Tools for Couples Happiness — 02 July 2012
Did I marry the wrong person?

It is common for individuals who have been discouraged with the state of their marriage and have tried to mend it to eventually ask themselves, “Did I just marry the wrong person?” A positive response removes the brunt of the responsibility from the questioner and places it squarely in the shoulders of the mate. The temporary relief may be refreshing –but is gravely misguided.

Some research findings do list factors that predict marital success and failure. Studies suggest that similar backgrounds, values, educational and family history, common goals, lifestyle and aspirations may facilitate happier marriages. It is also documented that verbal and physical abuse, chronic substance abuse and repeated infidelity are behaviors that are incompatible with a good marital relationship. Yet, none of the research suggests that there are “Right” or “Wrong” partners.

Psychiatrist and author of “The Secrets of Happily Married Men,” “The Secrets of Happily Married Women” and “The Secrets of Happy Families, Scott Haltzman, MD opines, “We all married the wrong person.” He adds, “My basic premise is that when we choose our partner we aren’t choosing with all the knowledge and information about them.” Yet, “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.”

I believe that, with the above habitual exceptions, you did marry the right person. However, once the infatuation and the idealization of your beloved dissipated, both of you may have lost sight of each other and capitalized primarily on your own personal needs and perceived losses.

Asking yourself whether you married the wrong person discounts both of you. The correct question is, “ How did we lose our love connection? “  Trusting that no individual deliberately elects to behave in a disagreeable way with the partner he/she loves, the question should be, “How did we lose our way and how can we find our way back?”

It is a common psychological practice for people to hold someone else responsible for their misery. In school we rationalize, “The teacher hates me.” At work, “My boss is too demanding,” and at home, “My spouse is wrong.” None of these approaches is a mature assessment that includes our part in the difficulties we encounter.

To paraphrase and personalize President John F. Kennedy’s advice: “Don’t ask what your spouse can do for you but what you can do for your spouse.” This focus will hold you accountable and an able participant in creating a happier marriage.

To address your marital discontent:

  • Assure yourself that in the absence of abuse, addiction and repeated infidelity you have married the right person.
  • Remember that all the wonderful traits you initially identified in your spouse are still there!
  • Ask yourself whether you provide all that you wish to receive. If so, lovingly negotiate a mutually agreed upon marital change.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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