I have been watching (well okay, binge watching) the Brit TV show Midsomer Murders and I’ve noticed a pattern that made me wonder about relationships. In each show there seems to be at least one couple in which one partner is continually putting the other down; the wife who scorns the husband’s lack of ambition or the husband show scorns the wife lack of sophistication. I have seen this in real life relationships as well. It seems as if the very traits that attract us to a mate in the first place begin to grate on our nerves over time. This is not always the case but it is common enough that it made me wonder why we sometimes start to hate the ones we love. What goes on in our minds that changes what were once endearing and attractive qualities into ones we despite and loathe.
I am far from a relationship counselor but I do occasionally find myself struck by insights into human nature. For example I find it sadly amusing when couples who spend an inordinate amount of time planning a wedding end the marriage within a year. It’s as if they were (well, let’s be honest here, it’s usually the bride) so wrapped up in the ceremony they gave little thought to the actual relationship. Taking that theory to the next level, how often do partners in a relationship see their significant other as clay to be molded rather than as a fully formed independent human being? Based on the number of divorces out there, I’d have to say quite a few.
I’ve often heard the comment “he’ll change once the children come” or “once you’re married she’ll settle down”. I wonder what these folks are thinking. Why would the arrival of children change someone’s true self? It might change their behaviors but I’ve found that this often leads to resentment. For example, I know a man who held a part-time job he loved making okay money. He was not the primary bread winner in his relationship and he was okay with that. His job left him with free time to do what he enjoyed. Then his partner announced she was pregnant. They got married, he changed jobs to one with a better salary but that he hated. He stuck with it as the second, third and fourth child arrived. Then one day he left the wife and kids and began having an affair with an old girlfriend. He did return to the wife and kids but the story made me wonder why his wife thought having children would eventually grow on him, despite his protests that he wasn’t ready to be a father at that time. In forcing the issue did she create a pattern that inevitably lead to that outcome? I’m not sure but I doubt it helped the situation.
I’ve seen a number of people (usually women) marry partners who enjoy hanging out and partying with their friends (indulging or even over-indulging in alcohol among other things). They seem to believe the partner will stop indulging once their married and will settle into quiet domesticity once the children are born. Why? Clearly that is often an erroneous belief that often results in embittered divorced people. Could it have been avoided if the partners took each other at fact value and accepted the statements each made about themselves?
For that matter why do people not believe you when you state you do not want children? And why don’t more potential spouses discuss this with each other? I’ve come across quite a few wives who cannot believe it when they learn their husband does not want children or vice versa. When asked for details it is often revealed that they never discussed the issue before they were married because she assumed he wanted children or they did and she assumed he’d change his mind. When I was younger and told people I didn’t want children (never have, never will), I often got a patronizing ‘oh you’ll change your mind once you’re a mother” type responses. Thank the gods I met a man who felt the same way about the issue that I did and we discussed it once we realized our relationship would be long term. I don’t understand this assumption that everyone should want children and having them will be the greatest thing since sliced bread. In fact I can thing of few things more guaranteed to kill a troubled relationship than parenthood.
Once again, I have few answers and lots of questions. I can only believe that clear communication (and accepting what your partner tells you) can help matters but I doubt it’s a perfect solution. I suppose the reality is that sometimes one partner changes and the other doesn’t. Sometimes we delude ourselves about who our partner is and what personality traits he/she possesses. We lie to ourselves and we lie to the people in our lives. It may not always be intentional but it can definitely harm our relationships.