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Fantasy vs. Reality

One of the most powerful concepts offered to me during my time as a graduate student was regarding relationships and divorce. During a lecture on the theories of divorce, we were discussing the ‘disillusionment model.' In essence, the model offers that couples often enter into marriage with an idealized view of their partner, as newlyweds are motivated to see their partner in a positive way. This is understandable, of course, and mostly an unconscious process. If you’ve just hitched yourself to someone for the remainder of your mortal life, they better be the bee’s knees. So the brains of engaged and newly married couples tend to emphasize the positive and avoid or diminish conflicts and negative feelings within their relationship, and the world is a beautiful place.

But then life sets in and, as the model’s name suggests, so does disillusionment. Waller (1938) argued that disillusionment in marriage in nearly inevitable: “Before marriage we have our phantasies [sic]…after marriage we have the real person, which brings with it its own delights, but the phantasy is usually nobler and more kind” (p. 312). This disillusionment may then be accompanied by feelings of a diminished connection, loss of affection, or that one’s spouse is “less in love” than before. And within this, some couples ultimately feel that maybe they married the wrong person, or that my spouse wasn’t who I thought he was, and they get divorced.

You Complete Me

While this model is only one of many potential explanations for why couple’s get divorced, it resonated with me. In Western culture, love and marriage are often offered as an idealized (there’s that word again) “answer” to many of life’s questions. We are encouraged to “find the one,” to marry our “better half” who “completes” us. And I would think, completes me? Aren’t I a whole person? My “better half”? Shouldn’t I contribute just as much good to a relationship as my partner? I had always felt that divorce was a result of people entering into relationships with unrealistic expectations of their partner to fill all their holes and heal all their wounds, and here was a model that supported that. I didn’t feel so baffled anymore.

And then my professor offered the powerful concept that has remained with me since: “Instead of trying to find the right person, wouldn’t it be better if we were trying to be the right person.” Light bulb! Instead of spending our time looking for someone “worth” marrying, what if we focused our energy on being the type of person we wanted ourselves to be in a relationship? If we were all intent on being the right person, the fate of our marriage would likely be less dependent upon the ability of our partner to maintain our view of them. We might instead have the room to grow and learn within the best versions of ourselves. If we’re not expected to be a filler of holes, the mender of wounds, or the better half who can’t possibly ever really do any of those things, we can instead show up and be what we are: a loving and supportive spouse intent on loving and supporting our spouse.

Getting vs. Being

Recently, I experienced a similar “Ah ha!” moment upon finding this post on “getting” versus “being” in a relationship. Again, intent on finding their happily ever after, some people often spend more time and energy (and money) “getting” into a relationship than they do “being “ in a relationship. If you’ve spent all of that time and energy (and money) establishing this life, shouldn’t you be intent on protecting and maintaining it? Statistics say no, showing that, on average, couples seek marital support services 18 months after they should have (where the “should” means when counseling likely would have still benefitted them). Couples typically seek support services well after they can have much of an impact on the deteriorating relationship, often as a last-ditch effort to avoid divorce. It seems that maybe the anticipation of the time and energy (and money) that accompanies getting out of a marriage is a too-little, too-late motivator for finally “being” in a marriage.

So what about you? Do you strive to be the best partner you can be in your relationship, or do you often find yourself keeping score of all the ways your partner isn’t? Can you say that you devote as much, or, ideally, more, time and energy (and money) to “being” in your relationship as you did “getting” into it?

Read the full length article here: Washington DC Couples & Marriage Therapy and Relationship Coaching

Sarah Schmermund, MA, specializes in Marriage & Family Therapy and Relationship Coaching in downtown Washington, DC.
 

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If only my exwife read this article, we'd still be married....unfortunately no matter how I tried, what I did for her, she'd find the smallest of faults with it (because I didn't do it exactly HER way) and would belittle me for it.

Eventually I stopped trying to please her which led to further discourse between us...it was an endless cycle of which divorce was the only solution.

Now she's alone, not likely to meet someone without baggage (I did not have any kids, financially very sound, decent looking guy with an outgoing personality). Considering her inability to compromise or realize her own faults, she'll be fortunate to find someone who is willing to put up with her. Probably explains why her longest relationship was 18 months and that was a long distance one at that. Unfortunately she wasn't honest about this fact when we were dating....

Ironically she's tried to reconcile with me several times (even after our divorce) but after a couple weeks of trying to work it out, she's back to her same old perspective on things.

