What Does ‘Marital Bliss’ Really Mean?

We had been on our honeymoon for almost a week and it had been absolutely wonderful. Still, while my brand new husband and I were soaking in a hot tub, I felt unhappy. Something didn’t feel like enough, not enough time left on our honeymoon most likely. My husband, David, didn’t understand why—and to tell you the truth I didn’t really know why either. But I blamed David for not loving me well enough. That night, we ended up cutting our hot tub time short because our conversation turned into an argument.

Amber and David_HoneymoonLuckily, five years of marriage and a look back on that night on our honeymoon has taught me something about what marital bliss really means.

The view from our bed and breakfast featured a beautiful view of picturesque farmland and rolling hills, a bubbling Jacuzzi lit with romantic candles, handcrafted furniture, and the perfect reading nook. And we were so in love. It was about as perfect as anyone could ever expect. But looking back on that night in the hot tub, I realize that my bad mood might have had something to do with some pretty unreasonable expectations I had set for how our honeymoon would feel.

The truth is, when I impose unrealistic expectation on my husband—like my day dream honeymoon—I’m not really loving him, I’m loving the ideal experience I had hoped he would give me. It’s easy to use someone, even when you want so badly to love him or her well. On that night during our honeymoon—without even realizing it—I had made David a prop, a character in my perfect narrative. Instead, I needed to remember that he was a co-author of the life story we were writing together.

At the beginning of our relationship my love for David was based heavily on how he made me feel. But in order for my love to last it needed to grow into a love that was based on my willing the best for him, regardless of how I feel. I’m still working on this and I fail in some way or another every day. But instead of complaining and blaming my husband for my every unhappiness, I want to show him love no matter how I’m feeling—that’s what “marital bliss” really mean.

  • Some days that means making an extra cup of coffee for both of us instead of complaining to David about how tired I am (because the truth is that he was up with the baby, too, and is just as tired).
  • Some days that means not talking in that tone of voice when he makes a mistake or doesn’t know how to do something (hey, at least he is trying to make dinner, even if it is just spaghetti with jarred sauce!).
  • Most days it means asking myself, “Am I loving David in this moment, or am I grasping on to my own unrealistic expectations?”

On our fifth wedding anniversary we found ourselves at another charming bed and breakfast, with a picturesque view of the mountains, a cozy reading nook, and two rocking chairs where we could sit side by side like an old married couple.

And yet somehow, I felt unhappy.

The scenic view from the B&B on David and Amber's honeymoon.
The scenic view from the B&B on David and Amber’s honeymoon.

I complained that our two month old was with us, that he wasn’t falling asleep, that it was a waste to get such a nice place if we couldn’t really enjoy it. There I was again, five years later, making the same mistakes: I wasn’t loving David well. I was loving some ideal experience that he was expected to provide for me and clinging to it like a tantrum-ridden toddler.

Thankfully, I now recognize what I’m doing a little quicker than I did five years ago. I apologized and David and I shared a laugh about how far—and not far—we’ve come in five years.

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  • Thanks Amber… I have been following from Kenya. I am really encouraged by your marriage outlook. I am married one and a half years 🙂 and really enjoying the journey. Your tips are helpful.
    Allow me to re-post this article on my blog http://www.ndoapoa.com to reach out to others where who need to hear positive stories like yours!
    I will definitely add your website link on it.

    Ndoa is swahili for marriage and Poa is swahili slang for bliss.

  • Thanks for sharing and being so transparent . Communication is paramount in maintaining in nurturing a healthy marital relationship.

  • Thanks everyone for your thoughts on this. It’s always so nice to realize that I’m not alone in all this. 🙂

  • Thank you, Amber. It’s so true that we can’t rely only on our feelings. As another person with rich and romantic ideals in my head, I’m so glad we can choose to live in reality with the good lives we do have. Thanks for the reminder to do that.

  • Brilliant article, Amber. I can absolutely relate to this, even not being married. No matter how great an evening could be, unrealistic expectations can kill it pretty much instantly. That’s why anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, etc, can be so difficult for so many — since they are set in the future, we tend to spend more time fantasizing about how happy they will make us. This is a recipe for a disaster.

    Sometimes for me the best way to turn a night around is just to remind myself that, whether or not the food is perfect or I like the decor of the restaurant/etc etc, things are ok, and I can still choose to love my girlfriend and invest in her so SHE can have a good night.

    The Gift of the Magi really sets the principle here.

    Thanks for writing!

  • Thank you for being so open and honest with your struggle Amber! I very much relate, and it gives me hope that we can all continue striving to love… and that it takes a lifetime.

  • Thanks Amber for this – I really needed to hear this! I was very subject to doing the exact same things. We never ended up getting married but I can guarantee I would’ve done the same thing. Thankyou for taking the time to write this 🙂

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