Marriage disenchantment

Considering how marriage is viewed in the Western world, what a pedestal it’s put on, I am convinced that most couples must go through a certain amount of disenchantment after they wed, before they succeed in either settling into reality and building a nice home together, or else, divorcing.

It’s amazing how much we do have hopes for our marriages to be the ultimate in wonderfulness. It should fulfil us, make us happy (huh?!), make us feel constantly loved, never lonely. Right? Because it would make no sense to feel lonely when you’re with the love of your life, of course.

What a recipe for disaster. I think that any research showing married people to be less happy than singles is because our expectations for marriage are so high that it practically doesn’t stand a chance. On the other hand, many of us just see singlehood as a thing that is. It just is. So the lower expectations gives us a chance to actually feel happy when in it.

(Yeah, I know that singles are not necessarily happy but I’m not gonna go there right now.)

I don’t get it, though. I mean, has no one noticed the divorce rates? Has no one noticed how many people they personally know who are divorced or in unhappy marriages? How is it even possible that there is so much fantasizing about this institution despite everything we see around us?!

It is a true case of blindness and it’s amazing how, if people want to keep believing something, they can, no matter what they see around them.

Ah, but one might say that many of us singles aren’t getting married because we already experienced the disenchantment, outside of marriage, and so we aren’t willing to enter into matrimony.

But I think it’s the opposite. I think a lot of us have such high expectations from marriage that we’d rather stay single, even when we don’t want to be, and wait for the “right one,” rather than get married to the wrong person. (A most sane and genius decision, btw, if you ask me.)

I definitely think that a reality check pre-marriage is a safer bet than having to go through it post-matrimony. I have heard of marriages that went through a horrible first year and it probably had to do, in part, with detoxing from the fantasies.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t have hopes for our marriages. I think it’s good in so many ways to yearn to commit to someone in that way and yearn for the ultimate relationship with someone. And, of course, I do think that marriage has the potential to bring us lots of happiness.

But I think that it is not in anyway a fairytale. I think that one can feel sad and lonely in a good marriage. I think that one can be married to the “right” person and, at times, wonder if they made the wrong decision.

It’s complicated. Period.

Here is a video of a couple who got married in Joplin, Missouri, a week after a deadly tornado hit. It’s nice they’re getting married but so much weight is put on it, the whole thing seems so showy and fake… I can’t help but feel strange about the whole thing.

6 thoughts on “Marriage disenchantment

  1. I found this link (Marriage: The Comedy and the Kabbalah) helpful in understanding a bit about what you’re describing. It’s a lecture – very funny by the way – and it lasts a couple hours with the question and answer period, but it explains what you’re talking about by comparing our “Leah” and “Rachel” concepts about marriage and the courtship process. Worth the time, I think.

    • Shai, thanks for the link! I’ve actually seen him speak live (actually I wrote an article about his talk, I can try to find it). He is an excellent speaker.

      I’ve started watching the video. We’ll see how far I get. He is definitely very amusing!

  2. Yes, Deena, the problem IMO is … Hollywood. There is such a steady stream of “romantic comedies” and “chick flicks” that keep pumping out this message of “true love,” “insane happiness,” and all the rest, that we can’t help but become convinced that if we DON’T have a “fairy tale” ending then there must be something wrong with us.

    But it goes back earlier than that. A good female friend of mine confessed to me that SHE almost destroyed her marriage because of unrealistic expectations. She says that the only reason she was “saved” was because she found a realistic counselor who was able to help her see that her husband’s behavior was not unrealistic, merely unlike the movies. Which movies? Walt Disney! She grew up loving Cinderella and Snow White and all the rest, with a steady diet of VCR tapes she watched over and over, and didn’t realize what a damaging message that she was delivering to her psyche. When she discovered that her husband was NOT the Handsome Prince, Peter Pan, Prince Charming, and all the rest rolled up into one insanely happy celluloid package, she began to hate him, even though he was the same person they’d been when dating, not very romantic, relatively close-mouthed about his feelings, and a great father to their children. With the help of her counselor (and her fervent desire not to mess up her children’s lives,) she worked through that, and has kept those movies largely out of their home. When they do get viewed, it is rare and she especially makes sure that her daughters don’t get “locked into” that worldview.

    If there is one message that we DO need to drum into ourselves, it is

    We need to FIND our own happiness in what we have (Ashrei haish hasameach b’chelko) and not expect others (ESPECIALLY including our spouses) to hand it to us on a silver platter.

    • I agree so much with this comment. Not only are we struck with Disney-syndrome, but scare stories abound about how so-and-so dated for 5 years, no big romantic gestures, they break up and lo and behold the person who was not romantic gets engaged to someone else three months later in a dramatic rocket launch parade. And the reason that your husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend – etc – is as unaffectionate as they are is because you are just not the right match for them but there is someone out there so much more wonderful who they could be prince charming for like they’ve never been prince charming for anyone. And of course there’s some other perfect stranger out there who can save you and everything would just be a perfect fairytale with him/her. Puh-leaze.

      These stories do exist, but as much as we have a tendency to remember them, they are not actually the norm. Those are the freak cases. I only have to look at my own self and my own life to know that changing one’s personality is an impossible pursuit and working on yourself to temper the behaviors that previous partners were hurt by is a constant uphill battle.

      We also can draw inspiration from the recent royal wedding – much as I hate celebrity activity followings – this is a story about a couple who did not follow the typical fairytale route. They met in university, were friends, then a couple who were together for a few years, they broke up because the young prince couldn’t commit and didn’t feel ready for marriage, they got back together and slowly after another few years got engaged and then married. In this interview I found with the royal couple the prince even talks about how they’ve had their ups and downs like every relationship.

      I think it’s a lot more beautiful to be able to salvage and work on a relationship with a person who’s been very dear to me for a long time than to be whisked away by some mysterious stranger who maybe has not had the opportunity to disappoint me yet and offers the elusive possibility of rescuing me from my failed expectations, without me having to take any responsibility for the way my life goes.

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