Why Is Marriage So Difficult? It's a Divine Conspiracy and Opposites Attract.
News flash! Marriage is difficult. Why, oh why does the very thing I admired so much about him/her now drive me absolutely up a wall? What is it about him? What is it about her? Why, why, why can’t they see that their behavior is so FRUSTRATING… driving me to tears…or anger…and yet they keep doing it! Over, and over and over! Really?
Lisa married Arthur because he was so fun loving, energetic and outgoing; he always made her laugh. Comparing the dull and boredom in Lisa’s previous relationships life with Arthur was never dull. They hit it off immediately. Now three years into marriage, that same energetic, outgoing, fun-loving personality is driving Lisa absolutely bonkers! Arthur wants to go, all the time. He wants to spend every weekend somewhere. The never “a dull moment” has turned into just that…never a dull moment. “Can we please just have one serious conversation about…something? Anything? Chores? And money doesn’t just grow on trees, you know!” The very thing that attracted Lisa to Arthur, looks to be her undoing. Yes, that’s it…undoing the unhealthy thinking patterns she acquired in her family of origin. God planned it that way. Arthur has what she needs; Lisa has what Arthur needs, but they are so unaware because opposites attract.
Jan marries Jacob. Jacob is calm, collected, poised, and precise. After graduating with his MBA in business, he started his own. He concerned himself with “taking care” of her in lots of ways and making her feel very special and loved. Jacob’s attentiveness was refreshing…for a while. Jan feels a sense of security she never felt in her family of origin; no one cared where she was or when she was coming home. Jan learned to be independent and look out for herself. Arthur wants her to spend time with him; just sit with him on the couch, just be present. Furthermore, Jacob’s attentiveness is now becoming overwhelming--even intrusive at times. Jan feels almost smothered. Jacob is prompt and home on time. Those very qualities of attentiveness which were so absent in her family of origin and that she thought were so attractive in Jacob, are the very things that are annoying now. Where is the freedom, ease and spontaneity in their relationship? It just seems so tight and restrictive. The truth is: Jacob has what Jan needs; Jan has what Jacob needs, but they are so unaware because opposites attract.
David and Rebecca met through mutual friends. Rebecca liked order…ducks in a row. Rebecca realized David didn’t even know where his ducks were and she learned quickly that if the ducks were going to be put in a row, she would be the one to do it. Rebecca likes things put away, money in the bank, and she likes to have a plan in place. Rebecca realized early in life, money was difficult to come by and saving and being frugal served her well. David likes to spend money, on himself and on her. Rebecca’s parents bought on credit cards, so her mantra was save and pay cash. David thought that was a great idea until he wanted something...now!. David’s MO was spend, spend, spend; Rebecca’s was save, save, save. This emotional attachment to money came from their family of origin. This led to many an argument, with Rebecca attempting to hold the reins on David’s spending. His mantra was, “I didn’t have it then; I’m going to have it now!” And he purchased the very best. He gets frustrated when she tries to control him. Rebecca states, “Well, if you would control your spending, I wouldn’t have to.” Rebecca thrives on rules, feeling very uncomfortable when there are no boundaries. David hates rules. In fact, his mantra is, “rules are to be broken.” Disciplining the children were as opposite as everything else. Rebecca stepped into over-functioning and David under-functioned. David was full of mercy, too much actually, and Rebecca had none. David had what Rebecca needed. Rebecca had what David needed because opposites attract.
Opposites do attract, but that’s only supposed to be in science, right…or so we thought. Why does the introvert get attracted to the extrovert? Why does the messy, free spirited one get attracted to the neat, orderly one? Why does the rule-follower get attracted to someone who thinks rules are to be broken? Why does the one who tries to discipline the kids and thinks rules and consequences are good for them, get hooked up with one who thinks it’s best to relax and be less rigid. It’s a divine conspiracy, and it definitely sets up scenarios for a firestorm.
These are all good questions, with difficult answers, particularly when you are in the middle of that firestorm that is singeing your toes and threatening to burn your house down. We are programmed in our family of origin to think, feel, and react to circumstances in a way that calms our fears and anxieties, and protects our fragile ego/false self. What is safe for one, causes anxiety for another. Adapters marry aggressive asserters. Adapters interrupt their internal world, because they refuse to interrupt their external world. A more dominant one will interrupt their outer world first. Both stances attempt to move the other to their side of the playing field with the determination of a bulldog.
Here’s the deal: often, we are attracted to our very opposite because they have exactly what we need to grow up. No one is ever ready for marriage; marriage is a people growing machine. Unfortunately, too many people bail before they figure out what is really going on. Change is extremely difficult. The very thing you admired, that drew you to your spouse, is very often an area in your own life you have disowned, repressed, and therefore, underdeveloped. Rebecca’s rule following, frugal, obedient behaviors, were over-developed. Being rigid and even controlling, she expected everyone to follow those same rules, and frugal turned into stingy. Rebecca needed to loosen up, and David needed to tighten up. They both needed to grow up in these respective areas, and they were attracted to the other because of the underdeveloped qualities in their personalities that needed strengthening. He had what she needed, and she had what he needed, and God had a plan to develop that in each of them.
Remember Jan and Jacob? Jan has a fun loving free, spontaneous, adventurous spirit, and she needs Jacob’s calm poised, orderly, precision in life. And Jacob’s underdeveloped adventurous side needs a shot in the arm from Jan. They were attracted to one another because this area in each of them is under-developed. Jacob did not recognize that his orderly, precise structured life needed Jan’s free adventurous spirit and vice-versa. Until they realize this and start focusing on managing themselves and growing up emotionally, the conflict will continue to escalate. The only person they can change is themselves. Our greatest strength becomes our greatest weakness. “As Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
Pay attention to the next argument you have. What is your default reaction? Do you walk away before anything is resolved, hoping to sweep it under the rug and never discuss it again, wondering why your spouse can’t “just get over it?” Perhaps you take all your frustration and anxiety and dump it onto a friend who will listen. You tell them of your reasonable, and justifiable anger and frustration as you elaborate on the other’s unholy behaviors. You feel better, but nothing is resolved. These responses you learned in your family of origin. You say one thing and your spouse hears it completely different because of early programming. If you are caught in in trying to navigate the “opposites attract” conspiracy give me a call. Let’s explore that. I can help.
Carol Greenberg, MA, LPC, EMDR Certified
firstname.lastname@example.org 512/238-1700 ext. 315