Alain de Botton’s popular article in the New York Times, Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person, 5-28-16, is helpful for becoming aware of possible pitfalls and helping figure out what went wrong. As for me, though, I married the right person 58 years ago—Gus. I wasn’t always as accepting or mature as I could have been, but still it worked and it still works. It’s proof that I married for the right reason, which was because I loved and admired the person Gus is. That has never changed. Also, we share important values: we want to live meaningful lives, we support each other, we know money and fancy reputations don’t bring happiness, and we try to communicate well.
Our first activities included listening to music and going for rides in the car. Gus was an artist and I was a musician. I was thrilled when he introduced me to some haunting Bartok I hadn’t heard before and the pianist Wilhelm Kempff playing Schumann, Brahms, and Bach.
I never thought Gus was limited or boring. That we’re both 5-Observers in the Enneagram explains my need for someone who stimulates me intellectually and is the reason he filled that bill. He thinks about things in ways that (still) surprise me. I love his sense of humor, his calmness, his humanity, and his humility. There’s nothing the least bit phony about Gus.
We’re both INFPs in the Meyers-Briggs system (Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Perceiving). We both score high on the Thinking preference too. So we’re on many of the same wave-lengths. We both value truth, what’s real, and the spiritual side of life (especially in art and music and literature).
We had to work on some things, of course. Marriage threatened his need for freedom at first and I didn’t always trust myself to be lovable.
Early on we learned not to try to win disagreements in stupid ways. If one of us should raise our voice, for example, the other would never say something poisonous, like “You ALWAYS yell at me” (which wouldn’t have been true anyway). Raising children brought more love and more ways of understanding life.
De Botton suggests early dynamics taint marriages, like “wanting to help an adult who was out of control, or being deprived of a parent’s warmth or scared of his anger.” I found the following comment overly negative, however: “Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for.”
I agree with Botton that many marriages suffer from the excessive imaginative pressure our romantic culture places on them. Our culture’s emphases on romance and achievement hinder the ability of many to develop meaningful life values.
De Bottom concludes that the person best suited to us has the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity. I must add that people who have studied the Enneagram and other personality typologies have a head start in this.