Today on Facebook, one of my friends posted a question “what is the key to a successful marriage?” People were posting all manner of things: honesty, communication, devotion, sex, similar interests … all of them relevant, timely remarks that logically seem to help in making a successful marriage. But something about it didn’t really seem to hit right on the mark for me.
My comment was a little off the beaten path of the rest of the comments (big surprise, I know..). Nonetheless, I think mine was the most accurate, which was: reconcile yourself to misery.
This idea came to me after I thought about a popular quote about marriage: “I can’t have what I want and be happy; you can’t have what you want and be happy; let’s compromise on misery.” This is intended on being funny; that in a marriage neither person can have exactly the way they want things to be; each has to give a little to get a little. The idea isn’t that we are actually going to settle on being miserable because we both can’t have exactly what we want, though. In reality it just pokes fun at the idea that anything other than the exact way we want things to be is absolute misery. The truth is it’s not. Not having exactly what you want isn’t misery, it’s just not exactly what you want. The beauty in compromise is that it is not a complete annihilation of one side in favor of the other, but rather a synthesis of the two in which there is an element of each side’s happiness present. In reality, a compromise can be seen as the happiest of all possibilities, for it is the best of both worlds.
I think this reflects a current problem we seem to have found ourselves in, which is that we seem to think that we are going to find a life-partner that is exactly the same as we are, thus there will never even be a need to compromise. We think that there even can be a person exactly like us out there, and that when we marry them everything will be pie in the sky and ear-to-ear smiles. I can’t even count the number of couples I know that seem to think they will always agree on everything, and that if they don’t that may as well be the end of their civil or religious union. This seems to be a wholly naive and childish way of viewing the world: that there are two people who actually are so alike they will never disagree and need to find a middle-ground on which to compromise is (in reality) just plain stupid.
So what is the key to a successful marriage, you ask? Why, it’s reconciling yourself to misery! In other words, it is going in to a marriage realistic about the fact that no matter how compatible eHarmony said you were; no matter how much you seemed to have in common on those initial dates – there is going to come a time that you and your life-partner do not agree on something (and believe you me, it will be a big something). Recognize that now, because it will happen. No matter what you do; no matter how you try to avoid it – it will happen. One day down the line, you will be asked to compromise (in most cases, many days and countless times down the line). The key to a successful marriage is knowing that one day the need to give a little to get a little will be upon you. Denying this is a way to make your marriage fail, because you will be destined to think that there is no way to reconcile something that you thought was supposed to be perfect. In reality, nothing is perfect – marriage included. Reconcile yourself to the compromise on misery, which really won’t be miserable if you just give it a try.