Sunday, March 7th, 2021

R Shopper Columns


The problem with many marriages
and committed relationships is we may be
marrying our fantasy of what we think
marriage is rather than the partner we are marrying.

When the couple came to counseling with a martial problem, the man said to the counselor, "Fix her." Often, some of us think that if our partners would change and do what we want, our relationships would be so much better.

Perhaps the person that needs "fixing" is us.

When we speak of "the wrong partner," the danger is to blame our partner for all our problems and not look at what part is ours and why we got into the relationship in the first place. One of the reasons that our relationship is not healthy is the baggage we bring to it: the unconscious agendas, wounds, unspoken expectations, unmet needs and unfinished issues.

Even though we may not be aware of what they are, they may be appearing as roadblocks to a satisfying relationship. And they seem to follow us from one relationship to another.

Unfinished Business - One reason we may find ourselves with the wrong partner is because of what could be called "unfinished business." It has been stated that we do not marry or get into a committed relationship by accident. Some of us enter relationships because of unfinished business. Unfinished business is about trying to heal a childhood wound or to gain what we did not get from our childhood.

Sometimes, we enter into a relationship because we are used to a certain pattern of relating. This is not done consciously. "As long as the unconscious knows the old wound has not been healed, it will look for someone who matches the image of the person who initially inflicted the wound, whether it was a parent or some other caretaker, and it almost assuredly will find him or her." (Imago, page 12)

Great Expectations - Many years ago, there was a cartoon depicting a bride and groom leaving the wedding ceremony at the church. Behind them are the smiling faces of the congregation. As they reach the door of the sanctuary, the bride says to the groom, "You know, you are starting to get on my nerves!"

The problem with many marriages and committed relationships is that we may be marrying our fantasy of what we think marriage is rather than the partner we are marrying. Our fantasy may be the belief that our problems will be solved in marriage. Actually, when the fantasy wears off, we become more aware of the things we do not like in our partner.

A healthy relationship is not only about finding the right partner; it is about being the right partner. It is about taking responsibility for the ways we relate and the baggage we bring to the relationship. It is about trying to 'fix' ourselves so that we are the right partner.

Next month, we will be looking at ways to avoid marrying the "wrong person.

Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700