As a couple therapist and teacher of couple therapy, I am forever fascinated by the complexities that marriage or long-term partnership present us with. The weaving of two lives together involves learning to understand our own family history and its impact on how we give and perceive love, it requires learning to know ourselves better, learning to know and understand the other on many levels, both mundane and profound. We have to learn to negotiate needs, sometimes completely contradicting needs, and understand that such conflicting positions do not necessarily mean malicious intent nor do they indicate that the other is against us. We must develop the ability to see things from the other’s perspective. We do, however, need to learn to be aware of, and communicate, our own needs within the relationship, and take responsibility for our own goals, ambivalence, and for the decisions, the choices and the compromises we inevitably have to make in life.
As a daughter of two Holocaust survivors I have known many of my parents survivor friends who married hastily after the war ended. These marriages were termed “marriages of desperation” in the literature about survivors, since the choice of partners was often based on minimal courtship or compatibility in personal characteristics. The main forces driving these marriages were the extent of the losses suffered by the survivors, and the urgency with which they wanted to rebuild their lives and establish new families. What has been often overlooked is the resilience and the determination to make things work that was part of these marriages, and their success in the re-stabilization, re-integration and healing of the survivors.
I root for the hope to find compatibility, emotional intimacy and that special excitement in our spouse, but I also know the value of working to make it work. Some of us find the marriage they hoped for more easily, others might have to work harder at it. While some couples might indeed need to re-evaluate their choice of a partner for marriage. Others have to grow more mature and more psychologically evolved through the process of making it the best marriage it can be.
The following piece from the New York Times was poignantly relevant to some of the education that couples need in order to resolve some of the disappointments encountered in the transition from romantic love to lasting domestic partnership and deep commitment to a loving relationship. Despite its emphasis on a somewhat too cynical view (in order to make the point), this is an article worth reading: