Phil’s-osophy on Marriage

If you’re not watching Modern Family, I’m not sure we can be friends. Tony and I don’t even have cable and we still make sure to catch it on Hulu. It’s worth it, in every possible way. Rather than give you a background on the show, I’m going to give you all the benefit of the doubt that we can be friends because you already are watching this show.

In an episode I watched recently, Phil Dunphy was doing his usual wrap-up at the end of the show. Marveling at his wife, Claire’s, accomplishment of turning a dirt lot into a baseball field a la Field of Dreams, he said…

“That’s the funny thing about marriage. You fall in love with this extraordinary person and over time, they begin to seem ordinary… I think it’s all the nagging.” -Phil Dunphy

Despite his self-published book Phil’s-osophy, Phil Dunphy isn’t known for his deep wisdom. So, imagine my surprise when I couldn’t get his line out of my head for all of the ways it made me think about the realities of marriage.

We do, hopefully, marry this extraordinary person right? I mean, why did you get married? Wasn’t it because she was the most amazing woman you’d ever met? Wasn’t it because you loved talking to him on the phone for hours? Wasn’t it because of all the things you dreamed you would do together? You fell in love and married your spouse because, at some point, you believed they were extraordinary.

And, here you are, married to this extraordinary person. How do you feel about that now? Do you treat your husband like he is extraordinary? Do you get excited to see him? Do you feel giddy when you wake up next to him in the morning? Husbands, do you still believe your wife is extraordinary? Do you go out of your way for her the way you used to? Do you think about her non-stop and compliment her when you’re together?

If we’re honest, I think all of us forget about the extraordinary person we married and begin to treat them, not only as if they are ordinary, but with even less consideration than the people we hardly know. We get used to each other and we take each other for granted. We stop saying thank you for the ways they make our life easier. We stop paying attention when they’re talking to us. We are no longer swept away by the little things. We forget about the extraordinariness and become bored with someone we now believe is quite ordinary. I know we do. I used to swoon at the idea of being married to a man who would play music for me. Now, though, I’m so used to it that I find myself much less impressed, especially when I just want to sit in a quiet living room.

Unlike what Phil said, I don’t think it’s all the nagging, though I don’t think nagging helps. I just think we move out of the giddy phase of limerence and into the long-lasting reality of enjoying our lives together. The problem isn’t so much that we forgot about this incredible person we wanted to marry, nor is it that they have become a bit more ordinary and familiar to us. The problem, really, is when we believe the lie that they aren’t really incredible, but someone else- someone outside of our marriage- might be. As the newness fades, which always does, there is the temptation to think that we might be better off if we actually found that person who will always be extraordinary. We might be happier if we weren’t married to someone so darn ordinary.

Newness doesn’t last. Shiny things become dull. Even our high tech gadgets are becoming obsolete at an alarming rate. Your marriage is not meant to feel shiny and new every day or even to make you feel giddy and love crazed. It’s no wonder so many people end up divorced if these are the unrealistic things we are expecting from our marriage and from our spouse. No, our marriage is supposed to increase in value over time and through the seasons.  New wine, for instance, is just grape juice. But wine that has been properly aged and cared for is worth much more per bottle than simple grape juice, and it’s the complexities that make the flavor so enjoyable. Nobody orders wine by asking for the best new thing that just came out yesterday. Wine appreciators know that it takes time, which can’t be rushed, for the wine to be refined. We should consider our marriages in much the same way.

So, for today, think back to when you were swept away by the thought of the person you are now married to. Take a moment to respond to them now the way you responded to them then. Allow yourself to feel love struck and treat them today like the extraordinary person that they are, the person to whom you were once so excited to #staymarried.

3 thoughts on “Phil’s-osophy on Marriage

  1. great post. it reminds me of a scene towards the end of High Fidelity, when Rob realizes (and i’m paraphrasing here) that the girl who never wears the cotton grandma panties is a myth. in essence, chasing the bio-chemical feeling of ‘brand new’ is a fool’s errand.

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