A young patient at Maze Women’s Health is perplexed that the passion she had felt early in her marriage has cooled. What happened to the strolls under perfect skies and the rides to the stars? Psychologist Israel Charny sees “normal” marriage as a relationship intrinsically laden with conflict and considers husbands and wives to be each other’s “intimate enemies.” We have to compromise and adapt, and may despise the married state for taming our romanticized love dreams.
Erickson speaks of adolescent love as less about loving our partner and mostly about self-identity and finding ourselves. We therefore idealize the object of our love. As we develop, we begin to see the actual person out there – Ouch! We are then more realistic about the person we are loving, and so in marriage that knowledge makes us confront out bitter disappointments, miserable feelings, “our hate.”
When our expectations of marriage are not met, they become the symbol of all that is deficient in our relationship. We bring to marriage the “unconscious longings and the unfinished business of childhood,” thereby imposing impossible demands on the relationship. Yet, it is from these unfulfilled expectations that we can hope to love to the best of our capacity.
And then there’s the sexual expectation that the earth should move and the sky should come tumbling down on a regular basis. Even when passion is high, couples may find that it’s not so easy to sustain such levels of excitement. Of course, we can hopefully achieve lofty moments, but mostly we will have to be satisfied with imperfect connections, which makes them kind of perfect!