Get Dr. Cloud's free guide on how to deal with the toxic people in your life. 

Dr. Cloud can help you live the life you were meant to live!

The Myth of the Perfect Marriage

companionship couples therapy emotional fulfillment emotional maturity happiness in marriage healthy relationships marital expectations marriage advice marriage counseling needs vs. wishes personal growth realistic expectations relationship challenges relationship goals relationship psychology relationship satisfaction relationship tips self-improvement Apr 29, 2024

John and Denise had been married for 10 years, but Denise was still feeling unhappy and insecure. "When I was single, I was unhappy and insecure. Then I married John and became married, unhappy, and insecure," she told me.

This statement perfectly illustrates a common misconception that many people have about marriage - the fantasy that finding the perfect partner will make you happy and fulfilled. In reality, no spouse can fill the emptiness inside of us or be the source of our happiness. That is an unrealistic burden to place on a marriage.

The key to a joyful, thriving marriage is to take ownership of your own growth and happiness. Expecting your spouse to "complete" you is a setup for disappointment. Instead, each partner needs to do the hard work of developing into a whole, healthy individual. Growing people create growing marriages.

Here's a simple framework to keep in mind:

  1. Distinguish between needs and wishes. There are certain universal needs that marriages require to thrive, like emotional connection, forgiveness, acceptance, and mutual respect. Make sure those foundational needs are being met. Preferences and wishes, while nice to have, are not essential.
  2. Be companions to each other's growth. Support and encourage each other's personal development, but don't take responsibility for it. Your spouse's growth is ultimately up to them.
  3. Pursue fulfillment through growth, not through your marriage. A byproduct of focusing on becoming your best self is increased happiness and life satisfaction. Let your marriage be a haven from which to grow, not the source of your fulfillment.

If you find yourself falling into the trap of the marital "happiness fantasy," take a step back and examine your expectations. Are you demanding that your preferences be met rather than ensuring your core needs are fulfilled? Are you taking full ownership of your own growth and happiness?

For the next week, I challenge you to identify one area where you can take more responsibility for your own emotional wellbeing, rather than expecting your spouse to fill that role. Share this with your partner and commit to being companions to each other's growth. You may be surprised at the freedom and joy this mindset shift brings to your marriage.

Remember, the goal is not finding a "perfect" spouse who will make you happy. It's becoming your best self and sharing that growth journey with the partner you've chosen. Rescue your love life from unrealistic expectations, and you'll discover the true fulfillment that a mature, committed marriage can provide.

Get Dr. Cloud's free guide on how to deal with the toxic people in your life. 

Dr. Cloud can help you live the life you were meant to live!