Movies, TV and Western culture in general promote the idea of a perfect marriage: a perfect meeting of minds, endless fun, continuous passion and a generally charmed life. A researcher at Arizona State University, Mary Laner, compared the expectations of marriage among unmarried students with those of couples who had been married 10 years or more. Unsurprisingly, she found that the unmarried students had extremely high expectations.
High expectations are good, right? No one should settle for an unsatisfactory partnership! Unfortunately, the problem starts when we expect our partners to live up to an unrealistic ideal. We want them to meet all our needs, know what we are thinking at all times and love us even when we behave badly. When these superhuman qualities are not present in our partners, we think the solution is to find a new partner.
Laner believes that one of the reasons that about half of marriages in the US end in divorce is due to unrealistic expectations. She says the answer lies in marriage education, preferably beginning in elementary school, when minds are more easily shaped and external influences haven’t yet taken hold.
Until marriage education becomes an integral part of schools’ curriculums, it’s crucial that couples thinking of getting married (or newly married) receive some basic education and learn to lower their expectations. Instead of thinking of marriage as the solution to all their problems, they should understand that it’s about solving problems together. Marriage is a partnership in which communication and problem-solving skills lead to a relationship in which the rewards outweigh the costs.
Back to our original question: Does the perfect marriage exist? I guess it depends on how you define the perfect marriage. If you’re looking for a marriage which will provide you with unconditional love without any effort on your part, you’re not likely to find that perfect marriage, no matter how many spouses you try it with. But if you see marriage as a partnership and learn the skills necessary to make it a success, you will be happy for years to come. And there’s nothing more perfect than that, is there?
My next marriage education workshop is taking place at the OU Israel Center, Jerusalem, on September 7, 2017. More information is available here. Registration is via email: [email protected]