A Dangerous Myth About Marriage

Published March 28, 1985. In two months, Susan and I will have been married twenty years. We spent the first three months of our marriage living in Centerfield, Utah (population then was 600), where I ran my Dad’s service station. It was there we met Grant and Marge Mogle, who had been married just a few years, and we became good friends with them.

The first three weeks of our marriage were total bliss. Just like in the movies. That was how we thought marriage should be. Then, toward the end of the first month of marriage we had a disagreement. Nothing of major significance. Right now I can’t even remember what it was about.

After we settled down, we were thoroughly dejected. Happily married couples, so we thought, didn’t have disagreements. We both entered marriage with that belief. So after we had our "encounter of the first kind" we thought there was little hope for our marriage.

And what hopes we had were dashed the following Sunday when an elderly gentleman stood up in church. He had lived fifty years without so much as a cross word. Susan and I had made it for only three weeks and thought we had now failed at marriage. While walking home from church we wondered out loud if Marge and Grant ever had any kind of confrontations. We didn’t dare ask.

At that point Susan and I believed what Dr. Joshua Golden, a psychiatrist from Santa Monica, California, has recently termed “The Deadly Marriage Myth.” In a recent marriage enrichment newsletter he wrote, 
We have been led to believe, by all the myths that we are raised with, that if only we find the right person, we are going to live happily ever after. We had no understanding that ‘infatuation,’ the initial passion, is over within a matter of months. Many of us see this as if something is wrong. We become disappointed and feel fearful, because we have no understanding of the natural process.
When trouble arises, when we find out that it is not all ‘happily-ever-after’ and that we have many more problems now than we ever dreamed of, we have the feeling that we have made a mistake. We start to think, I have chosen the wrong person. I have married a lemon instead of a peach.

Dr. Golden continues, I think the ‘happily-ever-after-myth’ is a dreadful misrepresentation of the facts, and it causes a lot of misery. People are disappointed when they needn’t be. If they had a more realistic concept of the problems that do arise, they would do better. They think a successful marriage is a marriage where you don’t have problems. A successful marriage is one in which you learn to solve the problems which you inevitably have.

Problems are inevitable, because you are trying to bring two very different individuals, and sometimes many more, into some kind of intimacy, which means differing values and all kinds of compromises. The test of success is not being without problems, but rather how well you can solve the problems and reconcile the difference.
Susan and I now appreciate the statement of C.G. Jung, who observed “All those for whom marriage contains no problems are not living in the present.”

And come to think of it, I do faintly remember hearing Marge raise her voice at Grant one morning.

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