The 2 biggest reasons we make mistakes when choosing marriage partners

The proof that most of us make mistakes in choosing marriage partners

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When we date in our 20, 30, and even much later in life too, most of us don’t kow what we are doing.  If you don’t believe me, remember that close to 50% of first marriages end in divorce, over 67% of second marriages end in divorce, almost 75% of those in third marriages also end in divorce and of those who remain married, only about 30% are happily paired up. This means of  25 or so couples  about 4 have a healthy, happy marriage.  If you don’t believe me, make a list of all the couples you know who have been married – or living together for at least 4 years and do the math.

People do not marry to get divorced.  Most people endure years of unhappiness before they divorce and many want to be married but keep on making the same unhappy choices.  Not through lack of character, but lack of basic knowledge.

There are many articles written on the mistakes to avoid when choosing a life partner, but unless we look at the underlying reasons we do make mistakes, it’s impossible to not do so.

Reason No. 1 for marriage mistakes- Not knowing ourselves enough and not appreciating our own value

Of the  20 + books on relationships I have read  over the past 3 years, 90% mention a healthy self-esteem, self-respect, or self-love as an essential to form healthy relationships.  Inner knowledge,  also  called self-intimacy is essential to develop a healthy self-esteem, to get to really know our values and what is most important to us, as well as to counteract negative messages we may have heard growing up.

To have healthy self-esteem, self-respect and self-love. we need to have done some personal growth work.  That kind of work happens when we can look at our behaviour, our upbringing objectively, realistically and without judgment, and assess and acknowledge what went well, what did not and what we need to do to make up for what was missing.  It requires that we be able to face unpleasant truths about our family or ourselves without blame, but with an intention to change what we can about ourselves.  And it involves giving ourselves what we missed as children: compassion, understanding, love, respect.

I know I went through the first decades of my life totally clueless about how my upbringing had influenced my relationship choices.  Fortunately I decided to become a psychotherapist and it opened the way to greater self-knowledge.

If your parents were not self-respectful, there’s a good chance they tolerated non respect and maybe you were not respected either.  You then grow up and it becomes the norm, or the normal way to be in relationships.  You don’t know any better.  Oh, maybe you would not tolerate physical abuse, but you don’t see verbal put-downs as bad, and you choose someone who treats you like your least loving parent.  That’s why people with an alcoholic dad or mom often marry an alcoholic, or two.   And those with self-absorbed parents end up marrying self-absorbed people.

Or you do self-care in externals.  Your mom never took care of herself, so you go to the spa regularly, but you drink too much, or you smoke, or you tolerate bad treatment from people.  And when I say bad treatment, it does not have to be physical abuse.  If your partner dismisses you, is not present emotionally, does not meet your top emotional needs, or is more critical than loving, and you stay around for more of it, then, you have a deficiency in self-love and self-respect.

If on the other hand you grew up in a loving, emotionally stable home, there’s a good chance your parents demonstrated respect for each other and for themselves.  When you grow up you can immediately recognize someone or something that is off with what you know.  If you have developed self-awareness, this translates with an off-feeling in your body.  You are better equipped to take care of yourself by speaking up or removing yourself from what you see as not good for you.

The bottom line is when you truly love yourself, you will not tolerate what is not in your best interest.  You can establish healthy boundaries to protect yourself instead of being your worst enemy.  This is the foundation to be better equipped to avoid mistake no 2

Reason No. 2 for marriage mistakes-We do not know what qualities are essential for a healthy, happy long term relationship.

While you and I learned geometry, algebra, history and even calculus and stats in school, I don’t believe there is even one school in the whole world that teaches “How to have a healthy, happy marriage”.  So we enter the dating world with what we learned at home, and on TV.  And if we don’t know and value ourselves, we cannot know what we truly need and want and choose what’s good for us.

Unless our parents’ marriage was a good one, it’s easy to assume that Hollywood movies are the way to go.  For guys, this usually translate, be tall, dark and handsome (and rich) and for girls, it’s be demure, slim and pretty (and know how to cook).  Whether the ploy was money, cars, sexiness or looks, it emphasized using a “bait”.  Books like “The Rules” (published about 20 years ago) encouraged playing games.

Nowhere did we see to be real, show your true self, risk being vulnerable,  to avoid playing games, to develop a solid friendship, to looking at values like kindness, a generous heart, being able to be real  or emotional maturity.

The result is that many of us did – and still – fall in love with the “shine” factor. Looks, income, status, etc, or we let the hormonal surges lead the way, putting commitment long before, or instead of compatibility, not just compatible tastes in food and activities, but shared values, emotional intimacy, mutual respect, a generous heart and an interest and capacity to invest emotionally in the relationship.

While I have met people who were really lucky to make good choices with loving partners even though they had not done personal growth work, I suspect they were the ones who had developed a lot of self-awareness in their youth and this paved the way for healthy choices.

If you find you consistently make poor choices in relationships, like it’s your 3rd partner who has an alcohol problem, or is self-absorbed and incapable of any empathy, give yourself the gift of doing the work so you learn to make choices from a place of greater self-awareness and self-love.

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