Chances Are, You’re Married to the Wrong Person

Romeo and Juliet.

Image via Wikipedia

Actually, it should be said, “Chances are 100% that you’re married to the wrong person” (assuming you are married).

You may not be surprised to hear that you’re married to the wrong person. You’ve believed this for a long time, so it resonates. But you are a little troubled, possibly even vexed, that I know this about you. And you’re aghast at the very suggestion that it was bound to be so, that, whoever you are, you married the wrong person.

If this sounds wildly implausible to you, then I recommend reading a post by Lori Lowe, titled “We All Married the Wrong Person”—at her Marriage Gems blog.

In her post, Lori recounts the high points in her interview with Dr. Scott Haltzman, a psychiatrist whose books focus on marriage and family dynamics. Haltzman explains why we should acknowledge that we’ve married the wrong person. For that, we should consider the evidence that it’s true.

  • We never know a person completely when we step into marriage with him or her.
  • Marriage frequently begins with star-crossed lovers, blind to each other’s faults or limitations.
  • We bring unrealistic expectations into our marriages, expectations that cannot be fulfilled by anyone.
  • We all change with time and circumstance, so that we find we’re married to a different person over time.
  • The frequency of divorce is alarmingly high.
  • Couples that remain married acknowledge that they are not always completely happy in their marriages.
  • The pool of marriage candidates may be so large that the odds of choosing the right person are low to begin with.

Lori’s excellent post surfaces many valuable points. There are others to consider.

First, the whole concept of a right person to marry needs to be examined. Even if we allow that more than one person could be right for us, we should wonder:

  1. What does it mean for a person to be right for me?
  2. How would I know that a certain person is right for me?
  3. How would I know later that the person I married is not right for me after all?
  4. And what if every “right person” marries the wrong person—that is, marries someone other than me?

Second, suppose there is no “right person” for anyone to marry, at least in the sense that so many hope for. Anyone you marry will, sooner or later, disappoint. But this does not mean:

  1. You should never marry.
  2. Your marriage to the wrong person cannot succeed.

And it definitely does not mean that:

  1. Any person you marry is good enough.
  2. There is no person who is wrong for you.

Third, some readers will argue from a religious point of view that for those people who should marry, there is always the right person. This, they may say, is tied to the sovereignty of God and God’s special means of guidance for individual believers.

Even if this is true, the questions raised here are still vital. They translate into questions about what God desires for us, how we know what God desires for us, and how we know when we’ve found what God desires for us.

Fourth, we should commit to having a successful marriage, and let go any idealistic notion of being married to just the right person and having a perfect marriage.

Fifth, we should welcome a different conception of the values and rewards of marriage than what is so widely assumed today.

Scott Haltzman’s books:

A book I recommend on decision making for the Christian, and its wisdom approach to marriage decisions, is Decision Making and the Will of God, by Garry Friesen.

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking.

7 Responses to Chances Are, You’re Married to the Wrong Person

  1. Pingback: Maiwwage | The Pugnacious Irishman

  2. Rez says:

    Hi,

    If one is a Molinist, one might be able to understand the idea of a “right person” in this way:

    Given the world-type-for-God, perhaps God can pick a feasible world W (that for some couples at least) such that 2 people S1 and S2 freely choose to marry each other, such that -

    (1) if either S1 or S2 were to freely choose otherwise to be with different persons (meaning a different galaxy of worlds available for God),

    (2) then God wouldn’t have (or even couldn’t have) actualized a world W’containing the same history (say to a time prior to S1 or S2′s existence) but where

    (3) S1 or S2 are more (or even equally) fulfilled in their marriage relationships in W’ than in W. In W, S1 and S2 are thus soulmates.

    Put more simply – if S1 or S2 were to have married anyone else, they wouldn’t have been as happy. Allowance of course is given for imperfections in the relationship due to sin.

    Proposal:

    (a) God would want to actualize a world where this is true for as many couples as feasible

    (b) If a couple is in a happy marriage relationship, then for all they know, the actual world is W as far as they’re concerned.

    (c) If someone S1 prayerfully relies on the Spirit’s guidance on this matter, S1 can trust that when the Spirit leads S1 and S2 together, then for all they know, the actual world is W as far as they’re concerned.

  3. Doug Geivett says:

    That’s some coincidence, Howard, that you grabbed Garry Friesen’s book around the same time this was posted. An excellent complement to Friesen’s book is called Guard Us, Guide Us: Divine Leading in Life’s Decisions, by J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom. They take exception with Friesen on some points. Packer and Nystrom are especially good on the process of spiritual growth and daily decisions.

  4. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Scott,

    Yes, this does rouse the attention. I might say that, once married, you are married to the “right person.” And this sense of being married to the right person is much more significant and realistic. I think, from the things you say in your work, that you might agree.

    I often think of marriage as a laboratory for self-understanding. We discover our own limitations and fault lines. Rather than dealing with them, though, we like to cover for our weaknesses with the verdict, “Must have married the wrong person.” But every relational connection with any intimacy is going to draw out of us things we would rather not have to deal with.

    Thanks for introducing yourself here. If you ever want a book reviewed here, feel free to give your publisher my name. Meanwhile, keep up the good work!

    -Doug

  5. Howard says:

    A really fun and thought provoking post, Doug. “For better or for worse” should have some meaning when “choosing” a mate. I’m very happy with the choice I made with mine!

    I’ve had Gary Friesen’s book on my list to buy for some time. It arrived 3 days ago. Was that a good purchase choice or???

  6. Hey Doug,
    Thanks so much for distilling Lori’s Blog, and adding your own thoughts. When I first said “We all married the wrong person” on the air, it got a lot of people’s attention (even my wife’s!). You make some excellent points to add to mine.

  7. Pingback: Are we all married to the wrong people? Does it matter? « Wintery Knight

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