More on Marrying the Wrong Person

“I have no way of knowing whether or not you married the wrong person. But I do know that if you treat the wrong person like the right person, you could well end up having married the right person after all. It is far more important to be the right kind of person than it is to marry the right person.” — author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar

This quote summarizes the discussion we’ve been having about marrying the wrong person. My post last Friday, “We all married the wrong person” has generated an overwhelming response, with more than 40,000 visits and 400 comments in a few days. My interview with Dr. Haltzman has created a large, international discussion about what marriage is and what it could be. Clearly, there is much debate about whether marriage and love are about choice and commitment, about passion and feelings, about finding a compatible person—or, whether it’s even possible to have a “happy marriage.”

Despite the provocative title, I believe I married the right person for me. And my husband of 15 years claims to agree that he married the right person for him. The point of the post, though, is that there are days or periods of time when couples are stressed, grouchy, sick, lazy, difficult, you-name-it. We’re human, and we require grace. During those times, we have all surely wondered what it would be like to be married to someone who is more upbeat, more affectionate, more positive, more beautiful, more of whatever we want that day.

Because my husband and I are motivated to love one another and to be self-sacrificial in our love when necessary, we have maintained a strong marriage. We are not perfect, and we don’t know any couples in perfect marriages. But we are happy and committed to one another and to our children.

I concede there are individuals who are narcissistic, abusive or unable to participate in a healthy marriage. I also understand that in rare cases, one does not know these qualities until after marriage. These occurrences should be extremely rare if the partner has done due diligence, participated in premarital counseling and gotten to know the person as well as possible prior to marriage. As Dr. Haltzman said, abuse of any type should not be tolerated.

However, the vast majority of divorces in the U.S. are in low-conflict marriages that have the capacity to be restored, according to large quantities of expert research I have read. What individuals in these marriages in crisis need most is hope. There is hope. You may be thinking you are beyond hope.

I’ve spent the last two years interviewing couples who overcame extreme marital adversity—from losing a child to experiencing long separations for military service, from  infertility to infidelity, from overcoming drug abuse to overcoming life-threatening illnesses and accidents, from dealing with stranger rape to dealing with families who don’t support the marriage. I’ve talked to a strong Christian who at long last created a happy marriage with her unbelieving spouse, and I interviewed couples who experienced financial hardship, including living through The Great Depression. Many of these couples had lost hope at one point or another, but they all found it—and found a way to not just stick it out, but to find lasting happiness and joy. (How they achieved this will be described in my book, but I provide insight from these interviews in this blog.)

If you are a new reader to my blog, I want to welcome you into the discussion, no matter what your views are. Here are a few posts to give you food for thought:

Is love a decision or a feeling?

Read this if you EVER have conflict in your marriage

Stay self-focused to repair marital problems

For a happier marriage, date your spouse

Happy marriages are not carefree

What’s a pro-marriage counselor and how do you find one?

If you’d like to be updated on new research-based marriage tips, please sign up for updates on the right side of the home page. Your email address will never be shared, and you can opt out at any time. Find me on Twitter @LoriLowe. You are also welcome to download the free e-book I wrote with some other marriage writers. Thanks for dropping by, and come back soon.

Lori Lowe’s book First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage is now available on Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.  Lori and her husband of 16 years live in Indianapolis with their two children.

Photo Credit: ©PhotoXpress.com

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48 responses to “More on Marrying the Wrong Person

  1. Great follow-up to an amazing discussion. So many people ask how to “know” they found the right partner. We are asked this question a lot, because my husband and I really did know from the first date that this was the real deal. (15 years ago.) Our response is that our lives were better together than apart, in EVERY way. Our strengths became stronger, our weaknesses became less and we felt the need to GIVE love to each other. This does not mean we don’t disagree or have times of trouble.

    Marriage is hard work and should never be entered into with doubts or distress. (The same can be said about having children, but accidental pregnancies do happen, accidental marriages do not.) But if you made this leap with your eyes fully open, make your marriage the best it can possibly be and give your partner the support he or she needs so they will be strong enough to support you in your times of need.

