I look at marriage similar to a computer game: you pic your characters(husband/wife) and there are things at each level that you must accomplish before you move on to the next level. There will be trying times when your decisions will be setbacks, and other times when they will be successes. But the overall goal is to build a loving relationship in order to share your strength toward building a loving family. Each tool(caring, loving, sharing,discipline,career,faith, etc) equals so many points because they are successes. And then in the end, everybody admires you as you get to be printed in the world record for the gem couple who can teach others how to maintain strength in a marriage: The Real Marriage Therapists.
I, for one, am a simpler caveman, and think instead of the board game, Chutes N Ladders. My job is to get her up the ladders to Heaven, and keep her from going to Hell.
Julie, I've never married, either, so I can't answer your question, but I can tell you a true story:
Last week, I met a girlfriend for drinks, a girlfriend who married, for the first time, at the age of 55--three years ago. She was madly in love when she got married and madly in love with being married. Fastfoward to last Friday night, sitting in a rather nice dining room/bar, sipping martinis, my girlfriend, let's call her Hannah, begins to tell me the intellectual/emotional/spiritual struggle she's in (maybe we should call her Jacob!!!). Here's what she said,
"I love him. I love him more than life. I'm grateful he's in my life, and I'm grateful my life has changed so much. But D, I hate how he breathes. I can't stand the way he clears his throat, and when I look back on my single life, it looks like an oasis of calm and serenity. I have this person I can't get rid of who has his own mind and his own free will and his own agency."
I looked at her and said, "You know, X is a good man, and I like the effect he's had on you."
"Yes, I like how I've grown since our marriage, too. And I love him, and I love being married to him. I'm just saying, I didn't know how much work marriage is."
Now, Hannah has what I would call a rather secular attitude about the spiritual life (she's episcopalian, so I pray for her daily), so she feels, in many ways, that her struggle is a lonely struggle, but she's even more committed to making the marriage work than when she first got engaged, and she knows this is only one stage of the marriage.
From what I took away from my evening with Hannah is that yes, marriage is all that it's cracked up to be and maybe even more than you and I can imagine.
He may have a VERY serious medical condition that needs attention, or she could suddenly find herself a WIDOW.