In my first marriage, I had an idealized vision of what a good marriage should look and feel like.
I believed that two distinctly separate people could, with loving care, become each other’s soul mates. Each other’s staunchest supporters. Best friends as well as lovers.
I imagined the two of us against the world. We would create a safe haven in which our sweet family would thrive. We would climb to the highest heights of love and devotion, look out over our “kingdom” and proclaim it good.
As much as I yearned for that vision to become reality, our reality was far from it.
Looking back, I can see how easy it was for years to pass by before I could lift my head and clearly assess the state of my marriage.
During the first ten years, the later six were consumed by baby making, including infertility treatments, two miscarriages and the births of our two darling baby girls. Add to the mix my former husband completing medical training and building his specialty practice.
Life was hectic and demanding. I was just trying to keep my head above water and stay afloat each day.
I had my precious babies, and for that I was overjoyed. But I never did have a marriage or family life that even came close to my vision.
Marriage expectations today often create more dissatisfaction than happiness.
Relationship expert, Esther Perel calls expectations “resentments waiting to happen.” Oh, I so get it!
Before long, I was simmering in a soup of disappointed expectations with a huge side of resentments.
I expected my first marriage to be my EVERYTHING.
What I want to explore today is the concept of the Good Enough Marriage. This concept wasn’t even on my radar way back then. But, I sure could have used this advice.
Childhood fairy tales reinforce unrealistic notions about love.
I so clearly remember being bombarded as a child with one formulaic version or another of the prince and princess fairy tale of true love.
It’s not like I saw that fantasy modeled within my own family.
It was through TV, the movies, song lyrics and books that I drank the idealization of romantic love Kool-Aid. All those influences excited my imagination to believe in the power of love to comfort, heal and conquer all.
These fairy tale expectations left me quivering in anticipation. I constructed elaborate fantasies of romantic love. I believed, without question, that the love of my “prince” would confirm my worthiness and bestow upon me a sense of “completion.”
In seventh grade, I even wrote a heart-stopping story about my favorite Beatle, Paul McCartney. He would fall in love with me, of course. Marry me, of course. We’d live happily-ever-after, of course! My eager classmates clamored for the next installments I’d pass around in homeroom.
But that was many decades ago.
Now I believe the infamous Jerry Maguire movie line, “You complete me.” is not only a false promise, but quite disempowering.
I learned that love does not conquer all. Today I believe that love is the place to start if you’re willing to invest in building a meaningful relationship.
The unrealistic images of love and romance from my childhood warped my thinking long into adulthood.
On some level I understood that, for centuries, marriage was a means of gaining status. It created powerful social alliances, financial security, and a stable environment for raising children.
But in my marriage fantasy, I expected a deep emotional connection and adoration above all else. Beyond a deep and satisfying love, this whole package included friendship, romance, and enduring happiness.
I believed “happiness” was the hallmark of a successful marriage and a good life.
But, I was not happy. I was frustrated, resentful and angry.
And I was hardly alone.
If divorce statistics , social science research and magazine and internet articles are any indication, expectations of marriage as a source of happiness and fulfillment have only increased in the decades since I was first married.
I find that ironic in that the time available people actually have to devote to their marriages today seems to have decreased.
This mismatch is a recipe for increased general dissatisfaction with married life.
Ditching those uber-romantic fairy tales in favor of the Good Enough Marriage is a more realistic and achievable expectation.
Cultivating the Good Enough Marriage as the antidote to marital dissatisfaction.
The first step to cultivating a Good Enough Marriage is to lower your expectations as to what marriage can do for you. Marriage is not the path self realization and long-term happiness to count on.
It is always up to you to understand your own needs and create a life that attends to those needs. it is not selfish or inconsiderate to prioritize yourself. Remember the airlines standard admonishment in case of emergency and the oxygen masks drop down: place the mask over your own mouth first before you place the mask on others.
In advocating for the Good Enough marriage I’m not suggesting that you settle for second best or in any way accept behavior you deem unacceptable.
Always have high expectations for how he treats you.
Expect love, affection, kindness, consideration and respect. Expect loyalty and dependability.
Emotional or physical abuse is clearly a deal breaker.
Now, just take a few minutes to consider these stumbling blocks to realizing the Good Enough marriage:
- Seeking unconditional validation and approval, or “another half” to make us whole, guarantees disappointed expectations.
- Interpreting conflicts and disagreements along the way as signs of incompatibility. Conflict is inevitable and can be the fertilizer that enhances your relationship’s growth.
- Recognizing that whoever you choose to marry means you will be choosing a unique set of unsolvable problems. Marriage is not problem solving machine.
- Accepting that relationships don’t have the power to heal childhood wounds
- Thinking that your marriage can provide a path to spiritual enlightenment or self-actualization. Eli Finkel, psychology professor at Northwestern University, encourages couples to “re-calibrate” their marital expectations for existential needs.
John Gottman’s Sound Relationship House Model.
The Sound Relationship House Model can help couples achieve a Good Enough Marriage. You’ve built a sound relationship when you are:
- Good friends.
- Enjoying a satisfying sex life.
- Trusting one another, and are fully committed to one another.
- Managing conflict constructively. That means you can arrive at mutual understanding and get to compromises that work.
- Repairing effectively when you hurt one another.
- Honoring each other’s dreams, even if they’re different.
- Creating a shared meaning system with compatible values, ethics, beliefs, rituals, and goals.
- Agreeing about fundamental symbols like what a home is, what love is, and how to raise children.
Expect that. You deserve it.
It’s not unreasonable, and it’s definitely achievable.
Nurturing your own Good Enough Marriage.
Need help unraveling the fantasies and disappointed expectations that are hurting your marriage?
I’ve got you. Let me know you’re ready for a Free, no-strings-attached strategy call right here.
Please share this post with someone you know who could benefit from this message.
Everyone deserves to have a Good Enough Marriage.