This headline caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks. Don’t we go to great length to marry the right person? We date for a while, get to know them, get to know their families, colleagues, friends, etc. We try to ensure that we share their interests – and even after that – we have zero chance of marrying the right person?
Why? Because unless we married a clone of ourselves, there is no person on this earth that will understand all our needs, wants, desires, etc. We marry, then throw two family systems into the mix, add a couple of kids, and expect that we will grow at the same rate. Events can and will alter our lives completely. There will be times when we need comforting and our partner is not really conscious of this need. The idea that all needs will be fulfilled in a marriage is totally unrealistic – as we are married to a person who has diverse wants and needs of their own.
Before marriage we rarely delve into the complexities of living closely with a partner. We are hopeful, optimistic, romantic and so is our partner. However, marriage moves us onto a different plane – admin and financial planning, running a suburban home, giving up our independence, learning how to bring up kids, navigating life events, work frustrations, etc. The only ingredient that we have in common when we embark on life as a couple is our partner.
Do we fully understand ourselves, anyway? So how can we fully understand another?
If the above is true, it follows that we will probably choose a so-called “wrong” person. However, this can be good news. Alain de Botton states that all we need to do is “let go of the romantic idea upon which the Western understanding of marriage has been based for the last 250 years: that a perfect being exists who can meet all our needs and satisfy our every yearning.” Once we let go of that notion, we stop expecting all our needs to be met, and become used to the idea that sometimes they won’t be.
We need to choose our partner carefully and then hope that we will marry a “more right than totally wrong” person, who is good at negotiating differences in taste, and tries to be “more right” for you. We must avoid rushing into unions because we are lonely or feel that “time is passing us by.” We need to be aware that the nice feeling of romanticism will not last, but can be replaced by understanding, open communication, and a willingness to try and satisfy our partner’s needs.
The good news is that you can make it work. Get rid of the notion that your union is not “normal” and learn to accommodate the “wrongness”, and strive for a more forgiving, respectful and kind perspective.
Taken from an article by Alain de Botton in the New York Times. May 28th 2016. Alain de Botton (@alaindebotton) is the author of the novel “The Course of Love.”