Everyone thought it was so romantic when I married the guy who’d been my friend with benefits, but within months of our wedding, I realized what a huge mistake I’d made. Here’s why the marriage was doomed from the start.
First impressions are actually pretty accurate. When we met, I thought he was cute but not particularly smart or compelling. As our sexual chemistry grew, however, I believed I was seeing more deeply into the real him and began to have feelings for him. Unfortunately, when the infatuation period passed, I realized that he was exactly who I thought he was when we met and I was totally disinterested.
We were used to leaving our emotions at the door, but that doesn’t work with marriage. The entire premise of a friends with benefits arrangement is that it’s casual. You’re there for the sex and occasionally for the friendship, but mostly you’ve chosen it because you’re allowed to be detached from emotional entanglements. In a marriage, you have to be emotionally present if you want it to last. My ex and I were so used to being emotionally cut off from each other that we just couldn’t learn the mechanisms necessary to change.
We rushed into it. If this whole experience has taught me anything, it’s that you should always wait at least a month before acting on a particularly life-changing decision like getting married. I seriously can’t believe we were dumb enough to rush into things as quickly as we did, but then again, we thought we were insanely in love and compatible. Had we waited a few weeks, we probably would’ve realized what an unwise decision it was.
Infatuation isn’t love, even when you’re totally positive it is. Sometimes in the excitement of meeting someone new or in finding a new angle to an established relationship, you can believe that your overwhelming obsession and delight in the other person is love. But love is what keeps people together through the rough patches, not what brings you together in the first place. My husband and I thought we were in love, but we were really just crazy with infatuation, and that wears off very quickly when reality sets in.
We thought we were a power couple because we never argued, but it turns out we just weren’t invested. My ex and I always thought we had the healthiest relationship because we never got upset with each other. To us, this was the height of relationship evolution and compatibility. But after we divorced, I realized that the reason we never fought was that we never really cared enough. We kept our lives separate the way we had when we were friends with benefits and never truly became a unit.
Sex was the only real intimacy we had. The only times we ever shared anything meaningful with each other was immediately after sex, when all the bonding hormones were flowing. After we were out of bed and going about our lives, we never maintained that level of emotional closeness. It was like it was locked out of the relationship entirely. While that works great in a FWB relationship, it makes marriage incredibly lonely, and in the end, it broke us.
We both tried hard to play it cool even after we got married. It’s kind of scary how quickly your relationships develop certain dynamics, and my ex and I defined ours with a certain level of indifference from the start. He loved me because I wasn’t “needy” and I loved him because he was “laid-back.” But in marriage, you need your partner to try hard at the relationship, to put in the effort and be invested. We could never get over our desire to be low maintenance for each other, and it caused a lot of isolation and stress for both of us.
We never learned how to communicate with each other when one of us was upset. Our desire to be cool and above arguing was pretty much the worst instinct we could’ve had. It’s impossible to not get upset with your spouse occasionally or to be unsatisfied with them, but both of us continued to repress our disappointment and anger until we absolutely couldn’t take it anymore.
Even our physical chemistry disappeared over time. Sexual attraction can’t be sustained if there isn’t a strong emotional connection. If your entire relationship is based on sex, you’ll get bored of each other’s bodies at some point, no matter how wildly attracted to each other you are in the beginning. When my ex and I got married, sex pretty much stopped. We were so deficient in every other aspect of our relationship that we couldn’t find our way back to the only part of the partnership that had actually worked.
I don’t trust my instincts anymore. We both knew we’d made a mistake within the first few months of our marriage, and when we finally decided to call it off, it was a relief for both of us. We lost a perfectly good sexual relationship simply because we mistook physical chemistry for love, and since the divorce, I haven’t had a single fulfilling relationship because I’m terrified I’ll make the same mistake again.
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