FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE? HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THAT FANTASY? by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

He was dressed in a black tux and she wore a strapless white gown. Hesitantly, he raised her veil and gazed into her dark brown eyes. She gazed back and sighed deeply. The minister said with a smile, “You may now kiss the bride.” Family and friends applauded, the quartet hit an upbeat tempo, and the two lovers publicly smooched. Holding hands, the newlyweds turned and walked back down the flower-strewn isle into a life of heavenly bliss.

Their chances of success are probably less than making a bundle at a Vegas Craps table.

Commonly, fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce. Who knows what percent stay married because of not wanting the children to suffer through a divorce, strict religious doctrine, and downright fear of change. So let’s say that we now have a total of seventy percent of people who are unhappy. That leaves a thirty percent happy rate! I may be exaggerating, but I’m entitled to a bit of poetic license.

So why is marriage so incredibly difficult?

It’s impossible to live up to an adolescent fantasy — sculpted bodies, flawless skin, perfect empathic resonance, great sex, a philosophy that love is more important than money, the expectation that your lover will always meet your needs… We all know that it’s a crazy fantasy. We’re not idiots. But, somewhere, deep in the reptilian part of our brains, WE WANT PERFECTION. So what’s the solution?

Be authentic, sensitive, realistic, practical, caring, and don’t expect your spouse to be able to read your mind! Say what you want and need. Accept the fact that your spouse may want exactly the opposite of what you want. THAT DOESN’T MEAN YOU’RE NOT LOVED. IT MEANS THAT YOU’RE MARRIED TO A PERSON WHO ALSO HAS HIS/HER OWN NEEDS.

No one can take better care of you than yourself. Educate your spouse as to what you want and need and let her educate you as to what she wants and needs. Cultivate your own friendships and don’t expect that all your needs can be met in the marriage.

So with this balanced approach, it should all work out just fine. Right? Not exactly. When you really get angry at each other, all logic escapes. Our reptilian brain is back! But, don’t lose faith and storm off into the night. Calm down, try to figure out why you’re so angry, and then express it to the best of your ability. Then, have the patience and courage to listen to why she’s angry. THEN COMPROMISE!

Welcome to married life.

Art Smukler MD is the author of Skin Dance, a mystery, Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, The Man with a Microphone in his Ear, and the blog, Inside the Mind of a Psychiatrist