by Serena Wadhwa Psy.D., LCPC, CADC
FAIRYTALE: Some couples just seem to have the perfect marriage, so I often compare my relationship to theirs
and end up feeling like it doesn’t measure up. Why don’t I have that “perfect marriage?”
REALITY: It’s easy to believe that the public magical moments we see of a marriage are all of what that marriage
has. However, no marriage, no matter how enchanting it seems, is perfect. Each marriage has its ups and downs
and it’s important to recognize that each partner is a real individual with different goals, dreams, situations, issues,
and not a made up fantasy. All marriages do have magical moments; it’s working towards creating more of them
that’s important. It’s important not to compare your marriage to someone else’s because each situation is different.
You don’t know what that couple’s marriage is like in the privacy of their own home. You may not even know the
real reasons why the marriage occurred. When you compare your marriage to someone else’s, you are denying
yourself the opportunity to see the reality of your own situation.
We cannot magically want something to occur in our reality without some work on our part. Look at what aspects
of your marriage are you comparing. For example, if you are comparing the romance in your marriage to the
romance in your friend’s marriage, what is it about her romance that you want more of in your marriage? Once you
determine what specifically you want more of (surprises, candlelight dinners, dates, etc.) you can begin developing
a plan to get it. If you want more magical moments, talk with your partner about what these magical moments are
and how the two of you can go about creating them.
FAIRYTALE: We won’t have any money issues because we know that’s not the most important factor in a lasting
marriage. So why is it that seems to be all we argue about?
REALITY: All of us have an idealized version of our fairy tale wedding. We want it to be perfect and everything
else that goes with it, including the marriage. We want to believe that once we have that fairy tale wedding, spared
no expense, there is nothing more we need to do. Yet some believe that the more money invested in the wedding,
the more it means that each partner is invested in the marriage. This is an erroneous belief. Sparing no expense for
a wedding does little in planning the marriage itself. Money does become one of the most frequently argued about
topics in marriages. After the ceremony itself, the bills are still left to be paid. This can cause frustration, stress, and
arguments between individuals who love each other to the death. The reality is that if you are not investing in the
marriage, chances are you’ll hit more that your share of rough patches. It doesn’t have to be the poisoned apple
that puts your marriage to sleep, but the point is, you need to focus on planning the marriage more than planning
the wedding. No magic wand can get you out of a rut, no matter how much you wish for it.
FAIRYTALE: I know that getting married will fulfill every need, desire, wish and fantasy that I have.
REALITY: No one person fulfills all of someone’s desires, needs and wishes. Even for Cinderella, she needed
certain mice to be the horses and other mice to be the coachmen. No one mouse could do all that. Snow White
had seven different dwarfs that had their individual functions. No one dwarf could do all that. It works the same way
for individuals. We can’t expect one person to take on all that responsibility. This is why it’s important to have a
good support circle of friends and family, as each person can fulfill something you need. For example, you may
have one friend that you can talk to about certain issues, but there is another friend that’s the fun one when you
want to hang out and relax. The same is true of your spouse. While your spouse is the primary person you may turn
to, he/she cannot be the only person you have. It may create an unhealthy relationship. It’s important to keep in
mind that while Prince Charming can perhaps read minds, your spouse cannot. If you need or want something, let it
be known. Communication is an important skill in a good marriage.
FAIRYTALE: Married people have less satisfying sex lives, and less sex, than single people.
REALITY: According to a national study, the reality is that married individuals have better and more satisfying sex
than do singles and unmarried couples. In fact, there are numerous benefits for married individuals than for those
who are single. Research indicated that married couples (provided they have married the “right person”) have better
psychological health, live longer, may make more money, and experience less domestic violence. In a long-term
commitment, most individuals want to please their partners, as it contributes to the satisfaction experienced. In
marriage, there is a higher level of commitment and a greater sense of trust and security. These factors contribute
to the higher levels of sexual satisfaction.
FAIRYTALE: Cohabitation is just like marriage, but without “the piece of paper.”
REALITY: While we may wishfully believe that cohabiting is similar to being married, this is not true. What some
research indicates, is that those who cohabitate experience increased levels of marital unhappiness and possible
divorce than those who do not cohabitate before marriage. Part of what may contribute to this is that when a couple
gets “the piece of paper” there is a stronger commitment and investment that occurs. Each individual is more
invested in keeping the marriage healthy. There is also more thought given to the partner’s input, thoughts, wants,
when any major decision is being made. In cohabitation, this is not necessarily the case. Couples who live together
but have not gone that extra step to solidify the relationship, usually do not give equal consideration to their partner
when major decisions occur. There is still some psychological separation that exists, without “that piece of paper.”
Additionally, research indicates that the benefits of cohabitation, while better than for those who are single, do not
reach the benefits that couples who are married experience.