road leading to mountains

Relationship Killers, Part 5: Love is a Journey, not a Destination

Love is a Journey, No Matter if You Like Traveling or Not

Often, when people get married they feel like they've arrived at their life's destination. Now they are settled. They know what to expect from now on.

But is that really so? Do you know what to expect once you've found your partner? And do you know the way forward?

Let's have Alice and Phil share their story and experiences.

Alice and Phil's Story

Alice and Phil Meet--Again

When Alice and Phil got married in the church both had attended since childhood, they felt like the marriage was the final destination of a long journey.  Although they had known each other since childhood, it was only in the last few years that they even had considered each other as possible romantic partners. 

They became involved almost as a fluke when a friend of Alice’s set up a blind date, not realizing that Alice and Phil already knew each other.  And in fact, they had spent virtually no time together, so the friend could be excused for thinking that they were strangers to each other. 

The first date had been nothing special, especially when Phil committed a faux pas and criticized a local retail store, not realizing that Alice’s father worked there.  But it was uphill after that, and Alice and Phil decided to tie the knot.  

The Destination: Alice and Phil Get Married

Alice and Phil got married at a particularly busy time in both their lives.  Alice was starting a master’s program in philosophy and Phil was starting a new entry-level management job in the same city.  Both of them wanted to make a good impression in their new professional lives and they realized that their jobs would consume a lot of their time. 

But they were not worried.  On the contrary, they were glad that they had decided to consummate the marriage so that the marriage box was checked off and they could move on to the new challenges confronting them in their lives. 

For sure, they thought, neither of them would have had time to plan a wedding when they were just starting new professional challenges. Alice had thoughts that, if she performed really well in the master’s program, she might be admitted to a doctoral program. 

And Phil had the idea that, with some serious effort, he might make it into mid-level management in two or three years.  For sure, he had no desire to spend the rest of his life as a front-line manager.

Alice and Phil Are Married

In the early years of the marriage, Phil and Alice indeed were very busy.  The master’s program opened up a whole new world that Alice had not even known existed. 

For the first time in her life, Alice actually found herself excited about her studies.  She also met other people much like herself, including men. 

Phil was anything but a “student type,” and Alice found herself sometimes bored with him.  She could not have a serious philosophical discussion with him about anything. He seemed to be in the process of becoming a “company man”—very concrete, down-to-earth, but also, pedestrian.

Phil was also having his challenges with Alice.  He could not understand how she was becoming what seemed to him, in a word, “flaky.”  She had seemed down-to-earth when they courted, but increasingly, she wanted to talk about high-falutin’ philosophical issues (like--are people basically good or evil?  Why do good people allow themselves to do bad things?). 

All that was nice, but Phil could not see how it was ever going to put food on the table, allow them to buy a second car, or pay for their kids’ college when they had kids.  

Alice and Phil are in Trouble

Phil and Alice were having problems.  But they did not talk about them much because both of them were afraid, whether or not they would admit it, that talking would only make things worse. 

Moreover, they had arrived at their destination when they married.  What really was there to talk about?  One thing would have been that they were growing apart. 

Meanwhile, Phil met a woman at work, Alexandra, who really appealed to him.  She was beautiful, sexy, and totally down-to-earth.  She knew where the bread was buttered.  No discussions of the meaning of life for her.  She was also a first-line manager, and a discussion for her was how to increase productivity of the workers so as to increase the profitability of staff—and maybe also to get herself a promotion.

Growing Apart

What’s Wrong with Viewing Marriage as the Destination?

Phil’s and Alice’s problems were not particularly unusual.  Couples often grow apart in relationships. 

What was particularly unfortunate was that they, as so many couples, looked at their marriage as a final destination rather than as, metaphorically, the start of a new voyage. 

Their goal had been to get married. They got married. They were where they wanted to be—or so they thought. 

Because they had already gotten to where they wanted to go, they did not see the need for serious further work on the relationship. 

Marriage is not a destination - it's the beginning of a new voyage

Marriage is not really a destination: It is the beginning of a new journey. 

When you view it as a destination, as one other life goal checked off, you risk failing to realize that the marriage will succeed only if you continue to work on your relationship after the marriage at least as hard as you did before the marriage. 

Indeed, you may have to work even harder on it because living together in marriage inevitably poses many new and totally unexpected challenges, many of which cannot be well predicted in advance.

If Love is a Journey, How Do You Approach the New Voyage?

Some people view love through the lens of a travel story.  In the travel story, two partners are traveling together on a journey through their lives and they try, as best they can, to stay on the same path. They view love as a journey.

Whether or not this story matches your own story or not, you need to view love always as unfinished. 

The love-match theory states that the mixture of intimacy, passion, and commitment in a relationship is fluid and dynamic, not congealed and static.  Love constantly changes, often without our even being aware of it. Love is a journey because there are these frequent changes, whether we want them or not.

There are always challenges, whether of the “Alexandra” type, as mentioned above, or some other.  Because Alice and Phil believe they have “arrived,” they no longer see themselves as being on a voyage and so do not adequately prepare for or even try to solve new problems in their relationship as they arise.  

There is a way to address Alice and Phil’s problem, although it may or may not solve their problem. 

  • They need to communicate more;
  • they need to work on their problems;
  • they need to seek mutual understanding; and most of all,
  • they need to view their relationship, like all relationships, as constantly in flux. 

You need to do the same. You need to be vigilant about the state of your relationship. 

When there are challenges, as there always are, don’t sweep them under the rug; don’t expect them to solve themselves; don’t look at yourself as set for life because you are married or have what you view as a permanent living arrangement. 

You’re together now?  Congratulations.  Love is a journey, not a destination.  Your journey has just begun and will not end until you die!  And after that, who knows?

This article is part of a series on relationship killers. This article is part of a series on relationship killers. The first part discusses the importance of respecting each other's differences, the second part is on the crushing impact secrets can have on our relationships, the third part is on our tendency to focus on the negative in our partners, and the fourth part is on our tendency to blame our partners.

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