Relationship Connection: What if marriage was the wrong choice all along?

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Question

Our almost 30-year-old daughter married several months ago after a 2 ½-year relationship with a good young man with some challenges (attention deficit disorder, little schooling and job instability). He was not an “obvious choice” for her (she has two college degrees and a good career). Significant others told her this, but she felt he was good choice for her.

Their courtship was rocky, but our daughter chose to marry her husband after counseling with a therapist and so desperately wanting to do the right thing. She was emotionally frantic the week before and even at the wedding but moved forward believing peace would come.

Peace has not come.

We have counseled with our daughter to help her accept and deal with her differences with her husband. But, she is struggling with settling into her fate in fear that the confusion and anxiety at the wedding was, in reality, a warning about her future with him.

It saddens us when she says that, at this point, she does not want to have his children. We cannot make the decision for our daughter to stay in the marriage or divorce. She is afraid of not having the opportunity to marry again.

If she knew this was right for her, she says, she could move forward. However, she is afraid she made a mistake.

Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Answer

Committing to one person in marriage is a daunting decision that leaves many dating, engaged and even newly-married individuals feeling anxious and unsure. Your earnest daughter has made this decision with much counsel, time and thoughtfulness; yet, something about it doesn’t seem quite right to her.

I want to be careful to not minimize the significance of her post-marriage confusion as I suggest some ways she move forward with her new marriage.

I’m optimistic about the role of challenges in marriage. In fact, I’m not afraid of them but welcome them. I’m not talking about welcoming affairs, abuse, addiction or abandonment as these are often fatal to marriage. I’m talking about accepting and welcoming the normal challenges of personality differences, viewpoints, motivation, quirks, temperaments and other inevitable dynamics that happen when you ask two people to give themselves to each other completely.

I recognize that many people, including your daughter, saw that her husband has some obvious challenges that gave everyone pause. At the same time, you and your daughter recognized that this young man was, as you put it, “good.” What does that word mean to you? Does it mean that he is faithful? Is he pure? Is he selfless? Is he simply kind?

I believe that if she saw something “good” in him, then this may be more of a foundational quality that will bless their marriage for years to come. I would be more concerned if this young man had a stellar resumé but lacked goodness.

Jeffrey R. Holland expounded on this idea that we should look for this type of quality in our future spouses:

There are many qualities you will want to look for in a friend or a serious date — to say nothing of a spouse … but surely among the very first and most basic of those qualities will be those of care and sensitivity toward others, a minimum of self-centeredness that allows compassion and courtesy to be evident. ‘That best portion of a good man’s life (is) his … kindness,” said Mr. William Wordsworth (‘Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey’ (1798) …). There are lots of limitations in all of us that we hope our sweethearts will overlook. I suppose no one is as handsome or as beautiful as he or she wishes, or as brilliant in school or as witty in speech or as wealthy as we would like, but in a world of varied talents and fortunes that we can’t always command, I think that makes even more attractive the qualities we can command — such qualities as thoughtfulness, patience, a kind word, and true delight in the accomplishment of another. These cost us nothing, and they can mean everything to the one who receives them. (Emphases Holland’s.)

If your daughter’s new husband is a man with a good heart who is committed to her and is willing to accept her influence, they will be just fine.

Recognize that your son-in-law is taking a risk on your daughter as well. It wouldn’t be unusual for him or his family to have similar reservations about your daughter.

Granted, she may be appear more successful by some measures, but your daughter will most certainly need some refining in areas where he is stronger. Perhaps she battles with anxiety where he is more steady. She might be more hard-charging in her goals and he better at enjoying the journey in a more peaceful way.

Even though your son-in-law’s limitations are more obvious to you right now, it doesn’t mean that he and your daughter won’t find ways to work with each other to build a healthy partnership.

Please don’t fret about his resumé right out the gate. If those foundational qualities of mutual respect, openness, commitment, kindness and charity prevail in this marriage, your daughter and her husband will chart a path together that will blend the best of the strengths and manage the weaknesses they both bring to the union.

It’s also important to note that many of us have brought the values of the marketplace to our marriages. Dr. William Doherty wrote a compelling article called “Consumer Marriage and Modern Covenant Marriage.” In it, he observes how we often enter marriage like a consumer approaches a potential purchase. Doherty encourages us to view marriage as a covenant that involves self-sacrifice instead of as something that will only meet our predetermined expectations. I highly recommend you review and share his article with your daughter.

As your daughter is evidently feeling confused about her choice, I encourage her to quiet down the outside voices and, instead, focus on turning to her husband and commit to learning who he is and how she can celebrate what he brings to their marriage. He needs to do the same.

Working with a qualified marriage counselor can also help the newlyweds learn to discover and build on these strengths. In fact, most marriages get off to a rough start or experience this type of turbulence at different points in the journey.

In almost 20 years of working with hundreds of marriages, I’m more certain than ever that any two people who are willing to turn to each other in complete humility and commitment can build a beautiful marriage.

Your daughter doesn’t have to make every decision about their future right now. These are decisions they can work to make together as they work out their individual worries and concerns. She is married now and they both have responsibility to work hard to build trust and create something bigger than the both of them.

Author James Thurber once said, “Love is what you go through together.” Your daughter and son-in-law have only been married for a couple months even though they dated for a couple of years. They are just starting to go through things together and need the space and time to let their love develop and deepen.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Instagram: @geoffsteurer    

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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9 Comments

  • 42214 October 12, 2016 at 9:21 am

    Rocky 2 1/2 year relationship. He has “challenges” and poor job history. She has 2 college degrees and a good job. She is the proverbial educated idiot that is probably devoid of basic common sense. Enjoy your marriage and be sure to bring in 6 or 7 children for the church. Its your duty.

    • .... October 12, 2016 at 1:45 pm

      Would it be a good idea to name all their kids after Star Wars characters ?

  • ladybugavenger October 12, 2016 at 11:16 am

    I was going to give my professional advice LOL but 42214 summed it up well.

    • .... October 13, 2016 at 6:27 am

      LOL ! yep 422 pretty much said it all. !

  • Oceansize October 12, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Let’s be honest. Even the best paired couples only have 5-7 years of bliss before they start describing their relationship as “work”. And that is the beginning of the end. Now that end might come in 30 days, or 30 years, but it’s coming! Marriage is a fairytale perpetrated by the monster of all fairytales (religion) against women for a singular purpose; so men can control them. I didn’t even read this story beyond the 1st paragraph before I knew the “Trump card” of religion was overriding everything in the background to favor the husband, and therefore the church.

  • Hataalii October 12, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    Can’t help but wonder if this young couple would be much better off, if they moved a thousand miles across country, to get away from all the so called “friends,” but mostly to get away from mama who wants to run her daughter’s life.
    Butt out lady, and give them a chance to make a go of their marriage. Or not. But at least it won’t be because of you butting in.

  • izzymuse October 12, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    If she were my my daughter I would tell her to divorce now BEFORE children appear on the scene. Getting a divorce without children is a whole lot easier than getting a divorce with children for many reasons.
    .
    Once she has children the problem deepens. If they divorce after having a few children divorce is more challenging because the fights over who has the kids for what holiday, money, and etc. waste a lot of time, energy, and money (so many attorneys and judges make a living on this mess!).
    .
    Tell her to find someone who makes her happy. Life is too short to waste with needless suffering!

  • Bob October 12, 2016 at 11:50 pm

    looks like we got us a whole trove of relationship experts here. lol’d

    • .... October 13, 2016 at 8:30 am

      Yeah right Bob you should know when it comes to blowing hot air !

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