We are all complicated, unpredictable, and inherently peculiar. That’s all of us folks. There is no normal.

Some would say everybody is just plain weird. Others might be gentler and say we’re all individual and unique - albeit in an oddball kind of way. Certainly some more than others but, we’re all on the spectrum somewhere.

Let’s be clear though...this is not just eccentricity. It includes imperfection and idiocy. Some will call this our insanity. The truth is, we all exhibit some irrational behavior that is immature, defensive, and generally hurtful to others - especially those closest to us. Yes, of course we have a delightful disposition most of the time. But, let us focus on the darker aspects of ourselves that seem to sabotage our relationships and our happiness.

Irrational: Contrary to Reason

It is frustrating but we cannot fully understand the details of our abnormality. This is for two reasons. One, dysfunction can only be observed externally. We try but, we simply cannot know the true view from outside if we are stuck inside. Just try to judge how the forest appears from afar when you are standing in the middle of the trees. And two, the behaviors and reactions I’m talking about only emerge as we attempt to get intimately closer to another. This is the greater cause of our delusion. We all have hidden layers that we don’t even realize exist. And every new partner will provoke a new set of surprises.

We all have troublesome issues that will vary based upon who experiences them. If you’ve been married and divorced twice, your two former spouses will recollect your problematic behavior as if you were two completely different individuals. They will each recall the impact on them alone and it’s unlikely each will have the same recollection. This is a key discernment. Because this isn’t solely about us. What we must grasp is a systemic effect. It is how we affect our relationships in adverse ways keeping in mind it takes two to tango. It is how our specific chaos spoils our particular partner’s peace. Every relationship has its own distinctive ruination.

Alain De Botton of the London School of Life coined a creative phrase and I give him full credit as I repeat it here. He said, we are all going to marry the wrong person. If I expand upon it, I would say, it doesn't matter who you marry, there is no right person, so by definition everyone must be wrong. In fact, whomever you marry, the result may be the same, an endless maddening struggle to stay in connection, joyfully, such as it was in the beginning. And instead, a tragic and even comedic realization evolves that our partner only frustrates, angers, disappoints, and annoys us, almost on a daily basis. And without any malice or forethought, we do exactly the same to them.

In some cases, there will be couples who will display such deep incompatibility, such heightened rage, such exasperation and defeat, that something larger must be at play beyond the occasional acidity...they appear to have married the wrong person. But there really no right person, no soulmate, and you likely would have ended up here anyway, perhaps though by a much different path.

Why is this?

Well, you likely misunderstood marriage from the outset. Marriage is a partnership, not a love affair. What we call love, in the beginning of a marriage, is something else. It is an attraction and keen interest in another. It is hope and dream. Love is really the destination of a marriage. It’s where we want to end up. We should be seeking a partner that will help us get there. But to engineer such an outcome is impossible - although we try our best.

We must accept that we are not that easy to predict. We have hidden lunacies. And so does our chosen partner. And these will eventually erode our best intentions. And the decay will escalate, ensnare, and engulf our lives. Relationship systems like I describe are called enmeshed. They are vicious cycles. He says, I don’t like you because you won’t have sex with me. And she says, well I’m not going to have sex with someone who doesn’t like me. And on it goes.

In retrospect, when you chose to marry, you did not know yourself well enough to predict how this person would affect you over time. In fact, you could not know. And neither could your partner know themselves well enough to predict how you might affect them over time. It must be revealed and discovered. So very likely you married having no awareness of just how unsuited you might be for each other.

Humans are not rational and well behaved creatures. We are all intensely odd and very dissimilar to one another. We have a bewildering array of insecurities, vulnerabilities, and quirky behavior that only gets provoked by the intimacy of marriage. We appear normal to those who don't know us very well but, to those who get in too close, we can appear misguided and immature.

It is also apparent that the modern collective view of marriage has undergone a reformation since the advent of prosperity. In modern society, we now can direct our future with some measure of confidence. We have opportunities for education, an economy we can use to derive sustenance, and a government to provide reasonable protections. These are not the dark ages. We no longer have to look to marriage to help facilitate basic human needs. In less prosperous times, unmarried or divorced people (especially women) often risked an uncertain and potentially impoverished future.

Anyway, modern marriage today can be less logical, and many would argue that’s a good thing. But defining marriage as an emotional rite of passage is actually very recent in human history and may lead us astray of our intentions. Our concepts of modern marriage are largely derived from the past several decades alone. Yet they may be outdated and due for review. Today, marriage is seen to facilitate a new set of needs that are purely psychological and/or spiritual. And, we are impatient creatures.

So rather than undergo a long and painstaking evaluation, to scrutinize our future partner for early warning signs of differences that might surface later, and render us discontent, we prefer to trust instinct alone. Marriage in the modern era has become ethereal, intangible, and fateful. We exclusively follow our hearts and ignore evidence that points us away from where we are drawn.

Historical marriage, although no less successful, was at least somewhat undertaken based upon practical considerations. And the expectations were decidedly less gratifying. Rarely did we choose partners outside of our small little worlds and rarely did we expect lifelong bliss. But marriage has been replaced with a solely romantic version. We are now more likely to make questionable choices, perhaps choosing partners outside of our socio-economics, education, or age, based solely on attraction. Such potentially risky choices are even affirmed by our supporters as long as such choices are assured by the wisdom of our hearts. In fact, the more a union appears to be graced by destiny, the safer it can feel to us.

We marry for happiness and to freeze time. We delight in our joy at finding someone so suitable, such a perfect fit, so right for us sexually, and we see marriage as a way to secure this happiness for all time. But happiness may yet be undefined for us, and rarely does contractual union lead to it.

We also seek love based on familiar love, from our foundations and youth. But we often miss the darker and destructive dynamics of that early love. Perhaps love from our past has been mixed with deprivation, miscommunication, and even fear. So while familiar, love like that may leave us decidedly unhappy.

Finally, we marry to eliminate the unbearable weight of loneliness. Remaining single today can feel like an intolerable burden and we celebrate its eviction from our lives. But the long term outcome of a marriage likely looks much different than its genesis. Perhaps soon after the memorable ceremony, we will be looking at a suburban house, with a long commute to an unforgiving job, and the provoking demands of children. Energy and joy give way to weariness and intolerance. The passion from which the children emerged is gone. Much time and effort will be spent ensuring a beautiful occasion, but almost none on a brave quest to negotiate a compatible future partnership.

Coming soon...a new understanding of marriage, and tools to succeed in a new age of love.

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