I recently clicked on an article because of its teasing title – “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person”.
Marriages seem complicated and messy. One the one hand, there’s the fairy tale-like illusion that embellishes the idea of marriage, on the other hand, there’s all the negativity that shadows it coming from ideas such as compromise, submission, loss of identity, disillusionment and so on.
For many years, I’ve wondered what happens to people in relationships and marriages. Why do things get so hard and why do we grow up with unrealistic desires that, later on, can never be matched?
When I started reading the above-mentioned article, I predicted that the reasons of our misguided choices for getting married will be addressed, followed by suggestions on how to correct a lifetime of conditioning and make wiser decisions. I got the first part right, but the latter took me off guard.
I wasn’t prepared for what the author of the article had in store for its curious readers. In a nutshell, we are invited to adopt a radically pessimistic view on the idea of marriage, in order to set correct expectations and to counter the illusory image implanted in our perception.
WE need to swap the Romantic view for a tragic (and at points comedic) awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them. There can be no end to our sense of emptiness and incompleteness. But none of this is unusual or grounds for divorce. Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for.
Reading this, I could see how a highly-intelligent person may relate to this idea and nod their head in approval. At the end of the day, isn’t this what we all experience eventually? Aren’t everyone’s illusions brutally shattered not long after starting a committed partnership?
What I like about this article is that it tries to create awareness by offering a concrete recipe to establish a mind frame that encourages educated choices. If we start from that low point, we are left with only two options: experience staying there, very low, where we knew we would be, or be pleasantly surprised that things are not, in fact, that bad.
When someone young and hopeful reads this piece, they might get a wake-up call and, instead of daydreaming of gaining an unrealistic sense of personal fulfillment in a marriage, they might focus on what they can do for themselves now.
What the article lacks, in my opinion, is addressing the fact that there are more ways to counter making erroneous choices that result in burdensome marriages. Choosing to adopt an utterly pessimistic perspective in order to recalibrate our theoretical expectations surely cannot be the only way. By looking at things from such a narrow angle, we are basically minimising life’s diversity and complexity. Not to mention that assuming such a viewpoint implies a total disregard of the fact that not all relationships or marriages are unsuccessful.
Instead of advising the innocent and untamed to bury their hopes and brace themselves in expectation of the worst, why not show them how to make better choices?
The same article voices out a belief that many have: the impractical expectations from marriages come from a romantic vision that we unconsciously and steadily assume while growing up. But I wouldn’t turn this vision into something absurd. This whimsical assumption that a “perfect” being for us exists stems from a need of love and connection which is inherent in all of us and was not conditioned by society.
There are many things that we have been deprived of and they will surely condition our deepest needs that may never be met by someone else until we learn to fulfill them first. But the desire for a close and authentic connection to another human being is not romantic. It’s natural. And it’s natural because it is possible.
I wouldn’t make such bold statements if I didn’t experience this truth myself. I started this post by saying that, for a long time, I didn’t understand why things go wrong in relationships and marriages. Things are different now and, although I may not have it all figured out, I have become aware of enough things to make new choices and to start feeling intensely happy.
Going back to my question – aren’t everyone’s illusions brutally shattered not long after starting a committed partnership? No, not everyone’s.
So, let us steer our conversation in a different direction. It all boils down to how we make choices. Pessimism should not be a guidance system for improving our decision-making process. Instead, we can have an impartial look at our daily choices and how they make us feel. How we feel right now, with the choices we’ve made thus far, is a good indicator of how we will feel later, with our bigger and more serious decisions.
We can feel right with ourselves and we can feel right next to someone. Although it’s an option, we don’t need to “accommodate ourselves to wrongness”. There is another way – choosing. When we think it’s too late, when we think it’s impossible, when we think it’s a sin, when we have all the reasons not to, we can CHOOSE. Again and again, striving hard to make better choices will demonstrate that things can fall into place, just like we knew they would.