But there’s good news, too.
According to your exacting standards, you have tried to do everything right in choosing a spouse.
You made your list of must-have qualities to which they appear to have, you put them through a thorough vetting process, by which I mean you dated them and met their family and friends, and you made sure not to show them your flaws and less-attractive qualities.
You’ve done everything right and know that you have chosen the exact right partner for you. Or have you?
In an opinion piece, writer Alain de Botton stated that, while we go to great lengths to avoid marrying the wrong person, in actuality, we really do it all the time.
“Partly, it’s because we have a bewildering array of problems that emerge when we try to get close to others. We seem normal only to those who don’t know us very well. In a wiser, more self-aware society than our own, a standard question on any early dinner date would be: ‘And how are you crazy?'” de Botton said.
While crazy is a word that makes me uncomfortable for its insensitivity towards mental health issues, I understand what he’s saying: all of us are flawed beings with our own issues and it would be nice if we could be honest from the start.
For instance, if we knew that our potential spouse absolutely loathed pickles and we were from a family who pickled everything, we could decide in advance if that particular behavior was something we could or wanted to deal with.
“Marriage ends up as a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don’t know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully avoided investigating,” he added.
In the past, people married for logical and practical reasons, but these marriages of reasons weren’t, in fact, reasonable at all; they were pragmatic, close-minded and deceitful.
Now, we have the marriage of feeling, and what matters is that the two individuals are drawn together by instinct and they feel in their hearts that their union is right.
De Botton theorizes that, while we think we’re looking for happiness in marriage, what we really want is familiarity. We’re looking to recreate (with our adult relationship) the feelings we knew so well in our childhood.
“The love most of us will have tasted early on was often confused with other, more destructive dynamics: feelings of wanting to help an adult who was out of control, of being deprived of a parent’s warmth or scared of his anger, of not feeling secure enough to communicate our wishes,” he continued. “We marry the wrong people because we don’t associate being loved with feeling happy.”
The good news is that it doesn’t matter if we discover that we’ve married the wrong person.
Instead of getting rid of them, we need to get rid of the idea that the perfect person who can meet all our needs and satisfy all of our desires actually exists.
“The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement… Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementary, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the ‘not overly wrong’ person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition,” he concluded.
So, every person is wrong for us until they grow into being right for us.
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