Did I Marry The Right Person? 

By Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin MS, LCPC

While you may expect this question to be reserved for newlyweds, unfortunately, there are couples who are grandparents still asking this question. I find this question to be one of the most destructive questions you could ask about your marriage. Living with an unhappy marriage can be one of the most painful experiences. It is easy to assume a passive role, give up, and daydream how things could have been different with someone else, yet this will only exacerbate your problems. Taking a proactive role in your relationship is the best way to ensure that both you and your spouse become the right person.

The first step you can take is to realize that it’s not all about your spouse. I have seen plenty of couples in a 2nd marriage. If it was their ex’s fault, why is it that they are having issues with their new spouse? Is it bad luck? Ultimately, you take yourself into whatever relationship you enter. What are you doing to contribute to your relationship stress?

Most couples do not take responsibility for their role in their relationship disaster. Even better, now a spouse who has taken a psychology course in college is ready to diagnose their partner with a personality disorder. Is it always the case that our spouse is the evil monster with psychological problems or do we play a role in triggering such undesirable behavior? As I have witnessed with my couples, most of the things that really bother us about our partner are only partially about them and largely about us.  Why would a particular incident bother you tremendously but appear insignificant to your friend?

The nature vs. nurture paradigm is very much involved in determining how we process and react to others. Our external triggers, as real as they may be, are only a symptom of a greater problem. That problem is our story and ourselves. By working on ourselves and becoming more conscious about why we react the way we do, we can learn how to be more effective in relationship and have more compassion for our spouse.

Furthermore, these points of conflict are a blessing in disguise. Marriage is ultimately an opportunity for growth and healing. The challenges that we face are there to do just that, to challenge us to become better and more balanced people. The things that bother us most about our spouse or the things that our spouse complains about us are usually the areas in which we could stand to experience more growth. If your inflexibility or carelessness didn’t bother your spouse, how would you be compelled to improve in these areas?

Your marriage crisis is not proof that you ended up with the wrong person; rather it shows that you made the right choice.  The hopes of someone better are futile because Mr./Mrs. Right will serve as a vehicle for your personal growth. After the honeymoon ends, your spouse will surely push your buttons, but still this is not proof that you ended up with the wrong person. Might as well give it your all and make it work the first time instead of breaking up a family, spending lots of money on attorneys, and suffering additional heartache.

Rabbi Slatkin is a Certified IMAGO Relationship Therapist working with couples, singles, and families and is available for lectures and seminars. To sign up for the new free E-course: What if My Spouse isn’t Interested- 6 Things You Can Do to Create a Happy Marriage with an Unwilling Partner, visit www.theRelationshipRabbi.com/happy-marriage or call 443-570-7598

4 Responses to “Did I Marry The Right Person?”

  1. Truly, every marriage is a two-way road. It’s always as much about us as our partner. Isn’t it though a part of our existential struggle? Don’t we periodically doubt everything in our lives – from partner to career choices, to choice of wall paper?
    We all need to listen to our inner voice: if it’s only asking us “What if…?” – maybe it’s only daydreaming, and we have to learn to live with it. But if it’s screaming that something is profoundly wrong – then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate our present balance, whether it’s a job or a partner.

  2. Lana,
    While I do think it is important to listen to our inner voice, sometimes what we think is our inner voice is not our voice but the voice of others influencing us. We may compare ourselves to others or what we think our marriage is supposed to be instead of giving our marriage a chance. Most couples inevitably reach a point in their relationship where something is not right. A marriage is a serious commitment, especially if children are involved. If something is profoundly wrong it is imperative to first try to work together as a couple to heal the relationship and to see how that conflict can bring us closer together as opposed to calling it quits because something isn’t working.

  3. I have received some interesting feedback on this article and have posted a video response here:


  4. What an interesting and helpful article. I work with couples where one of them , usually the wife, wants to walk away from the marriage because her husband “no longer excites me and we have not been intimate for x months (or years).” By this time she has found a “soul mate” at work or church or her night class who pays attention and seems more attractive! This is a case of “it is all about me” instead of “we.”

    If the couple decides on a trial separation. they are asked to negotiate a trial period with a definite length of time to begin and end, decide who will move out during the separation, define the goals that each will work on during the separation, and equitably divide the financial obligations, duties and contributions each will make toward upkeep of the home and care of the children.

    I usually advise the aggrieved party (defendant) not give up too much in terms of time, money and resources during the separation. It is important that the deciding party (plaintiff) get a big taste of the loneliness, ugliness and pain of what it is like be a single with children–not to mention the added guilt of what divorce does to children.

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