When it comes to marriage, most strive for a fairy tale. We are often committed to the idea that marriage will solve whatever may be wrong in the quest for “happily ever after.” This ideal of marriage is based in fantasy-land, much like a fairy tale. Striving for perfection is often seen as the road to happiness—but this is not true. A marriage does not have to be perfect to be happy.
Where did the idea that perfection is necessary for marriage to be good come from? One researcher points to inflated expectations as a reason for this belief. Her perspective is that we go into the relationship expecting it to be better than it is ever possible of being. When reality falls short of expectations, the tendency is to blame our spouse or the relationship. We fail to look inward for reasons for the relationship failure and don’t recognize our expectations were too high. When the partner doesn’t measure up to our expected standard of the marriage, then divorce or abandonment of the relationship is often seen as the solution.
How do we temper excitement for a new relationship with reality? First, take a look at your partner or spouse as they are right now, without any pretense that they will ever change. Accepting your mate as they are without trying to change them is the first step to establishing reality based expectations. This is not to say that they won’t change—but you have to get clear that you can only change yourself, not your partner. Can you live with their annoying habits? Insecurities? Money management? Do you have similar goals and expectations for the future? Do you both agree on decisions about having/not having children or discipline? Moving forward in your relationship with an understanding of acceptance where you- and your partner- stand on critical aspects of your relationship without hopes that marriage will “change” them is the single greatest step toward acceptance and happiness.
Second, take a look at how you communicate. This seems commonsensical, but for a more satisfying relationship, skip the sarcasm or snarky remarks. Research shows that direct confrontation about issues is far better for a marriage than indirect hostility, also known as passive aggression. Passive aggressive communication is learned behavior that keeps a person from expressing anger in a healthy way. Check your own communication style—are you being clear with your expectations or what leads to feelings of anger and resentment? If not, you may be unknowingly passive aggressive in your communication with your partner.
Finally, what’s the secret to a happy marriage? Be realistic, flexible, and accept that marriage requires effort. If things are rough and hard life issues present themselves, take it easy on each other. For example, marriages may feel strained after new parenthood. If you both understand that difficulty is part of the journey, you both will have reality based expectations and will likely have less disappointment. Reality based expectations can then lead to happy, non-perfect marriages and relationships.
1The Myth of the Perfect Marriage By Tara Blanv
Lisa Webb is at the Body & Mind Consulting Associates Group: www.bodymindtn.com
Her latest book: “Boardroom to Bedroom, Using your Executive Success for your Marriage” is available at www.amazon.com