“Marriage is for grown-ups…”

It’s been said that marriage is best lived by grown-ups. But what does that mean?

Being “grown-up” in your marriage doesn’t mean being stuffy or stoic or confining. Instead, it’s about realizing that tantrums don’t work. You don’t stomp away when things don’t go your way, and you never gather all the toys for yourself and leave the other person with a box.

Many of us, by nature, are selfish. Have you ever watched little kids play? How often are they told to “be nice” or “share?” It doesn’t always come naturally. Some children are given this instruction more than others because they are wired for scarcity. They grab all the toys for themselves. They forcefully grab the toy another is holding and stubbornly hold on even when they know it’s not theirs to have. For others, being nice comes easily…even when they are wired for survival at some primal level.

Science hasn’t cracked the code on why this happens. Some say it has something to do with where in line you were born. First children often behave differently than the “baby” of the clan. Middle kids develop their own way to deal with the world as do only children and those who are part of a very large family.

Perhaps it’s part nature and part nurture.

However, as we evolve and grow into adult-hood we have an opportunity to explore our inner world with as much intensity as we explore our outer world. When that happens, when you take the time and energy to discover your own soul, everything on the outside begins to take on a whole new life, new meaning, new color, and new joy.

My husband and I have been married over three decades and for anybody that has been married more than a minute you understand that at any given moment there is a good reason to call it quits…but we don’t.  I remember reading a quote about marriage that said something like ‘the only thing the Vatican overlooked is the miracle of two people living together day in and day out in the union of marriage.’

It’s easy to pop in, put on a dog and pony show, and then leave.

But marriage doesn’t work like that. And thank goodness for that! Marriage is an opportunity to build something so much better than any stage act.

It’s not a dog and pony show. While you may feel like you’re “playing house” at first – you know, putting up wallpaper in the first home you bought together, assembling your first crib, buying your first grill (yes, go for the extra burners), first car, first dinner party, and more…playing house turns into something real.

Mortgage, taxes, car payments, dirty diapers, running out of dip, more dirty diapers, work, shared responsibilities and….shared dreams, goals worked on together and realized, conflicts that evolve into a deeper love and deeper commitment, and realizing that your world would never be the same without this person by your side.

And then, you make a choice every day, to renew your love with that person, forget about any of the mishaps and bad decisions that happened yesterday, and move forward together…stronger, more in love, and more committed to the life you’re building.

Nothing in the world outside of your marriage can change the love and life you build inside your marriage when you are a grown-up.

You start to see the dog and pony show for what it is. Empty. Temporary. False.

A successful marriage is simple…but it’s not easy.