Why You Marry the Wrong Person

Alain de Boton, author of the novel “The Course of Love,” opined in the New York Times that people marry the wrong person because they optimistically believe that they are in love. Back not so many generations ago, and still in some places, marriages were arranged, or based on social, religious, and economic reasons known well in the society. Problems arose from such marriages as they ignored feelings and emotions, which are important to most friendships and most intimate relationships. As the world changed, so did the basis for marrying a person. Love moved to the forefront. But, as most people who ever married can tell you, love is not enough. Even those people who do their homework and think they know the person they are marrying discover, as Mr. de Boton states, “We seem normal only to those who don’t know us very well.”

Indeed, every person in a relationship will have at least some times where their partner will annoy or frustrate or disappoint them, or they will do so to their partner. That fact is part of life. You will have times that your partner dissatisfies you, but this is not a reason to believe your marriage isn’t normal or has failed, just that your partner is human and humans do things that other humans don’t like. The existential philosopher, Albert Camus, noted “If it were enough to love, life would be too easy.” He went on to opine that the thing people need to do is not to try to cure what is wrong but to try to learn to live with their problems. Indeed this is the very essence of how to make your marriage work, according to Mr. de Boton, “The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste…but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently…[who has the] the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity.”

While it would be ridiculous to claim that we should not marry for love, it is equally ridiculous to claim that we should not marry for economic or religious or political reasons. The reasons we marry are important only to the act of marrying. There is no perfect person or situation which can meet all of the other person’s needs or expectations. Love or economic stability are the things with which we come into the marriage. We marry the “wrong person” because we marry believing that what we bring in to our marriage will create a “good” marriage. In fact, it is up to each individual to realize that there are flaws in every relationship, some of which can be tolerated, some of which cannot. You will not know ahead of time what those flaws are or what you are willing to tolerate, but both you and your partner should be willing to accommodate what you can and to leave only when accommodation is no longer appropriate or possible. A good marriage is based, then, neither on reason nor emotion, but on mutual accommodation of one another’s flaws.

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