    I do not believe you fall in and out of love with someone. Like so many have said previously, loving is an act. You must choose to love and be loved.

    http://momswithgrace.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/taking-a-crash-course-in-listening/

    • Thanks, I agree with your insights. In a good relationship, you do make each other better. Marriage has made me a better person, sometimes because I had to rid myself of more of my selfishness. Of course, that’s not a guarantee we won’t face hardship. Even in the midst of dark times, we can choose to love and be loved.
      By the way, you have a thoughtful blog! Best,
      Lori

  2. I think biggest misconception about marriage (or any kind of long term relationship equivalent) is the fact that many go into the partnership thinking they can still be an independent individual. That’s not to say you cease being yourself or anything, but all the nuances of being a single individual cease to exist. You and your loved one share a life and for some that’s a concept they can’t really wrap their brains around. There’s a lot of sacrifice involved with being married and when that realization sets in some people panic and go in the opposite direction. Sacrifice doesn’t mean punishment and it’s unfortunate that a lot of people don’t stick it out long enough to realize that.

    • I think you’re correct, that many are afraid of self-sacrificial love. It’s not about losing self, it’s about learning to share life, to love and be loved.

  3. Dear Lori-

    Congratulations on being with your husband for 15 years. And I must extend the congratulations to your husband as well- he did half of it. I find your sequel post to be better than the original which is rare.

    I am going to go off topic for a bit. I hope you don’t mind. My parents stayed together for 31 years until my father passed away. It was the only thing I knew. Welp, despite great efforts my marriage did not make it. So.

    So here’s my plea to people who have children involved: this is THE TIME for you to step up bigger than you ever have. Your spouse may no longer be your spouse, but they are still one of the most important people in your life. A friend of mine is a matrimonial lawyer and you wouldn’t believe the stories I hear.

    If there is one thing divorced people with children can do it is to not be one of those stories. Our children are the most important thing we have. I think George Benson agrees:
    Thanks and keep up the good work!

    ~Mike

    P.S. I attempted to have us connected via Networked Blogs. I hope I did it correctly. ml

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  5. Dear Lori,
    Great post!

    It’s amazing to me that this topic created such a response worldwide. We’ve had a similar experience from using the same Zig Ziglar quote as you above. I wonder if this isn’t a lie being perpetuated by the enemy of our souls. He doesn’t want us to have marriages that succeed, for this glorifies God. He sows seeds of discord and doubt, and he’s been at it since the Garden of Eden: “Did God really say you shouldn’t eat? Surely not!” Today the question being whispered into married ears is “Did God really mean for you to be stuck with this person forever? Surely not!”

    I am grateful to be a part of the marriage blogging community taking part in such an important conversation. Let’s do our part to shout the TRUTH from our homes that marriage isn’t as much about our happiness as it is our holiness. God is using the one with whom we’re joined to make us better as individuals and couples. This can be painful. Anytime something is off and it’s reset (think broken bones here), the pain seems excruciating. But the effects will bring healing and help where we need it most. As a result we’ll be stronger. I don’t want to be content with a mediocre marriage, or discontent and leave. As we’ve counseled numerous couples, if you leave the marriage you’re in simply because of the problems, know that your problems will follow you. The only way to be rid of them is to face them and ask for God’s help in changing your own heart. He will! He promises to answer the desperate cries of the weary, but it will be in the way He knows is best. What it really comes down to is do we trust God to know and do what’s best? Maybe this doubt is the root of the lack of hope being harvested in discontented homes.

    I look forward to hearing more on this from you. Have a great day, Lori! Grateful for my marriage of 31 years to a man who isn’t perfect, but who is God’s choice for me.
    Debi

    http://theromanticvineyard.com

    • Debi, thanks so much for bringing your ideas to the forum. You have been singing this song for some time! We are not destined to live in disharmony. Marriage can be a blessing and a wonderful lifestyle, as you suggest. I agree problems often following a person from marriage to marriage if they are unresolved. Congrats on 31 years together and best wishes for your continued success in promoting loving marriages!

  6. Pingback: The Right Person « A Thought Chronicle

  7. I think of it as a ‘game with two halves’. The first half is consumed with building a life – marrying, buying a home, having children, establishing a career. There comes a time when the children are independent, the house is paid off, the career is at its peak… and the couple are in their 40s or 50s. They may have been with each other for 20 years or more. They may each have another 40 years of life ahead of them. That’s the time when couples look at each other and say, “Are you the right person to be with me in this second half of life?”

