I recently read an article in which the author wrote, “I don’t know what makes a good marriage.” It was an advice piece on marriage.
That we come out of primary, secondary, and post-secondary education with no instruction in how to succeed at marriage is strange, isn’t it? Is this negligence, or is it that we have no commonly accepted and dependable wisdom about what makes a good marriage?
I have a hunch about one force that undermines the chance of having a fulfilling marriage: The entertainment industry (I include romance novels and pop magazines) subtly indoctrinates us with a hopeless ideal of marriage, one in which the romantic phase lasts forever, in which we each have one “soul mate” and, having found them, live in near ecstacy for the duration. To make matters worse, somewhere along the way we began to believe that things and people are supposed to be the way we think they should be, not the way they are. So our capacity for mature adaptation to “what is” has atrophied. We think we get to have, be, buy, and do anything we like. This doesn’t seem to have served us.
I wish I had a ready answer to the dilemma. Now, 15 years into my second marriage, I would say that there are two things that make mine a “good marriage.” The first is that, admittedly, I made a better choice the second time around–a more intentional, less instinctive choice than I did at age 22. The second thing is that we had the benefit of Imago Relationship Therapy–before we married, and a couple of times since. I’m biased, but the tools of Imago have given us a way to deal with conflict, a normal and inevitable part of marriage, in a way that heals instead of wounds. Imago has bailed us out of tough spots more often than I can count. I wish everyone learned it in school.