You Won’t Marry The Right Person And Here’s Why

This is one of the things that scare us the most. So aware of the danger, we put crazy energy into avoiding it. But despite our best efforts, we usually make the same mistake as everyone else, by not marrying the right person.

Especially because we are very strange creatures (especially when we see them up close), we are rarely able to predict, and unable to warn others of the pitfalls to avoid when they talk to us. From childhood we run a whole series of problems that are exacerbated when we try to get close to the other. We can only seem normal to those who don’t know us well. In a culture more advanced than ours, one of the first questions to be asked at the beginning of a relationship would be, “How are you mentally?”

Maybe we tend to get angry when people contradict us, or we can’t relax outside of work. Perhaps we find it difficult to indulge in love, or we shut down like oysters when we are humiliated. Unfortunately, we rarely delve into the question of our contradictions before marriage. When a one-night stand threatens to expose our bad sides, we blame each other for all the ills, and we end the relationship. On the other hand, our friends don’t care enough about us to point out our less glamorous mistakes (which, for a while, they didn’t get away with). One of the benefits of being alone is that you honestly think you’re too simple.

Marriage becomes an adventure full of hope, generosity, and infinite goodness between two people who do not yet know themselves.

The other is no better. Of course, we are vaguely trying to understand it. We get to know his family, take a look at his pictures, and meet his college friends. All this gives us the feeling that we are informed. Nothing is less true. Marriage becomes a gamble full of hope, generosity, and infinite goodness between two people who do not yet know themselves, nor the person they have decided to live with. They have no idea what they are going to get to, because they have done everything not to know.

In our ignorance, we fill in the gaps in the most satisfying way. Based on some signs, we expect years of happiness, surely fueled by a deep mutual respect. We think we will never feel lonely again. What is even more dangerous is that we ignore an element of human nature (and not just the one we intend to marry): we are all deeply damaged beings, unable to truly understand the other. Even if we want to ignore the suffering we will always face, we must never forget that it will manifest itself one day or another, and that our imperfect partner will be very difficult sometimes.

To make matters worse, the society in which we live does not allow us to obtain the information necessary for a marriage to function properly, or even to acknowledge our need for it. We are much more excited about the party than we are in the decades to come.

Until very recently, people married for very practical reasons: because the plot of land he owned was next to you, and because his family was engaged in the grain trade, because his father was a magistrate, because the castle had to be taken care of, because the family and the in-laws of the bride and groom were bound by the same Interpretation of the sacred text. Because of their share of infidelity and physical violence, marriage of convenience was objectively unreasonable. The lack of empathy led to a feeling of isolation, and the screams of parents echoed in the children’s room.

We united for practical reasons, to exploit the other, for selfishness or arrogance. All this explains why one can be so indulgent towards marriage for love, since the only thing that matters is the irresistible desire to unite with another person, convinced that we have found the right one. The contemporary age seems to hold reason – this ferment of misfortune, this accounting requirement – in low esteem. Moreover, the more thoughtless a marriage appears (they met only a few weeks ago, were either unemployed, or barely past their teens), the judicious, seemingly obvious foolishness on the part of the spouses to face the faults and tragedies of a marriage of ease or convenience. The prestige that instinctive decisions currently enjoy is linked to the collective trauma caused by centuries of irrational rationality.

Even if we think we want a happy marriage, things aren’t quite that simple: what we’re looking for—at the risk of complicating our desires for romantic bliss—is routine.

However, even if we think we want a happy marriage, things are not quite that simple: what we are looking for—at the risk of complicating our desires for romantic bliss—is routine. We want to revive, in our adult relationships, the familiar feelings that come to us from childhood, even if they are rarely limited to tenderness and affection. The love we experienced in our younger years was often tainted by more destructive dynamics: wanting to help an unstable adult, feeling unloved, fearing our parents’ anger, or being unable to express all the complexities of our emotions because we weren’t confident.

As a result, today we refrain from certain marriage candidates on the grounds that they do not suit us (too balanced, too mature, too understanding, too reliable) when in fact they are a good fit for us. We have convinced ourselves that we do not deserve to be loved, we are not used to being cared. We are looking for a more exciting partner, subconsciously hoping to restore that familiar feeling of frustration. We marry the wrong person because the right person seems so confusing to us, because we don’t know what a balanced relationship is, and because – no matter what – we’re not used to really fulfilling in a romantic relationship.

We also deceive ourselves because we feel so lonely. No one can choose the perfect partner when the idea of ​​being single seems unbearable to them. To be able to make this choice calmly, it is necessary to admit that it can take years to find the right person. Otherwise, we risk liking the idea of ​​being in a relationship more than the person who allowed us to. Unfortunately, after a certain age, society makes celibacy infinitely unpleasant. Group activities are becoming more and more rare. After the bachelors’ independence is threatened, the couples stop inviting them.

To be able to make this choice calmly, it is necessary to admit that it can take years to find the right person. Otherwise, we risk liking the idea of ​​being in a relationship more than the person who allowed us to.

Basically, we get married to try to perpetuate a pleasant feeling. We imagine that marriage is the guarantor of the happiness we feel with one another. We believe that this union will make ephemera permanent. It will help us fill in the joy we felt the first time the idea of ​​the proposal came to our mind. In Venice, perhaps, on the lake, in a motor boat, when the sun is reflecting on the sea and we’ve talked about intimate things that no one has suspected before, while waiting to go for a risotto somewhere… We get married until the exception is the rule, without realizing that None of this has anything to do with the institution of marriage. To tell the truth, this puts us resolutely on another level, very different and more managerial. In a small house in the suburbs, for example, far from where one works, with unbearable children (extinguishing the passion that generated them). The only common point of being our partner, did we choose the right ingredient for the bottle?

The good news is that feeling like you married the wrong person doesn’t matter.

What we should get rid of is the romantic idea that has been a part of the Western concept of marriage for 250 years, that there is a perfect being capable of solving all our problems and satisfying all our desires.

On the contrary, we must be aware of our tragic situation: the other generates – of course – feelings of frustration, anger, annoyance, indignation and disappointment. No one can fill the void inside us. But there is nothing exceptional about that and there is no reason for divorce. By choosing to engage with someone, we are only identifying the specific suffering for which we are willing to sacrifice ourselves.

It may sound strange, but some pessimism about marriage saves us a lot of trouble and chaos. This attitude, usually associated with failure and bitterness, actually relieves the pressure our romantic culture unduly places on the institution of marriage. There is nothing to worry about if the other does not live up to our expectations. This is by no means a sign that the relationship is doomed to fail, or that it should end.

The person who suits us best is not the one who looks exactly like us, but the one who knows how to express their disagreement in a constructive way.

The one who suits us best is not one who looks like us in every respect (it doesn’t exist), but the one who knows how to be diplomatic and expresses disagreement in a constructive way. Far from the concept of perfect complementarity, the sign of a partner “not so bad” lies in their ability to show tolerance in the event of disagreement. Compatibility is evidence of the love that two people have for each other, not a prerequisite.

Romance did not help us. We have learned to judge ourselves by the expectations that a wrong and cruel philosophy has inadvertently raised. So many aspects of marriage seem horrifying to us. We feel lonely and convinced that the flaws of our union are a sign that it is unnatural. But it is necessary to admit that perfection does not exist. In the face of our many faults, let us show kindness towards ourselves, tolerance towards others, and take things with a sense of humor.

This blog, also published in The New York Times, has been translated by Bamiyan Shiv for Fast for Word.

Alain de Botton is the author of As Long As Love Lasts (Flammarion, 2016).

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