Years ago, a colleague of mine, Justin Frank, presented a paper titled, “Who are you and what have you done to my wife?” Falling in love is such a wonderful experience. But then within a few years of married life something strange happens. Your spouse seems different, irritating, disappointing, maybe even pathological! Why?
In my case, I fell in love with a fantasy and over time met my wife instead. What a crisis I thought that was! I was disappointed she was not the same as my fantasy. I didn’t realize that. I just thought she should be the way I thought she should be. Unfortunately, no one asked me, “Jon, who made you God?” So my suffering due to fantasy had to be protracted.
Then there was a later realization. If I couldn’t love her as she was, I should let her go, so someone else could love her the way she was. It was not her job to live up to my fantasies. If I thought these fantasies were so important, maybe I should live up to them myself. Hmm. Not possible.
So I had to go to the internal divorce court and divorce my fantasy. It was a very painful proceeding, extending over years. As I divorced my fantasy, I was able to marry my wife instead. Thank heavens. 35 years and still going.
Like many people, to some degree, I was in love with my fantasy rather than my wife. I could see the value in my fantasy, but this blinded me to her inner beauty, her inherent value underneath her flaws and difficulties (Translation: her departures from my fantasy).
All we have to do is read the magazine titles at the drug store on how to be the “perfect” partner, “34 moves that will sexually awaken your spouse”, and how to “revive” a dead marriage. But no article says that relationships die if you try to manipulate each other into being perfect people, perfect mates, and Olympic sexual partners. No article says relationships die when you love a dead fantasy instead of a living person.
As result, fights occur. Each partner tells the other person how to change to fit a fantasy. For some reason, our spouses object to being asked to fit into our doll houses. The spouse realizes you love your fantasy, not him or her. And for some mysterious reason, our partner gets angry about that.
Of course, it all looks nicer than that to us. “You would be so much happier if…..(you weren’t you).” Since the spouse (reality) keeps showing up instead of our fantasy, we can fight. There are lots of books and articles on how to argue in marriage. But what if a fight is just a duel between two fantasies? Often we hope a fight will make our real spouse go away and our fantasy spouse show up instead. Sometimes the real spouse feels guilty for not being the fantasy spouse and promises to change. But then reality shows up again instead of your fantasy.
A fight can represent our divorce from reality. We are already divorced from our spouse, because we are married to the fantasy spouse.
What have you done with my wife? Why is my real wife showing up instead of my fantasy? Am I going to have to divorce my fantasy in order to get married to her instead? Am I going to have to get engaged to reality? But if I give up my fantasy, I have to find out who this mystery is: my wife. And that’s the task: always coming to know the mystery you are married to, who will always be a mystery.