Nobody wants to marry the wrong person.
In fact, most of us are determined to marry the right person. We go wrong, because we are blinded by love and misled by myths and misconceptions. We go wrong, because we follow conventional guideposts (just as everyone before us has) and fail to ask ourselves, Where exactly is this leading? We go wrong, because we base our expectations about marriage on old thinking - the myths and misconceptions of conventional wisdom.
According to conventional wisdom, marrying the right person is the key to marital success. Although we hear that 40 to 50 percent of first marriages and 60 percent or more of second marriages end in divorce, we also hear that true love conquers all. So, we squeeze shut our eyes, cross our fingers, and hope that of all the people choosing partners, we will choose most wisely. Then we rush headlong into the consequences of believing the #1 Worst Conventional Wisdom (Lie) About Romantic Relationships: There's one right person for everyone.
This fairytale notion, straight out of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, sets up everyone for disappointment. The "one right person" myth dies hard, because we all deeply wish for life to be easy, as it could be with that one right person. The harsh reality that every couple (opposite sex or same sex) experiences psychological incompatibility soon undermines our certainty about a partner's rightness.
But questioning partners' rightness leads to destructive behaviors. We blame partners for our disenchantment, demand that partners change to suit us, and search outside the relationship for the real right person, who must still be out there somewhere. Everybody Marries the Wrong Person encourages questioning the myth rather than a partner's rightness and adopting a new conclusion: There are no right people!
Paradoxically, couples expect to gain an unconventional result (marital success) by following conventional wisdom. The problem with staking marital futures on conventional wisdom is that conventional wisdom is often wrong. As has been repeatedly demonstrated, humans are prone to the-world-is-flat assumptions.
In the sixth century B.C.E., Pythagoras believed the earth to be round, yet at the end of the C.E. fifteenth century, public concensus was that Columbus would go sailing off the edge of the earth. Or maybe this belief about Columbus' detractors is simply today's conventional wisdom. Regardless, from Pythagoras to contemporary bestseller Freakonomics, challengers warn that conventional wisdom is "a web of fabrication, self-interest, and convenience" and "not necessarily true." 1
Today, if Joe Average holds fundamentally wrong beliefs about the shape of the earth (spherical versus infinite plane), it is relatively inconsequential to his daily life. If, however, Joe happens to be married and holds fundamentally wrong beliefs about romantic relationships, the consequences to his daily life are many, varied and harsh. Everybody Marries the Wrong Person (scheduled for release July 1, 2010) debunks twenty conventional wisdoms about romantic relationships, explains why infatuation is temporary and disenchantment is inevitable, and introduces a new marriage paradigm - self-responsible spouse.
For more on the book, go to www.everybodymarriesthewrongperson.com
1. Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (New York: HarperCollins, 2005), vi, 90.