According to Stanley Hauerwas, we always marry the wrong person.
Because you’re reading this on a counselor’s website, I know what you might be thinking. Hauerwas thinks we are all so dysfunctional that we can’t help but seek out toxic people to love. But Hauerwas isn’t a therapist and that’s not what he means. What Hauerwas meant was that even if we somehow manage to marry someone who is an absolutely perfect match for us in one season of our lives, if we stay with them long enough, they will change. So will we for that matter, and that change will inevitably lead to some level of conflict.
Time and the large and small ways that it acts on us can make long term relationships challenging. Marriage, being the profound and transformative relationship that it is, tends to change us in ways that we may not be prepared for as well. When time and our life experiences change us, we sometimes find ourselves married to a person that we don’t even know.
While there are as many reasons that couples seek out therapy as there are couples, one of the reasons that many of us struggle with in our relationships is that we tend to glorify romantic love to an absurd degree and then develop wildly unrealistic expectations about it. For example, there’s a famous line from an old romantic movie that says, “love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
Think about that quote for a minute. If someone really believed that as long as you love someone you’ll never have to apologize to them, is it any wonder that they would have relationship problems? The reality of marriage, or any relationship for that matter, is that if we want to love someone well, we’d better be ready to apologize when we hurt them.
There are many things a person can do to improve their relationships, but one easy step you can take is to question what our culture tells us about the “power of love” and instead embrace a more reality-based understanding of what makes a marriage work. In spite of what all those pop songs tell us, love is not all you need. While being in love can certainly change us for the better, it does not permanently transform us into angelic beacons of self-giving love. As Denis de Rougemont said, “Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love?”
Spoiler alert: they don’t.
If you are currently struggling in your marriage or partnership, here’s some good news. Today, there are powerful relationship therapies based on decades of social science research. These therapies can help you change the way you relate to the person you’re married to and how you think about your relationships. When you change those things, you’ll change your relationship for the better.
Are you ready to take the next step? Why not schedule an appointment at Deerfield today? Time changes all relationships, why not be intentional about the ways yours change?