The perfect marriage is hard to describe and even harder to achieve. In fact, the comment I hear more than anything else from married couples is, "Our marriage isn't perfect but ... "
It requires being married to your confidant, your best friend, your soulmate and the love and lust of your life. It requires love that increases every day with boredom, routine and predictability never raising its ugly head. It means wanting to be with them more than your same-sex friends. And it means not being able to comprehend life without them.
Most marriages that are based in love rather than economics begin that way. When we walk down the aisle, we're convinced that we're going to feel the way we do now forever and that our lives together are always going to be gloriously and wonderfully happy.
But there are so many bumps in the road; so many things you can't anticipate that could throw a wrench in the whole thing. To begin with, we're not even sure what love is. I sometimes ask my students to write down their definition for love and I've never gotten the same definition twice. And even if we know we're in love, we don't know the other person is in love with us, in spite of what they say or do. Or if they feel the same way about love that we do.
I've always compared the growth of love to the growth of a tree. Sometimes the branches grow together and sometimes they grow apart. When they grow apart, love diminishes and often ends although it's really no one's fault. We can't predict how we'll grow or change and often times we don't know its happening until it's too late.
We don't know how people are going to change over time. We might see a totally different person as a spouse than we saw as a steady date. Because there's so much more to love than just love. There's intimacy and trust and laughter and sharing that's absolutely essential for a love to continue to blossom and grow.
And sometimes we just get used to the status quo, although it's not a happy one. We put up with the other person's weaknesses, failings and insecurities because we think that's what we're expected to do. That's why of the 50 percent of married people that don't divorce, half of those are in empty-shell marriages. The love they once shared is gone, the intimacy and the closeness is gone if it ever existed to begin with and they're just sort of marking time with each other. Maybe they stay together because their family expects them to, or because of the kids, or because of economics or social prestige or maybe just because they think it's the right thing to do but, regardless of the reason, they're not in anything approaching a happy and fulfilling relationship with another person.
Oddly enough, in our society these people are looked at with some degree of admiration because they're "sticking it out" with each other. But it seems to me there's nothing about being in a loveless marriage that warrants admiration. As unpopular as it is to say it today, other people CAN make us happy. Other people CAN bring us joy and put a smile on our face every day and it seems to me we owe it to ourselves to find that person.
People make mistakes in judgment all the time and they do it in picking marriage partners too. If we picked the short straw and the marriage ends up bad, there should be no dishonor in voiding that contract and looking again because the perfect marriage IS possible and the perfect person is out there looking for you too.
The only time we lose is when we give up and accept the sorry state of our relationship as our station in life.