Why do we marry the wrong person?


 While the Biblical exposition of love is a beautiful definition, often quoted during weddings, the reality on the ground is that we fail miserably at living it up.

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Raise your hand if you think you married the wrong person.” Alain De Botton, author, and a public speaker asked during one of his School of Life seminars. Only one bold hand went up.

During a personal development workshop, the other day, we were surprised to note that over 70 percent of the participants responded in the affirmative when asked to respond, anonymously to the question, would you change your job today if you were presented with a different option? The same was asked of their marriages, to which they also admitted that they were miserable and were only holding on for the children’s sake. They found no joy in their jobs, or their marriage relationships and the majority described their life as lacklustre, and disillusioned.

 “Raise your hand if you think you are easy to live with.” Alain once again posed this question to the same group. Many hands went up. Unfortunately, few people invest in self-awareness and will often protest when their spouse, or friends describe them. “No! I am not like that.” Unless of course when you receive praise, then it is much easier to accept and even bask in it.

So why do we marry the wrong one?

 First, it is because we do not know how to love. Love is a skill, not a feeling. Love is a learned skill that needs regular practice, like any other skill such as swimming or driving. We all yearn deeply for love and connection but until and unless we go out of our way to learn how to love, we remain in loveless, stunted relationships. Contrary to what we think, love is not easy, as it calls for us to be tolerant of weaknesses even as we admire the strengths of our love interests.

 While the Biblical exposition of love is a beautiful definition, often quoted during weddings, the reality on the ground is that we fail miserably at living it up. Why? It is because of the second reason that makes us marry the wrong person. We love based on our childhood experiences and teachings of love. We are attracted to what is familiar. How did you experience love from your parents? Did they demonstrate tenderness, kindness, generosity? Did you understand love as being let down, or humiliated by a parent who treated you badly? Were you constantly compared to your siblings, scolded, and belittled because you could not measure up to your parent’s expectations? That shapes your expression and expectations of love.

We unconsciously seek what is familiar when we are seeking our love partners. A woman ends up in an abusive marriage since that is what is familiar to her. We are attracted to partners who serve us familiarly.

That is why self-awareness must be prioritised as it makes us know better and choose better. Without knowledge and healing from our childhood experiences of love, we end up in cycles that are then transferred to our children.

Many women reject a good man after the first date with such excuses as,

“I found him boring, our date felt flat, and he did not excite me enough to look forward to another date.” We dismiss the good man because the kind of love he offers is gentle, kind, honest, and most importantly, unfamiliar. We find him unreal because he does not bring the agony that we are familiar with and that we associate with love. The women who are attracted to bad boys have a lot of healing to do if they do not wish to spend their marital life putting up with cruelty. This kind of love that they know is so ingrained in their psyche that in some cultures, domestic violence is normalised, and a wife will expect a beating from her husband as a sign of love!

 Unlearning the wrong definitions and expectations of love is a tough job. The accents we bring into these other languages are a natural reminder that our first language is the foundation of our thinking and expression.

Therefore, unlearning and learning a different love will always experience a pull from our original wirings of love. We must then practice and start normalising a different understanding of love, to attract healthy and not the familiar.