I've since let her go....but still bitter at how she feels like she was the one who was the 'victim' in our marriage.
 

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Thank you for reading and for sharing. Accepting responsibility can be a difficult thing for some people. I am sorry to hear that your efforts to preserve your marriage went without notice, but, as you acknowledge, you are only 50% of your relationship - you can't do the other person's work for them.

I also recently posted about recovery, growth, and moving forward after divorce (you can find that here).
 

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This is a good look at how one should view yourself. Just before the divorce, if I would have asked this question I would have said yes. But then once I got myself through the muck and saw my relationship for what it was. I say no. I like who I am better now, and I realize where my faults were.

In my case, I tried to "fix" someone who apparently wasn't wanting to be fixed. I was married to someone who really deep down just didn't want to be married.

Because I ignored my selfish pride early in the relationship. When I had a gut feeling that said, "move on from this one", I ignored it, and instead tried to work on it. Well, this is my part of the mistake. I knew I wasn't finished working on myself, and instead put working on myself on hold and figured that would make me a better friend, husband, lover, and father. I was wrong.
 
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I would only marry a Version of Me if the man was emotionally compatible (including Romance & affection)...also in my values/ dreams/ desires for a family ...and in the sexual...

If not... I'll be the 1st to admit, I would NOT be a JOY to live with....But if He was ....I'd treat him like a KING...I go out of my way to Please my man.
I feel because me & mine dated for a whole 7 yrs before we tied the knot
...we KNEW each other like the back of our hands... he knew all of my flaws/ quirks, my deepest fears, my biggest dreams.... I KNEW his...we had our share of conflicts in those years to know how we deal >> to not let the sun go down on our anger...

Both had a willing Transparency, we were each others best friends....Communication was our best asset... As strange as it may be to say.....I feel my husband is the same man today as he was when I met him 31 yrs ago....except he has more confidence, he makes a lot more money..he's older, he's a proud Dad...looking back.. it all flowed very nicely...it just all went too fast !!

I said to him about a year ago.. in all seriousness.. "I can't even think of a time you have let me down?" ... he immediately said ..."Yes I did" ...& reminded me of the day he was late picking me up from High school & I got grounded by my step Mother, he felt horrible over that :(... I was shocked...I didn't even remember it...But he carried that.

The part about "YOU COMPLETE ME....

I'd say both of us was lacking in self esteem when we met (for very different reasons)... I came from a Broken home with a mean step Mother who didn't want me around, I wanted out of that house.... I had some anger issues to work out.....HE was the shy bashful guy...sucked at sports, no better with women....had big glasses... but a Romantic... One could say I was like the "Damsel in Distress" and he was my "White Knight".....pretty cute without those glasses :D ... and I hated sports anyway...

I, too, was a born Romantic.. so we were the perfect FIT... I needed him...and he was nuts about me....as we got to know each other, our connection just grew..and grew.....

I will always feel his walking into my life was the greatest thing that's ever happened to me... it was HE who showed me how to love again....and to love myself...This songs sums up my
....
Because You Loved Me - Celine Dion (Lyrics) - YouTube


.. we were just GOOD for each other...he seemed to fulfill something in me... and I seemed to fulfill something in him....I have often said ....we "complete" each other ! I never looked at this as a bad thing... just saying.

SarahSchmermund said : “Instead of trying to find the right person, wouldn’t it be better if we were trying to be the right person.” Light bulb!


Instead of spending our time looking for someone “worth” marrying, what if we focused our energy on being the type of person we wanted ourselves to be in a relationship? If we were all intent on being the right person, the fate of our marriage would likely be less dependent upon the ability of our partner to maintain our view of them.

We might instead have the room to grow and learn within the best versions of ourselves. If we’re not expected to be a filler of holes, the mender of wounds, or the better half who can’t possibly ever really do any of those things, we can instead show up and be what we are: a loving and supportive spouse intent on loving and supporting our spouse.
Of course I agree with all of this.. .we both helped each other grow as better people...we encouraged each other...... I look at our marriage as "INTERDEPENDENT"
...which is the healthy dependence ...we are responsible for our own weight...we help & aid each other...

