I’m Married, But I’m Scared of Settling Down

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Last night my husband and I did something we simply don’t do often enough: we talked goals. We’re both on the cusp of turning 30 (he’ll reach the milestone six months before I do) and I think it’s right to take some time to reflect on what we’ve done and what we’d like to do. I’ve got scads of goals, I realized, from the achievement-oriented (run a marathon, begin a book-length project) to the discipline-focused (spend less time in front of screens, establish a consistent daily devotional time). My husband is still working on his goal list.

You’d think that, as partners, we’d have an advantage when it comes to achieving our goals. We’re lifetime allies; a source of constant support and encouragement as we each tackle tough things. True as this is, sometimes marriage can seem like the enemy to change and improvement.

Spouses can absolutely be supporters and motivators, but they can also be enablers. My husband and I both like eating ice cream after dinner and watching movies on Netflix. I think we do more of both than we used to, and most likely more than we should, as a married couple. As I’ve written before, we’re both introverts. We work really hard to be outgoing and to build and develop friendships, because we know our natural inertia as a couple causes us to drift in the opposite direction.

Even the language used for long-term relationships and marriage appears to reveal a bias against change. You find your soulmate and “settle down” into life together. Or you “drop anchor” or you “build a homestead.” The general idea, it seems, is that reaching this stage in life means finality: you’ve arrived, and you can stop moving forward.

The mundane realities of life sometimes provide barriers of their own. Now that we’re parents, we can easily spend all our time just maintaining the status quo – making sure all three of us are clean, dressed, fed, getting the household chores done, and making it to church on Sunday. When the baby is finally bundled into bed at 7p.m. each night with her blanket and her fuzzy pig, starting a new project or getting in training for that marathon is usually the last thing on our minds. Inertia beckons from our comfy suede couch. Scoop the ice cream, pick a movie. The dishes can wait until tomorrow.

So that’s why we need to talk goals and hold each other accountable to following through. Marriage can be an incredible gift; an opportunity to increase our productivity, love people better, and motivate each other to succeed and thrive. It can also be a crutch that keeps us from working hard and pushing ourselves, if we allow it to be one. But if we’re not moving forward, we’re drifting. And neither of us is willing to let that happen.

As far as I’m concerned, my spouse and I didn’t settle down–we joined forces.

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