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July 5, 2016
CU_today_Why_you_will_marry_the_wrong_personWhen looking for a spouse, young men and women often make the mistake of looking for a person who shares their exact tastes, strengths, and faults. Marriage, however, is more about a commitment to another person than it is about the romantic connection formed early on in a relationship.   

The New York Times explores how most modern marriages arise from the mutual desire for familiarity rather than a commitment to working through difficulties and misunderstandings:

But though we believe ourselves to be seeking happiness in marriage, it isn’t that simple. What we really seek is familiarity — which may well complicate any plans we might have had for happiness. We are looking to recreate, within our adult relationships, the feelings we knew so well in childhood. The love most of us will have tasted early on was often confused with other, more destructive dynamics: feelings of wanting to help an adult who was out of control, of being deprived of a parent’s warmth or scared of his anger, of not feeling secure enough to communicate our wishes. How logical, then, that we should as grown-ups find ourselves rejecting certain candidates for marriage not because they are wrong but because they are too right — too balanced, mature, understanding and reliable — given that in our hearts, such rightness feels foreign.

By seeking familiarity rather than stability, we can inadvertently marry the “wrong” person. Looking at marriage purely as a romantic pursuit, however, dooms both spouses to thinking they have married the “wrong” person. Realizing that we are imperfect humans, on the other hand, helps us live out our marriage more realistically and better.  

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.

This philosophy of pessimism offers a solution to a lot of distress and agitation around marriage. It might sound odd, but pessimism relieves the excessive imaginative pressure that our romantic culture places upon marriage. The failure of one particular partner to save us from our grief and melancholy is not an argument against that person and no sign that a union deserves to fail or be upgraded.

The best marriages are the ones in which each spouse learns to work through disagreements and arguments peacefully. The “right” spouse is the one who can learn to love the other, despite disagreements in tastes or discrepancies in personality.

The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the “not overly wrong” person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.