In our early years, I strapped the tool belt around my waist & helped him do roofs, put in transmissions, built playsets, a chimney, lay cement, dig ditches...we were a team in many ways... When he has a bad day... I soothe him, when I need to rant or air a problem, he listens..he give me his time & attention. We validate each other. http://talkaboutmarriage.com/general-relationship-discussion/39565-validating-your-spouse.html

Increasing Intimacy in Marriage

Interdependence

Imagine for a moment that you and your spouse are standing with the palms of your hands together and leaning against each other with all of your weight. Together, you look like an upside-down "V." If one of you becomes tired and stops leaning, the other topples over. Similarly, a spouse who depends completely on the other person runs the risk of exhausting the partner and causing him or her to back away. Without the other spouse's support, the dependent spouse would crumble to the ground. Now imagine that you and your spouse are standing up straight and holding hands. You lean in a little, but only enough that you support a portion of one another's weight. If one or the other or you moves, you won't fall. You're responsible for most of your own weight, but you're still connected to your spouse and lean in for extra support from time to time.

As this analogy shows, over-dependence in marriage can lead spouses to become tired and resentful of carrying the burden for the other's happiness. Over-dependence creates feelings of powerlessness and weakness because your happiness is in someone else's hands. Complete independence is also unhealthy because it causes spouses to feel unneeded and lonely. Interdependence is a balance between over-dependence and independence. In an interdependent marriage, spouses feel needed without being overburdened. They feel a sense of freedom and power, understanding that their happiness is in their control and not in the hands of another person.
SarahSchmermund said : So what about you? Do you strive to be the best partner you can be in your relationship, or do you often find yourself keeping score of all the ways your partner isn’t?
I can't say I have ever done "score keeping"...If something was beginning to rise in me.. I've always been quick to open the communication...and he was always a superb listener, never one to blame shift, forgiving, understanding....Also these things are highly important to me as well in my dealings with others, most especially my husband.

Now...had I married a cold Aloof man , a workaholic, an alcoholic pushing me aside...I don't feel I would have handled these things well at all -just being honest... it takes 2 to smooth the ride..it helps tremendously when a GIVER marries a GIVER... I used to be more of a TAKER in our early years...the scales were not balanced... but today I'd say they are... I've woken up...realizing just how blessed I have always been....reading many stories on this site was a major eye opener.... I think my husband is one in a million. :)
 

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OP,

Thank you for this post and the link to the whole thread, It looks as if it will make fascinating reading.

I love the idea of "being the right person" and working to keep a marriage healthy before it reaches a crisis point.

Sounds a bit like “Planned Preventative Maintenance” which as an engineer I can fully understand.
 

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I really like this. I am single but I would marry someone who does what I do. I often read books about relationships, I workout 5 days a week, I don't like casual sex, and I don't smoke or drink. I would like someone who takes relationships as seriously as I do but at the same time is very confident in who they are. I don't want a woman to save me and I don't want to save anyone. I think that leads to codependency while having unrealistic expectations. "I'm miserable but I can't leave..."
 

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I would irritate myself too much. My main question though.....would there be children in the marriage. If so....lol how?
 

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Interesting post! I only recently came to the realization that I spent more time projecting who I wanted H to be than truly discovering who he was while we were dating. Now I'm resentful that he wasn't the person he never was. That's not helpful!

I'm working on making myself a better person and trying to inspire him to do the same. But no, I don't think I'd want to be married to myself! Eek! I spend way too much time cleaning and the taxes would never get done!
 

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I read the whole thing thinking the question was "Would you marry me?" I think I either need to slow down my reading or ask myself why I'm expecting sarah to propose on TAM?
 

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There was never any disillusionment with my wife. She basically stated she would make my life miserable right before she said 'yes' to my proposal of marriage. :D
 

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I think that would work fine because I am a person who tries to always be respectful and nice to others, but when someone doesn't treat me the same way back maaaaan I just - EXPLODE! But if it were "me and me" together there wouldn't be many fights, because 95% of the time I do not start these fights because I hate confrontation so it would be two people trying to AVOID that type of enviornment. Not to mention that I am clean and tidy but not to the point of being fanatical and OCD like my wife is, so that's another positive where "me and me" would get along great. :D
 

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No, I would not.. I just don't feel that way about myself.. I mean, yes we have alot of fun when we hang out, but I just feel friendly feelings towards myself..Nothing more.. We're just friends..
 

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No, I would not.. I just don't feel that way about myself.. I mean, yes we have alot of fun when we hang out, but I just feel friendly feelings towards myself..Nothing more.. We're just friends..
:D

But, deep down, there must be something compelling or you'd move on to someone else.
 
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