During my first year of marriage I wasn’t as happy as I should have been. Despite the supposed “honeymoon period,” I often felt listless and depressed. It took me a while to figure out why.
Jonathan has an excellent job with the government. Unfortunately it’s located in a rural area, so most of the jobs are related to the military base that his position serves. Few jobs exist outside of the technology industry. Basically, my plan to start freelance work once we had children, so I could stay at home with them, had to be bumped up a few years because I didn’t have any other options in my field.
Because I was working at home (and because it took me nearly a year to find any reliable freelance work), I didn’t have a good way to meet people my age and I didn’t have much to do. We often hear that it’s important for elderly people living alone to have a pet or a hobby or a job or something in their lives to give them purpose. Well, that’s not true just for the elderly, it’s true for everyone. I speak from firsthand experience.
Once I determined the source of my unhappiness I was able to combat it. I couldn’t do much more than I already was to find work, but I could find other ways to get out of the house, meet people, and do more with myself. I started volunteering with multiple organizations, and to this day I have weekly responsibilities with a local historical museum and the county’s chapter of the Literacy Council. I also have less frequent obligations with an animal rescue.
Now that my freelancing work has picked up, this often means I’m quite busy. But even when I wasn’t, even when I had first started volunteering work, doing that much was enough to make me happy again.
It took me some time to figure out why I was depressed because the source wasn’t immediately obvious. I was very happy with Jonathan, so I knew it wasn’t directly due to living with him. But it taught me an important lesson (one that only reinforces my ideas on romance): humans cannot live on love alone.
Or at least they can’t do so only on romantic love. We like to think so; we like to idealize the concept that as long as we have the man or woman we love, we don’t need anything else. But that simply isn’t true.
Human beings are complex creatures with multiple needs. It’s impossible for one person to fulfill them all and unfair and damaging to the relationship to expect someone to. We can’t possibly share all the same interests as our spouses, so it’s important that we have friends to fulfill a separate role in our lives. And it’s vital that we have something in our lives that gives us purpose.
In some cases children can fill that void, because we love them in a different way from our spouses. But it’s still not a good idea to have them once again be always the only things in our lives; if nothing else, what happens once they all leave the nest?
The fallacy of thinking once we find a spouse, that everything in our lives is taken care of, is a big reason why I’m not a fan of most romantic comedies. It’s even why I’ve increasingly preferred the more recent Disney movies; these heroines find men, yes, but they also clearly have other elements in their lives as well. It’s an important truth to remember.