    It’s not a failure if the answer is no. It’s a recognition that people change, needs change, and goals change. You may have married the “right” person for the first half. But there’s no guarantee that that person is the right one for the second half. I think that’s why so many people divorce in their 40s and 50s: if you have the equivalent of another lifetime yet to live, shouldn’t you be with someone with whom you are happy?

    • The point is I believe you CAN be happy most of the time with someone you spent half your life with happily. There’s a period of reconnection sometimes, then a reblossoming of the relationship. Just because their is a dip in satisfaction doesn’t mean the marriage is without value. Most marriages regain the level of satisfaction and then some. And that renewed marriage with all its history is usually much better than leaving to find someone new, who brings their own problems and baggage. I disagree that life is a game or that it has two halves, but I respect your position and wish you the very best life has to offer.

  8. Pingback: Follow up on Marriage | Shay Rae's Diary

  9. There are many good comments here.

    After reading the first quote and last sentence in the first paragraph, one word came to mind- Feelings. Many people understand how to appropriately address their own and many don’t. What can sometimes make relationships difficult to is a persons inability to understand “you cannot own another persons feelings.”
    Helping ones self and being a “help mate” are two different things. My experience is when both forms of help are healthy, things go well through joyous time as well as difficult times.

  10. Thank you so much Lori for the update, I’ll patch this update to my blog as soon as I have time…I’m looking forward to doing that.. :-)

  11. I may still be very young and I may not have been married at all; I have had a serious relationship of five years up ’till now and I DO know this: you have to fight for a relationship to make it work, you should not have to fight for love… A lot of people mix these two up. I think a healthy relationship or marriage has a alot to do with your own state of mind. It doesn’t only need love, it also needs the will to succeed, from BOTH parties… if it doesn’t have that, it’ll never last. That’s how you can turn the “wrong” person into the “right” person. As long as you respect each other’s personalities and interests, of course.

  12. I’m really glad I stumbled upon your original post; it really made me think and reflect upon my own marriage. It is so true that when things get tough, or even just boring, it’s easy for one to wonder if he or she married the wrong person, but I totally concur with the Zig Ziglar quote you opened this piece with. I am very happy in my marriage, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t sometimes doubt that I had married the right person during the first few years. Every year that goes by though, I become more sure that I am with the right man for me.

  13. I saw your comment on my blog post, re-post (if that made sense). So thanks for that, although I wish I knew how persistent you were to track down all of those who reposted, otherwise I would have cleaned up my blog.

    Anyway in terms of your new post, It is well written and well said. I mean I am not married (I am only 20 ) but this post (and the previous) was a nice reminder of what marriage truly means, or is supposed to mean. As a young man, I grew up in the generation where the idea of “don’t settle for less” kind of stuck on us.The whole idea of love suddenly revolves around the material product and how much we can get out of it. I found this post (and the last) to have been able to reword my idea of marriage into something better and more understandable compared to simply marrying, making it work, and avoiding separation at all costs.

    With that said I happily posted your last post before because I hoped that it gave my friends a better outlook on marriage .

    On the other hand this post helps to clarify and strengthen the previous post which was also well written and well put. Awesome Job.

    hope to see more soon. Probably when I’m a bit older and married…hopefully.. haha…

    • Thanks, David. Oddly enough in my last survey I found I have quite a few single or engaged readers who read my research-based marriage tips, because want to be more prepared for a future marriage. I appreciate your feedback. If you felt your web site was unprepared, imagine having 40K surprise visitors within a few days! I also felt I should have “cleaned house” a bit. ;-) Best,
      Lori

  14. Juan Manila Express!

    Hi Lori! First of all, I would like to give my heartful thanks for commending my blog post of your article.

    All the words you have written about marrying the wrong person really puts all the couples on to have a second look at their marriage and for those who aren’t yet blessed with matrimony, will surely think a hundred times before getting into it.

