It probably sounds hypocritical for me to talk about what marriage can or can’t be; I have never been married. Yet the reason I think I know is because I know not how marriages succeed but how they fail. My Mom and Dad were divorced (Dad is dead), and while Dad’s second and third marriages also ended in divorce, Mom’s second husband brought disappointment more than joy to me as her daughter. However, to add more than that is perhaps too personal for the web. As for my only sister, Gayle, she is also divorced. The reason it occurs to me is that while reading a book a friend of mine is loaning me Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth, I found myself thinking how philosophical and impractical his ideas of marriage sounded. You find the perfect spouse with your “heart” and though he is right that good looks (physical attraction) are not enough, he does not describe things I think are necessary: hard work and similar values. As unromantic as it sounds, what opposites attract is divorce. More, things will not simply “fall in to place” because you think you found “the one.” More, the idea of having a “soul mate” is… I find it hard to believe in.
So I will begin by explaining the “three bad ideas” that our society has about marriage that lead to divorce. I got them from a divorced friend who always seemed wise despite the fact that his own marriage was not, evidently, a success. Here it goes:
1. Men and women are equal. (He said, “we have equal rights, but we are not “equal” as in being the same.”)
2. Love being based on physical attraction. (He put it some other way, but this is what it meant.)
3. “Satisfaction guaranteed.” (You can always turn in the “bad spouse” if it doesn’t seem to work out. This is understood. You don’t have to assume that any spouse at all will have problems if you are honest.)
I really believe that he was right about all three. For all that I am not the best person to ask about successful marriages, these ideas are a formula for disaster.