Choosing Wrong in Marriage

Death_to_stock_kinckerbocker_photography_6In online dating, finding the perfect mate is like picking the right color above – do I want yellow or do I want tan?  Maybe the more orange-y yellow?  If I pick tan, will I always want tan or will I be bored?  Maybe I actually want blue!  But we assume by trying out the whole rainbow, we will figure out which color we actually want and make the right decision.  But what if there were no such thing as a right decision? What if you’re destined to make the wrong one?

Today I listened to an episode of This American Life that addressed the problem of picking wrong in marriage.  I’ll post the first part of it below:

Ira Glass

Well, it’s June. Weddings everywhere, brides in white, little three-year-old nieces sent waddling down aisles throwing rose petals, vows that go on, perhaps a bit too long.

Ira Glass

And how many of these happy couples are actually, underneath all of it, mismatched?

Alain De Botton

A huge number. It’s frightening going to weddings.

Ira Glass

Meet Alain de Botton, author of articles with titles like “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person”, and “How We End Up Marrying the Wrong Person”, and two books about love. I was interested in talking to him because our radio show today is about making wrong choices. And he believes that when it comes to making the single most important decision many of us ever make in our lives, it is incredibly easy to screw it up– much easier than we generally acknowledge.

Alain De Botton

You know, some of the reason why we marry the wrong people is that we don’t really understand ourselves. I mean, sometimes I say to people, do you think you’re easy to live with? People who are single. And the ones who say, yeah, yeah, I’m pretty easy to live with, it’s just a question of finding the right person, massive alarm bell rings in my mind.

Ira Glass

He says the problem is that it is not until we are actually married that we’re in a situation where all the ways that we are hard to live with are truly revealed. All of our neuroses and flaws, all the tiny little things that vaguely remind us of our childhoods, and thus trigger peculiar and inappropriate behavior towards those we live with, that’s what gets revealed by the marriage itself. Even if you lived together before marriage, he says, it’s not the same. It doesn’t give you that self-knowledge.

Alain De Botton

And so we go into marriage unable to convey that knowledge to a partner. We don’t understand them. They don’t understand us. We don’t understand what marriage is. Let’s stress that.

Ira Glass

So what would you say to all the people getting married this month? What would you tell them?

Alain De Botton

Be incredibly forgiving for the weird behavior that’s going to start coming out. You will be very unhappy in lots of ways. Your partner will fail to understand you.

If you’re understood in maybe, I don’t know, 60% of your soul by your partner, that’s fantastic. Don’t expect that it’s going to be 100%. Of course you will be lonely.

You will often be in despair. You will sometimes think it’s the worst decision in your life. That’s fine. That’s not a sign your marriage has gone wrong.

It’s a sign that it’s normal, it’s on track. And many of the hopes that took you into the marriage will have to die in order for the marriage to continue. That some of the headiness and expectations will have to die.

Does this sound dark to you?  I discussed it with Pat and he just shrugged and said that all it meant was that no one was perfect.  It scares me, though.  I’m on this side of marriage.  I can’t even imagine being unhappy with Pat, or being in despair, or thinking it’s the worst decision of my life.  If I honestly thought that I would come to that place, then why get married in the first place?

I ask this and yet I look at my friends and all of them have had trouble spots in their marriage.  Some troubles have been short term, but some have had longterm issues, including deep concerns about their partner’s character.  I want to protect myself from that – surely even if no one is 100% compatible, there are people you are more compatible with than not, right?  Sure, some people will be terrible matches, but doesn’t that mean that some people will be good matches?

I get that life and especially marriage is not a fairy tale.  We will need to give each other grace, forgiveness, and mercy frequently.  But surely it’s a more positive picture than the above, right??  What do you think?


Photo credit to Death to the Stock Photo.



4 thoughts on “Choosing Wrong in Marriage

  1. I have been married for 11 years. People will normally write according to what they have seen happen around them or what has happened to them. I read this article and I was like, “what?”

    1. Yes, there are issues in marriage but I also think that a lot of people go into marriage without understanding marriage. Without understanding what is expected and expecting too much from someone. Therefore, there is such great disappointment because of too much expectation.

    2. Marriage is not a 50-50 deal. It is giving 100% of your everything. In other words, if he is not giving 100% that does not mean you should not. The idea is doing what God wants you to do and then let him, God, take care of the rest.

    3.Some people go in to marriage thinking they will change someone. You cannot change a human being. Only God can. This is where I think many of the mistakes are made. Frankly, the little positive you see right now will magnify in marriage and the little negative you see right now will magnify in marriage. You will see more of it.

    I can write and write on this topic. I have written an article on my website called keys. Read it. You will feel better.

    God bless

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