Inevitably, when relationships become stressed and challenged, we may begin to think there might be someone better out there for us – that maybe we just married the wrong person for us. We know we love our partner, but sometimes they can be so frustrating and disappointing, that the only place to turn is to imagine that things just wouldn’t feel this way if we were with someone else. It’s very common for people to imagine and fantasize about a life with someone different; a life that is free of conflict and the unsettling emotions that arise in their current relationship. Maybe I just picked wrong? Maybe someone else makes more sense for me. These feelings often bring people into couples therapy, hoping that I may be able to help them determine if there mate is right for them. Usually, they’re disappointed with my answer. More often than not, I tell people I think they are perfect for each other, and that choosing a different mate typically won’t make their problems go away; they’ll just be recreated with their new partner. With divorce rates approaching 80% for 3rd marriages, research seems to confirm that our ability to “choose again” isn’t any indication of success. Certainly there are exceptions to this, but generally, the grass is not greener.
DOES THIS MEAN MY SITUATION IS HOPELESS?
Sometimes, people wonder out loud: “Well, if I’m miserable in my current relationship, and finding someone new won’t change things for me, am I destined to feel this way forever?” The good news is, and my hope for all the couples I work with in couples therapy is to come to realize that working on their current relationship is most often the best option available to them.
IS OUR FREEDOM TO CHOOSE HELPING US?
In our culture, we have the freedom to choose our partner from countless potential matches, but yet this doesn’t seem help with the longevity or satisfaction in our marriages, as evidenced by the many unsatisfied couples surrounding us and our very high divorce rate – even for first marriages. Could our freedom to choose our mate be giving us a false sense of confidence? Could marital satisfaction be about something more than who we are with?
WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM HINDU CULTURES
Ironically, in cultures where arranged marriages still exist, research confirms that marital satisfaction is nearly the same as in cultures of “love based” marriages based on choice. There have been a myriad of studies showing that people in arranged marriages, particularly in India, have an equal amount of marital satisfaction as couples in relationships where they’ve chosen their partner. For me, this piece of research flips upside-down the myth that maybe we’ve chosen the wrong partner. For Hindu cultures, we’re learning that marital satisfaction isn’t based on choosing the right partner, but instead is grounded in principles that transcend a belief that our happiness is dependent on the person we choose. It’s not about choosing the right person; it’s about a shared commitment, an acceptance that we’re always changing & evolving, and a willingness to look inward at ourselves and our own fallibilities.
Before you make the leap out of your marriage, believing that someone out there is better for you, consider what we can learn from Hindu cultures. Somehow, they make marriage work without even being part of the decision making process! That’s fascinating! If your marriage is struggling, and you’re wondering if you’ve chosen the wrong person, consider reaching out to a trusted couples therapist to learn how to make your current relationship as great as you imagine.
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