    By the way, I stumbled an article (local) about choosing the right person to love. There’s this guy who happens to have a crush on a pretty girl, but this girl doesn’t feel the same towards the guy. The guy is bent on courting this girl but to no avail, it isn’t still working. The catch is, there is this second girl who likes this guy. The irony of it, the guy doesn’t like the second girl. Now he is looking for advice on whom to choose between the two girls.

    The reason why I shared this story is to liken it to marriage. I guess (from my POV), people tend to have a failed relationship because they loved too much and chose the wrong person instead the other way around. I like what the local author told about that story that “choosing whom to love is like sacrificing one’s personal gain” – it is likely because when you choose the person you love, you are already waiting for something in return, to be love by that person. And when that person failed to return the love you were expecting, then failed relationship comes in. It will be a different scenario if a person will choose someone he/she less love or has a feeling for. In the end, the person he/she chooses will shower him/her with so much love. Thus the conclusion that eventually it will lead to a long-term relationship.

    Happy thoughts to all! ;)

  15. Great Post! I am a firm believer that Love is a both a choice and a feeling. My wife and I have a saying to each other – “I choose you”. Love is a daily choice. We choose each other, we choose our marriage, and we choose our kids above anything and everyone else. I’m not saying we are perfect people or have a perfect marriage but one thing we learned, during our 7 years of marriage and three awesome kids, is that in order to have a great marriage you must choose each other to stay “in love”.

  16. Congrats on your blogging success.

    For the Mrs. and I with love as a lasting critical element, the key to a lasting marriage has been good communication–when we are at odds it usually is a breakdown in communication.

  17. Pingback: More on Marrying the Wrong Person (via Marriage Gems) « Stepmum Of The Year

  18. Well, my husband and I had no idea if we were meant for each other when we married. But then, I believe love is a choice. I think the danger of most romance novels (which are my favorite kind) is that they promote the idea of instant love by mixing it up with lust and that a happily ever after happen because of the fluttery feelings in the pit of the stomach and the hormones luring them on. Lasting happiness is part choice and part luck. You can do your part, but it’s luck for the other person to do theirs (because you could end up with someone who abuses you). I’m just disgusted with how easily we give up when our marital problems are “incompatibility” issues.

  19. Pingback: Here’s to…an Update? « Three Cups of Coffee Later

  20. Wow, Lori, you seem to have stirred the hornets nest with this topic! Good job.

    I agree with you that even if it seems we’ve chose wrongly in our spouse, there is always hope. (I can’t wait to read the encouraging stories in your book!) While there are some cases where one spouse steadfastly refuses to act with charity or respect toward the other, the cases where they are beyond reach are few. I believe in a God who can and does work miracles.

    The topic of “the right one” has caused me to ask myself whether there is “the one.” Does God’s plan for our lives include a specific spouse? I couldn’t come up with a good answer, though I’m with you in feeling like I found “the right one” and my “the one.” Love to hear your thoughts. My post is at http://tinyurl.com/2cpwg8f

  21. “However, the vast majority of divorces in the U.S. are in low-conflict marriages that have the capacity to be restored…”

    I would agree with that – the problem is folks don’t deal with the small stuff, let it stack up, and then feel overwhelmed or beyond help. I also see folks who reach a straw that breaks the camel’s back place, and after that they are unwilling to try, and unresponsive to anything positive their spouse does. They become like a zombie, going through the minimal motions with no feeling or thought. At that point any excuse to divorce will do, and the excuse is not the reason.

  22. I need point out something that the author doesn’t want to hear and will probably get ignored. Mental illness is a huge problem in marriages today and most counsellors are unwilling or unable to deal with it. You’ll notice that counselors only cite their “successes” and never “failures”. I believe many of these failures are due to mental illnesses that go undetected. With a population that has around 10% rate of mental illness, this could mean 20% of marriages are affected by it.

    I can tell you from personal experience that I married a narcissist and her mother was a worse narcissist. Of course, I saw signs and sought professional and non-professional counsel on this. Even though, it now appears obvious to me, no one would even look at the issue back then. Of course, I married her because I loved her and thought I could help. If someone would have just told me.

