Throughout the years I have treated countless couples, most of whom thought they were marrying for the right reasons. The most authentic couples proved initially to be in love, physically attracted, well-suited emotionally and intellectually, and to possess similar values. They had their share of problems, but they gave themselves a fighting chance at negotiating the hardest task we are charged with in our lives: sustaining a reasonably happy, healthy, long-term relationship. Think about it: How many courses in high school or college did you have on relationship theory? Probably none, but I will bet you had at least 3 math courses. Not that these aren’t valuable; they certainly will come in handy when you are trying to figure out how much alimony and child support to pay.
When will we learn? When will we focus on fixing the things that really destroy us instead of numbing our pain with food, medication, music, and sports? Nothing wrong with any of these things—I love them all—but when used to escape the reality of addressing what is most important: your relationship and your family, they simply serve as a tire patch, and that’s about it. And we pay dearly for our drugs: We will pay a mediocre, middle-inning relief pitcher $12,000,000 a year to entertain us, and some rock star even more. And life goes on as we know it. I have been saying for years that most people do not take relationships and marriage seriously enough, and neither does society. We prefer to reduce it to something as easy as learning to ride a bicycle. The most bizarre examples of this are those that marry for the flimsiest of reasons. Here just a few that I have experienced in my line of work:
1. I chose not to hurt my partner’s feelings: What? If you married someone because you were concerned about their feelings, how do you think they are going to feel after you have your affair, get bored of them and stop having sex, or leave them after a year or two?
2. I could not say no: Great, you are a nice person with little boundaries. Perhaps you were parentified as a child and consequentially never learned to separate your needs from the needs of others. Trust me, you will eventually say “no” to the marriage if this is the major reason you acquiesced.
3. My parents loved my partner: Well then, have your partner move in with them; you get your own place. Look, it is nice to have your parents take to your mate—it is one less complication in your relationship. But some parents are not attuned to what is truly appropriate for you or what will work. They might be thinking about financial security or grandchildren. It is great to have input when you are considering a major life decision, but ultimately you should make up your own mind.
4. I was not attracted to my partner, but he/she treated me well: Really, you mean that you could not find a good fit that would value you and treat you with respect? My question is: How will you treat this person in time?
5. I was not physically attracted to my partner, but we shared a strong religion together: Well…it better be “other worldly,” because once you are exposed to attraction and passion you will need all the spiritual help you can get.
6. I needed the money: When we put survival ahead of attraction, passion, and shared interests, once we achieve a sense of security, the honeymoon might end abruptly.
7. My biological clock was running: Yes, but your child will need a foundation to thrive. Perhaps co-habitation would have been a better idea until the relationship stabilized.
8. My partner had most of the items on my relationship check list: The extent that this will cause a problem will depend on which ones were missing. For example, if sex was not that important to you, the lack of it would obviously not be a deal breaker. Simply put, you will have to admit to yourself what is, and is not vital to your relationship health. If you leave out those qualities that you cannot seem to live without, trouble will ensue.
So, the moral of the story is Sherman: Be true to who you are; to what you feel and think. Oscar Wilde wrote: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”