Last blog I asked why couples in their 50s and 60s divorce—today I’m thinking about the reasons people marry in the first place. Societal approved sex, saving rent, all their friends are married, health insurance, and making the baby legitimate are all common reasons. Regardless of the reasons people tell themselves and others, I suspect most people marry believing they have found the one person who can make them happy. Now think about that—two separate individuals, each with the idea that the other will make him or her happy. A recipe for disappointment—unless one is a clone of the other.
The first thing I learned after marriage was that George and I don’t enjoy the same activities. This was not apparent before marriage when our palpitating hearts made anything we did together enjoyable. George loved spending Saturdays with his head under the hood of our car. Not the way I wanted to spend my day off. I enjoyed church meetings on Sunday morning and George preferred to sleep late. Summers were worse. George expected me to go fishing with him. Now, I’ll admit this was partly my fault. I had gone fishing with him once while we were dating and enjoyed playing dumb while my big, strong boy friend baited my hook and gave me pointers. Drowning worms with a husband who is more interested in the fish than in me was not the same.
Differences about how to use leisure time are relatively minor, but what about couples where each wants a totally different lifestyle? The wife who marries a non-member or less active man and realizes: 1) he’s not going to change, and 2) she desperately wants to be sealed to her husband and children. Or there’s the husband who wants to pursue a degree and the wife who wants him to drop out and take a job now, any job that will provide a house and minivan.
My daughter’s mission president loved working in the mission field. He retired with the goal of serving one mission after another for the rest of his life. His wife wanted to spend her golden years near her grandchildren. Her strategy, according to my daughter, was “fake it ‘til you make it.” That might work for one term as a mission mother, but can you imagine spending ten or fifteen years pretending you’re happy? Unfortunately, it’s not possible for a mission pres to serve as a single while his wife remains home pursuing her own interests. I hope this noble sister finally achieved some sort of compromise such as three years on and three years off. Otherwise, she probably spent a good deal of time hoping for her husband’s early demise.
A certain amount of deception is necessary in courtship—otherwise the marriage rate would plummet. Maybe the realistic thing is to marry with the idea that you will be about as happy married as you were single—that your happiness is basically your own responsibility. And you may need to compromise some of your own cherished goals if they will cripple the happiness of your spouse. Maybe premarital counseling would help couples open their eyes before marriage and avoid post-nuptial shock. Of course, truly realistic pre-marriage counseling could cut the marriage rate way down. How bad would that be?