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Marriage: Fact and Fantasy

By Ann Marsh


A practical, and very readable looking at the fantasies we can take into marriage and how we can learn to love our spouse in a real and honest way. The author looks at the expectations we take into marriage and the baggage or personal history that we also bring. "The very word 'marriage' is heavily charged with emotion. So many ideas, hopes and fears are contained in it. "Our early life experiences affect the way we look at things, the way we handle our emotional needs and the way we are free to love each other. Subjects covered include our expectations, our personal "emotional world" which we bring into marriage, the factors that effect our choice of a partner, communication and handling conflict, the tension between closeness and personal space, the impact of bereavement and loss on our ability to make relationships, understanding sex, gender, and roles and the influence of society. Written from a Christian point of view, the Christian angle is not intrusive and a more complete understanding of the resources faith brings to marriage are confined to the last chapter. All this is compassionately written, with down to earth examples - a very accessible book.

"In our choice of partner, I have described a conscious searching for someone similar to ourselves. There is also the longing for someone who will complement our personality, and make us feel more complete. We seem to be like 'nuts' looking for 'bolts' and vice versa! It is as if each is wanting to 'buy in' a part of themselves which they have been unable to own or develop and then together they will feel equipped to face the world.

"The shy, sensitive person may need the courage of the person who is socially at ease and can be the life and soul of the party. That other partner may be at times quite insensitive, treading on other people's toes, and need to have things pointed out by the shy partner. In this complimentary area of our pairings, an opportunity is created for each of us to grow, and maybe develop a side of our personality which did not develop in childhood. But it can have just the opposite effect, and mean that neither of us grows, because we rely entirely on our partner to provide the missing bits in ourselves.

"The mixture of conscious and unconscious elements in the choice of a partner beggars description. My husband remarked that it is like 'trying to get Einstein's theory of relativity on the back of an envelope'. All I can attempt to do is to give indications of some of the factors at work. But there is an instinct within us which chooses with surprising accuracy someone who is a match for us. In a committed partnership we each find someone to help us develop as a person, but for that growth to happen, each of us will be echoing something from each other's past which will uncover old hurts and challenge us again, and what a risky business that is. It could be so wonderful, or so awful, or as so often happens, it can be both on the same day.

"In the bad moments the other person seems to be wrecking the vision of building together a shared life. It is then that we feel that this partner is the only person with whom we could feel so immobilized. They are not the best person for us, we feel, but the worst, because they touch so accurately our inner pains and hurts. And that is true. The Best and the Worst come together in one person, which takes us right back to our childhood fears, and the trapped feeling that comes with dependence. As children we wanted so much to be loved and found lovable. We found it intolerable to find the princess and the witch in one person, mother, and the prince and the ogre in the one father. Neither can we live comfortably with the good and bad feelings about ourselves; 'It's not my fault, it's yours', we say.

"This incredible mixture of past and present, hopes and fears, good and bad, comes with us on the journey we call marriage. With us, too, comes the paradox that the best partner can become to us the worst, but also that the other person holds for us the possibility for a healing and growth which is tailor-made to each of our particular needs."

Copyright 1994 Ann Marsh. Quoted with permission from the publisher.

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