Troubles in your marriage? Troubled by your marriage? For many people the answer to at least one of these questions, at least some of the time, is a resounding YES.

Marriage is hard. Take two people who’ve accumulated different experiences, attitudes, behaviours and preferences and tell them: now work on this project together every day, all day, for the rest of your lives. And the project is pretty important, there’s a lot at stake – life, your children’s lives, you know. No pressure.

We pick people we have similarites with. At least we think we do. We try to. About the important things. Before we marry it’s as if we gaze at our partner from across a crowded room. Our eyes meet. Our souls meet. We see the parts of this special, earth-shaking person that are just what we need to feel so loved and so well.

It’s only once we’ve moved from that crowded room to the cozy room for two, that all the differences show up. When we get to our married lives, just the two of us together, we begin to notice all the ways in which we’re terribly different, challenging or upsetting for each other. We sort of knew some of it. But we never dreamed it would be like this.

So of course marriage is hard. What to do?

The answer is: Grow.

Marriage is the best self development course you could ever ask for.

And that’s good. Nowadays we could choose to get elsewhere just about anything that marriage has traditionally and exclusively provided. So at least this is still true: like nothing else, marriage challenges you over the span of your lifetime. If you want to build lifelong closeness, if you just want to stop screaming at each other, or distancing from each other, you’re going to have to work intelligently and deeply on yourself.

This work will lead you to reap rewards in your marriage and in every other sphere of your life.