CHOOSING A SPOUSE; LOGIC OR SOMETHING ELSE? by Art Smukler MD, author & psychiatrist

I’m taking a break from writing about all the illogical people in Washington; since compromise is way too logical for them… So instead I’ve picked a really logical subject to understand — marriage and how we pick our spouses.

Wait! Did I say logical? Hah. Not exactly. Now we have to deal with the logic of the unconscious.
You doubt me. You think that you chose your spouse logically, by your own free will?

“She was a knockout. It was love at first sight.”
“We sat next to each other in class and one thing led to another.”
“He was the only one who wasn’t obsessed with sports. We had so much in common.”

Is it that simple? Lust? Common experience? Meshing personalities?

I don’t think so. Year after year, for 500 years, I’ve listened to the underlying reasons. Most of the time, what is apparent is that ancient parental conflicts do the “picking” for us. The cold and abusive father, the distant and unavailable mother, the father who abandoned the family, the good-time, flirty mother — All are recycled in our choice of a spouse.

Why? Why are spouses picked by the conflicts that tortured us? For sure it’s not a conscious decision. Who in their right mind would marry someone who perpetuates the pain of our childhood?

Once again, it’s the unconscious at work. Freud ‘s concept of Repetition Compulsion is still alive and valid. We keep trying to prove, over and over, that mommy and daddy really did love us. Getting a spouse to do what a parent never did is the object. We’ve replaced our parent with our spouse and can now spend the rest of our lives trying to get him or her to do what daddy and mommy never could. Good luck. There’s a reason 50% of marriages end in divorce.

Does this happen all the time? Of course not. There are many good marriages. But it happens enough to give us all something to ponder. Anytime we substitute an object(person) from our past with an object(person) from the present, there can be major problems. We expect too much or too little from our spouse and get furious when our needs aren’t met. How can our expectations be realistic when they’re driven by old unconscious wounds?

What’s there to do about it?

Sometimes nothing. Sometimes it just doesn’t work.

Sometimes it is wise to examine our own needs, the past, and whether our expectations are reasonable.

Would you expect anyone else to behave the way you’re expecting your spouse to behave when you use that obnoxious demanding tone? If you did, would they still be your friend?
Is there anyone else that you would dare to demand absolute, utter respect? Aren’t most friendships built on differing opinions? Are you capable of allowing your spouse a totally different perspective from yours? Some people from UCLA still have happy marriages when their spouse is from USC. Who would have thought?

Your ideas and thoughts are always welcome.

If you enjoyed reading, Inside the Mind of a Psychiatrist, you might also enjoy Dr. Smukler’s novels, Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

6 thoughts on “CHOOSING A SPOUSE; LOGIC OR SOMETHING ELSE? by Art Smukler MD, author & psychiatrist

  1. Art,
    First it’s good to see that you still maintained your blog.
    When I first met my wife in Brazil, I didn’t speak much Portuguese and she spoke just a little English. Our first dates were a hoot as I’d have to stop our conversation to look up a word in my English-Portuguese dictionary. Even with a bit of communication difficulty, things just felt so natural and comfortable with us. I can’t think of anything I was looking for in her that had been lacking from my parents.
    Anyway, 37.5 years later we’re still together.

    My best,


  2. All very logical. My only quarrel is grammatical. The plural of spouse is spice!!! AHA! You don’t agree….do you say 2 mouses? But you do say 2 houses. AH! English! Aint it grand??? 🤷


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s