Couples in crisis often reach the point where they decide they are just two poorly matched people. This precedes the decision to leave the relationship and go in search of that “right person.” Unfortunately, the odds of a successful marriage go down for each attempt at a new marriage. Psychiatrist and author of The Secrets of Happily Married Men and The Secrets of Happily Married Women and The Secrets of Happy Families, Scott Haltzman, MD, says in truth, they are correct; we all married the wrong person.
“My basic philosophy is we have to start with the premise when we choose our partner that we aren’t choosing with all the knowledge and information about them,” says Dr. Haltzman. “However, outside of the extreme scenarios of domestic violence, chronic substance abuse, or the inability to remain sexually faithful—which are good arguments for marrying the wrong person on a huge scale, and where it is unhealthy or unsafe to remain married—we need to say, ‘This is the person I chose, and I need to find a way to develop a sense of closeness with this person for who he or she really is and not how I fantasize them to be.’”
That choice to work on the relationship can lead to a more profound, meaningful experience together. Dr. Haltzman offers the following tips to help us reconnect or improve our bond:
◦Respect your mate for his/her positive qualities, even when they have some important negative ones.
◦Be the right person, instead of looking for the right person.
◦Be a loving person, instead of waiting to get love.
◦Be considerate instead of waiting to receive consideration.
To underscore the last couple of points, Dr. Haltzman says many people will put only so much effort into a relationship, then say, “I’ve done enough.” But very few of us will do that with our children. “Instead, we say despite their flaws, we wouldn’t want anyone else; yet, our kids can be much more of a pain in the ass than our spouses.”
Finally, he advises, “Have the attitude that this is the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with, so you must find a way to make it work instead of always looking for the back door.”
Doug Geivett, one of my former professors, comments:
Fourth, we should commit to having a successful marriage, and let go any idealistic notion of being married to just the right person and having a perfect marriage.
Fifth, we should welcome a different conception of the values and rewards of marriage than what is so widely assumed today.
Right on. He goes on to point out that this does not mean you shouldn’t get married nor does it mean that your marriage to the wrong person can’t succeed or that any person is a good person to marry.
This is a good antidote to the “soulmateism”–the belief that there’s “the one” out there especially made for you and that it is your destiny to meet and wed–that is the spirit of the age today. IMO, soulmateism is a bunch of bunk. Dropping that view, as well as dropping the “I’ll ‘settle down’ get married someday later in life after I’ve ‘had my fun’ and made my career” attitude currently en vogue today will make for a generally better life.