Awhile back I wrote about 3 typical paths that dating relationships take (two healthy and one unhealthy) when one partner is more "in love" or devoted than the other. Read You're Just Not That Into Him (Part 1) to get the full story. A reader's comments about a 4th path moved me to write about what happens when one partner is less in love - and gets married anyway.
Path 4-What all too frequently happens.
Submitted by Anonymous on October 25, 2009
"Sandy decides to stay with Philip because she hasn't found anything better and thinks maybe she is being too hard on him as there are way worse men out there. Sandy tries to convince herself that most people in relationships and marriages have a pretty dull and boring relationship. Neither she nor Philip are particularly happy, but Philip seems content because he loves her so much and hopes someday he can make her love him like he does. Philip asks Sandy to marry him and she says yes because she figures that she does love him, not passionately, but maybe it's good enough, the relationship is comfortable, and besides she hasn't found anything better yet. After several years of each trying to convince themselves that this is what a normal marriage is, Sandy and Philip's marriage continues on a path of mostly sexless, melancholic, brother/sister type communication until it finally dissolves devastating not only both partners, but their innocent children as well".
This was a lopsided relationship from the start. Some people think there is no such thing as sustained romantic love but there is solid research by Acevedo and Aron that shows that many couples can and do experience long-term romantic love (and my own marriage makes me a first-hand believer). By the same token, some people eschew companionate, non-romantic marriages even though they are often stable and deeply satisfying. Their worth is just not measured by degree of excitement or passion.
One size does not fit all in long-term relationships. A majority of Americans say they seek romantic love and a best friend/good companion when they marry or commit. Others are best suited for more utilitarian unions and some are most fulfilled when they remain single. What's most important is that partners make choices according to what they value most, and are well matched on those values. The spouses in the relationship above both valued romantic love but she had low expectations of marriage in general and married with resignation. Efforts to "make her love him like he does" backfire more often than not under these circumstances.
Why Does The Partner Who Is Less In Love Marry Anyway?
When neither partner expects or especially values romantic love as a criterion for marriage they can have a fine, well-matched marriage. But Anonymous was right on target. When partners both want romantic love but one is less in love than the other, there are some common reasons the less-in-love partners marry anyway:
If I could sum it up in one word, the partner that is proposing marriage offers some kind of security that the less-in-love partner seeks.
When Do These Couples Divorce?
These marriages often remain in a holding pattern or slowly deteriorate for years until they reach a tipping point. Some examples of tipping points are...
Can These Relationships be Mended?
In my next post I'll talk about the counseling process with couples like this. There is hope for some and not for others. What are the differences that make the difference? What helps and what hurts? Subscribe to the RSS feed by clicking the button on this page or come back to Love In Limbo and look for You're Just Not That Into Him (Part 3) on November 24th to find out.
© 2009, Linda R. Young. All Rights Reserved