am loved. Without it, life is anemic — a grind that funnels me to the classic stoic archetype that I never wanted to embody.”

“Second, there is the issue of vulnerability. In previous long-term relationships and in my marriage, the idea of masculinity was always this balancing act to navigate with my partners. My wife wanted me to be vulnerable, but not too vulnerable. To be confident, but not too confident. Not falling into this undefined and narrow Goldilocks zone of desirable masculinity was, at times, frustrating and exhausting. It also played into the first point above about intimacy. Finding one outside of that desired zone would make intimacy even more remote. The end result is that marriage feels like an endeavor — one that can be frustratingly opaque in terms of how to live in happiness with your partner. That tension creates a painful and tragic longing for being able to just be. To be vulnerable, to express love, to be loved, and to feel like I stand on solid ground in who I am as a man and husband.”

—52, Vermont

9. “Not being their child’s father. Supporting my spouse’s friends and families — including other parent’s families — and not being appreciated for anything and feeling like the elephant in the room at every family event.”

—62, New Jersey

10. “The hardest thing about being married and a father is the weight of always having to be ‘strong’ and ‘steady.’ You don’t realize how everyone in your family will always look to you to be the rock for them and always to be dependable. My wife gets tired of her job; she quits because she knows I will keep mine. The kids need someone to fix a thing; you fix it. It doesn’t matter if you worked all day and are sick and hungry. Their needs always come first. If your wife needs to vent about her day, friends, or kids or just needs to have a good cry, you listen. They expect you to carry on for them always.”

“You don’t get sick, you don’t get tired, you never need to vent or be vulnerable, you don’t have hobbies, and you don’t take risks related to your job. I love my family, and they are my greatest pride and joy, but the weight can be a lot. I was about five years into my marriage when I realized my family would rather see me die on my white horse than dismount willingly.

—Anonymous, Florida

11. “The hardest part of marriage has been learning when to listen. It’s easy to say you are listening just because you hear an audible noise and let your spouse say their piece, maybe even without interruption. The hard part is knowing when to lay your position down and actually listening to what they are saying without circling it back to you, especially when you think you have a point to prove.”

“This can be very challenging. Success can be found when you learn how to take turns talking and listening.”

—36, Indiana

12. “It took getting married for me to realize that marriage was not the answer to all of my relational needs. I think people also need a strong sense of community and deep, lasting friendships to thrive. My wife is a homebody, and I like to go out and be active. I’m not sure that building our entire lives around one relationship is the best way to happiness and fulfillment. We have been married 15 years, and we make it work, but sometimes it’s hard when we want different things.”

—42, California

13. “I married young and didn’t fully understand the commitment I was making. I’ve been married for 17 years now, and I still continue to learn new things daily.”

—38, Nebraska

14. “Feeling like once your kids get to their teens, you’re always making a parenting mistake, and your kids make you feel unloved when you try to parent.”

—53, South Dakota

15. “Seeing the one you love the most go through some repercussions of the actions made by others. My wife is constantly having negative self-talk because her parents raised her to believe that she would be worthless if she didn’t acquiesce to their standards. What makes it hard is knowing that there isn’t an exact number of compliments, gifts, acts of service, or affirmations that will ever convince her that they were wrong.”

—40, Texas

16. “1) I’ve been married for 32 years. One thing I’ve passed on to my now-adult children (in their early 20s) is that when you marry someone, you’re not just marrying them but their family. Make sure it’s a family you’ll be OK with having as a part of your life.”

“2) The times when your partner will need your love (or you will need theirs) are often when you least want to give it because you are mad or upset with one another. Long-term relationships are a lot like tuning a radio: when your frequencies match, it’s clear and wonderful, but when they are out of sync, there’s a lot of static. You have to work at getting back in tune.”

—Anonymous, USA

Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.