    If you get one thing from my post, understand that mental illness is almost always ingored in marital counseling. Then they tell us that the divorce ended with “low-conflict” (who actually makes this diagnosis?). Of course it is low-conflict, someone’s been abused so long they don’t know how to fight anymore. It’s a miracle anyone can get the self esteem to remove themselves from the situation. If you actually want to help someone, give up the tired cliches and start studying this in real life couples.

  23. As a marriage therapist for many years I am enjoying this discussion and the many good thoughts and ideas. Over the years I have urged my clients to read a variety of books on the subject, but learned how difficult that can be when life is full and fast and there just isn’t the time. The readers here might like to read what I finally wrote for my clients, “A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage,” based on all I have learned in my work, and as well from my own marriage of 27 years. It is an easy and inspirational read that will help you to make your marriage the absolute best it can be! Let me know what you think …

  24. Another challenging and encouraging post. Thanks for sharing!

  25. Pingback: More on Marrying the Wrong Person (via Marriage Gems) « BobaTitan

  26. Alot of Christians are hooked on this idea that God has this “one choice” out there for us, the person perfectly suitable to make us happy. The problem with the thinking – and it seems you’d agree – is that the focus is on “make us happy.” Marriages seem to founder on this notion that “you are there to make me happy” vs. “we are in this together for something bigger than us and to serve one another.” The outward and other focus, it seems, helps to preserve the marriage.

    It’s been so helpful for me, too, to realize that I married a sinner… and so did he! We do not marry perfect people, but people who’s “negative” actions can and will have an impact on us, often hurtful. We can either escape (divorce) or learn to cope (patience!) and often help that person change in positive ways (we can’t have as a goal to change our spouses, but our response may be a change agent for the good).

    Here’s something tacky, but I’ll do it anyway, I’ll give a link to a post of mine that expands on the topic of how to gain perspective in order to preserve a Christian marriage: http://holidaylonging.wordpress.com/2008/10/04/how-not-to-get-divorced-some-thoughts-from-a-christian-perspective/

  27. I had a coworker ask me what if I don’t love him anymore? I told her, although I sympathized, that at a certain point I don’t know if it’s really a valid question in a marriage. You either do love or you decide that you’re not going to any more for whatever reason (I would contend outside of emotional/physical abuse or unrepentant unfaithfulness, that there might not be a valid reason–but I’m totally old school). You don’t take the temp of your emotions and say, ‘hey, no more love, I’m out!’
    I could be wrong, but I really feel that part of the joy is learning how to ride things out–the fun, the hard, the cranky, etc. I get to see my wife for who she is. I get access that no one else gets and that’s totally cool.

  28. Pingback: For My Friends Who are (or about to get) Married: Read lorilowe’s Marriage Gems | Fafafoom

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  30. Great discussion! While I don’t advocate divorce I do feel that sometimes it is inevitable. I tried everything I could to save my marriage and it didn’t work. Now I am a single Dad (yes I have full custody) with 3 kids. The divorce was hard on them but they are so much better off now. I got a lot of information and advice for divorce from http://www.dadsdivorce.com.

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  33. So true! And so happy to find this. Having three kids in 26 mos has flipped my marriage on its head!

  34. http://www.dailyafflictions.com/affliction3.html

    I’m reminded of this–and I’m almost thinking of having it as a reading at my wedding, although I’m not sure if too many people would take it wrong. But indeed, we know each other’s faults, we’ve grown up and together in our 9+ years, and our traits are complementary. ;-)

  35. Your posts about marrying the wrong person really spoke to me. My husband and I are complete opposites and everyone said it would never last. Sunday 1/9/2010 we will celebrate 36 years together. Because of your posts and our upcoming anniversary and a chance remark by Dave Ramsey that marriage requires perserverance and another remark by my daughter in law about our marriage looked like hardwork, a post was inspired and I did put a plug in for your fantastic post. If I ever figure out how to do a blogroll, I would like to include you also. Thanks for writing such great posts.

    • I’m so glad the post spoke to you. Check out the simple blogroll on my home page for an example. Happy 36th anniversary, you should be proud!

  36. Pingback: Nós todos casamos com a pessoa errada « DeusILUSÃO

  37. Pingback: More on Marrying the Wong Person | Marriage Gems

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