Anything meaningful takes work. Especially relationships. Any type of relationship requires some sort of effort to maintain, but marriage can be especially hard work. As it should be. Recently, I've seen and heard many people going on about how if you aren't "happy" with your partner, you should leave them and find someone that makes you happy, or be single and discover what you really want. Which is all fairly decent advice if your relationship is still in the dating stages.
Marriage is a different story. It's not all about being happy all the time. I've never met anyone that is 100% happy all the time. It isn't realistic to expect someone to be happy all the time, so why are we so focused on, "if you're not happy, leave?" If you're in a long-term relationship where there is never a difference of opinion, odds are, someone is being fake. Marriage isn't about getting along all the time. It's not about trying to change your partner, or molding them into what you want them to be. It's about respect, compromise, forgiving, commitment, and adapting to changes in each other. Change is inevitable for all of us. That's what life is. You grow, learn, have experiences that, hopefully, teach you lessons and allow for you to become more mature. It's all about sticking around through ALL of that, whether it's happy and fun, or dark and tragic. In no way am I saying there is never reason for divorce because there are most definitely situations where leaving is absolutely necessary. I've been divorced. I'm now married again. The problem I see happening today is that too many people use leaving as an easy escape rather than putting in the effort to work on their relationship.
There are cycles in a marriage. You go through ups and downs constantly. If you're lucky, those ups and downs are actually fairly mild with the occasional extreme. Some couples have way more extremes to weather than the average person. Either way, you can't expect things to remain at a constant level of affection, romanticism, & activity year after year. Relationships tend to start out strong and exciting. We're falling love, so those chemicals released in our brain make us love being in love. We love being around our significant other so much at first that this allows us to subconsciously ignore little things that may normally irritate us about another person. Once the "honeymoon phase" wears off, we often start noticing things we didn't before and we get tired of being "polite." We panic when we realize we either can't keep up the same level of energy, romance, or in some cases, gift giving, that we have been up to that point so things start to feel overwhelming OR we decide they are going "wrong." Any relationship will "go wrong" if you allow it to. This is when people start looking for a way to break it off or start convincing themselves to leave.
In an ideal world, we would all be 100% ourselves from the moment we met someone. This would mostly prevent the previous "breakup" scenario. Let's face it though, that just doesn't happen. We, of course, want to make our best impression on people we are interested in, so we try to only show the good side of ourselves. After awhile, the familiarity sets in and, again, we get scared that things are getting "boring," or "stale." This part is really just the routine that sets in with everyday life. I know, I know, you think "routine" and think that's a problem. A routine is FINE. I realize you've been told that long term relationships often need "spicing up" to keep them alive, so as soon as things get routine, you think "oh no, I have to keep them interested," but think about this for a minute—there are 365 days in a year. Even if you want until your 30s to settle down, there is still a good possibility that you can have 30 years with that person. That is 10,950 days. Who realistically thinks they can find 10,950 new and interesting things to say or do without ever repeating anything? Exactly. It's UNREALISTIC to feel like falling into a routine with each other is a bad thing. It's actually a good sign that you are comfortable with each other and don't feel the need to constantly be proving yourselves to each other. It should be a relief to be able to avoid the constant anxiety-inducing pressure of having to fill the silence with nonsensical conversation. Take comfort when you find that familiarity instead of running away and thinking you need "new and exciting." New and exciting gets exhausting for both parties involved, and eventually, if everything is always new and exciting, it will become the norm and you won't get that happy, elated feeling from ANYTHING. I imagine that's how at least SOME of the billionaires of the world feel. Bored with everything because they've already done everything money can buy.
Back to the subject, familiarity is not always or even necessarily a bad thing. Your goal should be to find someone you can be comfortable with who also occasionally does something to remind you that you're special, but remember it's a two way street. Everything you expect from your significant other, you also have to be willing to do yourself. Everything. If you want them to be supportive and understanding, you have to be as well. It's very hard to really evaluate our own behavior and make sure we are living up to what we would expect. We tend to want to think we are in the right all the time because it's human nature. Checking yourself and making sure you aren't doing the same things you get upset over is necessary. It's a major component of a successful relationship, as is trying to see things from your partner's perspective, communicating openly and honestly without mind games, and compromise. Marriage involves quite a bit of "swallowing your pride." We all like to believe our thoughts, feelings, and opinions are valid, and everyone DOES have a right to feel whatever it is they are feeling, however, we also have a responsibility to make sure our feelings, thoughts, or opinions aren't coming from either a selfish or misinformed place. Take the time to get all the information, then also take the time to check yourself and see if your feelings are justified or maybe a bit of an overreaction.
Ultimately, marriage is a struggle. Any meaningful, long term relationship will be. You'll struggle, but if you're with the right person, you won't feel empty. You'll be fulfilled, and a VERSION of happy, but it will be a realistic happy. You have to accept the flaws in your partner and cope with them in healthy ways. Enhance their strengths as much as you can. Be honest with them and yourself about your feelings, but don't always expect it to be about you. Both partners must always be considered in every situation, then pick and choose your battles carefully. Not everything has to be a major issue. Think to yourself, "am I letting go of the past and forgiving? Is this really that big of an issue? Will it matter in a year? 5 years?" If you evaluate situations before reacting, it can help you keep from creating unnecessary drama in your life. It will not only help your relationship, but it will help your own personal stress level. There will still be arguments. That's completely normal and even healthy. What it comes down to is— marriage is a choice. You choose to accept your partner for who they are completely and choose to do whatever you can to help them through this life. Together. Walking away should be reserved only for major issues that cannot be helped even with maximum effort on your part because it does take two people to make it work. If one is completely uninterested or hostile, sometimes it's just not the right person, but if you're being real, you'll hopefully figure that part out before you actually make it to marriage. Once that commitment is made, you should try everything possible to fulfill it.