Any athlete who has achieved success will tell you that getting to the top is easy, staying there is the hard part. Human are very goal oriented. Get that job, earn that promotion, run this many miles, jump this high, etc. We like to set goals for ourselves and then check them off. As soon as we achieve them, then it is on to the next set of goals. Life is easier this way. It gives us something to strive for. If we achieve it, then we feel great, but even if we fail, it gives us a sense of determination to improve. However, what happens when there is nothing left to be achieved?
There are always more miles to be run or money to be earned. Bud Fox asked Gordon Gekko, “how many boats does he need to water ski behind?” We like to scold the absurdly rich for their greed when they go after more money, but really the money is of little consequence to them. It is about the pursuit. It is about setting a goal to earn more money and then achieving it. They could care less about the financial gain that the accomplishment brings. An aspect of life that leaves nothing more to be accomplished is a monogamous, faithful relationship. Once that is achieved what else is there? Just putting in the years? Not getting divorced?
There certainly is a lot of work left to do after committing to a person, whether through marriage or not. But there is no easily definable goal. It seems like everything is accomplished, which is why so many people become complacent as relationships progress. This is an issue that affects both sexes in different ways. For men, the goal is to sleep with a woman. All of his efforts are put into this goal. This is why in the beginning of relationships men are so thoughtful, caring, listen to everything that you say, and perform grand romantic gestures. None of that comes natural to men, which is why as the relationship goes on and men fall into their more complacent natural state that women are confused and hurt that they no longer do those things.
It is nothing personal, men were just focused on sleeping with you, a short-term goal. If we thought about the long haul, then we certainly would not set such a high precedent for ourselves. Once we have sex, then we feel accomplished and satisfied. All of that hard work we put in does not seem necessary and in typical male egotism we think that we can have sex with the woman any time we want without putting in the effort. Or we get bored, maybe even a little resentful that we put in so much work for a payoff that was ultimately disappointing. In general a man will never be as sweet, charming, and thoughtful as he was before he had sex with you. There are diminishing returns on each sexual act.
But what about women? What is there chase? It is stereotypical to say that all little girls dream of their wedding day, but I do know for a fact that no boy in the history of earth has ever given a single thought to it. A wedding is the Bride’s day, the Groom is merely a spectator, a necessary participant. This is the goal, the Super Bowl for women. Find a way to get the man that you love to stand in front of family and friends, then say “I do” while putting a ring on it. The problem is that a wedding is not some magical elixir that takes care of everything moving forward. There is sill a hopefully long life to be lived with this person and living together can be quite the challenge for men and women. All of those annoying habits: the messiness, the incessant sports watching, all of it does not magically disappear once he is a married man. Remember, the man has been turning in diminishing returns ever since you guys first had sex, so now that you’ve achieved your goal of walking down the aisle both of you are becoming complacent with one another. The extra motivation that drove the relationship to this point is lost and things start to become toxic.
What’s the best solution? Well it would be to recognize the fact that both of you have lost a little motivation and realize how silly that is to do with a person you love. Then focus on setting new goals for each other and sacrificing to achieve them. What’s the easy solution? Have kids. Children become a never ending series of goals and tasks, which help distract from the fact that you’re slowly drifting apart from the person you’ve given the rest of your miserable life. If you’re lucky, then challenges of child raising will bond you together. But it seems to be a flip of the coin as the divorce rate continues to linger around 50%. Hopefully some day, we can all come to the self realization of this accomplishment problem and realize that a relationship needs to be treated differently than anything else we set out to accomplishment. Until then, just keep popping out those kids.