The three stages of marriage


Our recent anniversary inspired some introspection on the great institution of marriage. My geriatric insomnia gave me the opportunity around 2 a.m. to indulge myself in a little philosophy, which I deliver without apology from a woman’s point of view:

There are only three stages of marriage, preceded by courtship and engagement stages. These precursors to marriage have themselves been the subject of much study and debate, so I will not dwell upon them.

Having survived courtship and engagement – and perhaps a disastrous wedding – the (more or less) happy couple embarks upon married life. Your survival of these prequels was made possible by your starry-eyed view of some of Bubba’s more endearing qualities.

Perhaps you think it’s cute that he snorts beer through his nose when he has a good laugh at something. Or that he is a gourmand when he says the same thing every time a plate of barbeque is put in front of him – “Dang! Them’s some good grits!” Isn’t he the cutest thing?

Then you get married.

The first few years can be called the Honeymoon Stage. That’s when you discover more of Bubba’s endearing quirks and foibles. Isn’t it funny how he always, always, always misses the laundry hamper when he tosses his boxers at the end of the day? 

You roll your eyes and think about how about how sweet he looks when he’s asleep in his lounger every night even before you finish the dinner dishes.

This Honeymoon Stage lasts for the first seven to 10 years. I always put the fudge factor in the Seven Year Itch Theory. Mom said I was a Late Bloomer because I got around to everything a couple of years after the other kids did. So I didn’t get the Seven Year Itch until about the ninth or 10th year.

By the time you contract the Seven Year Itch, all of Bubba’s endearing qualities have slowly worked their way down your approval scale until you are driven to say something about them. 

I should note that there’s no predetermined length of your Seven Year Itch. It lasts as long as you are comfortable delivering mild grumblings about those things you used to find funny. Bear in mind, Bubba will first ignore you, and then he will become irritated at your grumblings. You have, after all, changed the rules without consulting him. He is confronted with your sudden displeasure at what was acceptable, maybe even cute, antics from him yesterday. Women. Go figure.

All I can say about this period is, good luck with the snorting beer. It won’t be until some doctor explains to him what he’s doing to his sinus system that he will try a more conventional laugh. Maybe.

You might have some success with his aim at the laundry hamper, but don’t be surprised if you get the argument that he leaves the clothes on the floor so they can air out and dry out before you place them in the hamper. This considerate maneuver on his part greatly reduces the chance of any foul odor emanating from said hamper. You may even buy this argument at first, thinking how lucky you are to have someone in your life who is as thoughtful as Bubba.

You may also buy his explanation that his snoring in the Barq-O-Lounger while you do dishes is because he worked so hard today. (Thereby implying you did not?) And never mind about the three beers he had with his buddies on his way home.

If you are lucky enough to live through this ill-defined period of marital not-so-bliss, you then enter the final stage of marriage. I must admit that this period of a relationship is much more pleasant and stress-free than the preceding two.

I call this the Acceptance Stage, but I warn you young ones out there that this period usually doesn’t start until about the 20th year, maybe later. You have now realized that you never did get Bubba to stop snorting his beer. So now you either leave the room or just shake your head in mild wonder that he’s been doing this for all of the decades you’ve known him.

He still misses the hamper when he throws his boxers at it, but you now use their retrieval as a bend-over and stretching exercise. Squats and arabesques can liven up the most mundane housework chores.

You catch yourself smiling as you do the dinner dishes. After all of these years, you still haven’t stopped him from snoring in his recliner while you do this chore at the end of your day.

You’re smiling because he had a good time with his retirement buddies playing a round of golf and then having drinks at the 19th hole. And you’re glad that he’s healthy and happy enough to still run and play with all of the other little boys and girls.

Cara Curtin is a retired Naval officer whose last duty station was nearby Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. She and her family chose Fernandina Beach as their forever home, where she continues to pursue her writing career of over 30 years. She has written for radio, television, and a wide variety of print publications. She also gives informal talks and conducts workshops to share her writing tips. Contact her at