"I Married the Wrong Person, Please Help"

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    We receive many questions from married couples that are struggling. Thinking that you married the wrong person can be one of the toughest questions to answer. Below is a question we received from Andrew, who’s concerned that he may have made a mistake when he married his wife, and my answer.

    Reader Question:

    I married the wrong person. I've been married for 12 years. And I now realize that I settled for my wife. She wasn't really what I wanted. It was convenient to marry her, and to be honest, convenient to stay with her. However, as I've grown over the years, I find myself truly unhappy in our marriage and have come to the conclusion that I married the wrong woman. I have really nothing in common with my wife: conversation interests, political, religious, hobbies, nothing. No matter how much I try, I cannot get interested in her conversation. We now have a 7 and 6 year old, to complicate this further. Recently, we have had to separate due to my work, and I was bored one evening, and spent some time with another woman, who I am now having an affair with. I never thought I would be cheating on my wife, but I don't regret this, and find myself trying to figure out how to handle being married to the wrong person. Does this make me a horrible man?" -Andrew

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    My Answer:

    I hear, “I married the wrong person” regularly, from both men and women. When people are unhappy in their marriage they look for reasons to explain why and the easiest target is the other person.

    Rather than see things they don't like about their partner as things that could change, most people feel they just need to change partners. With that line of thinking it's then very easy to develop the belief that you married the wrong person.

    Part of the problem with the belief "I married the wrong woman" is that it feeds the misconception that there’s the "right" person or “perfect” partner out there somewhere and that, when you've found your true love, you’ll be happy forever. As romantic a notion as this is, it’s simply not true. Songs, books and movies would all have us believe in the happily ever after, and there is a version of that for many – but with WORK. They leave that part out.

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    Relationships take work -- all of them. Relationships also change over time because people and life change over time. In all relationships we're either growing together or growing apart. If we don't regularly feed a relationship, invest in it, and make it grow, we can become unhappy no matter how perfect the other person seemed at the beginning.

    No, you're not a horrible man. But you are a man cheating on your wife and that needs to stop. Nothing you’re facing with your wife will be made better by introducing a third person into the mix and betraying your vows. You may be right when you say, "I settled for my wife." However, even if that was true then, it doesn't have to mean your marriage cannot become happy and successful now. You have built a life together and in 12 years have likely found reasons to love each other. Talk to a couple’s counselor, by yourself to start, and learn the ways you can change your marriage and find the happiness you’re seeking in it rather than out of it (here's some of the benefits of couples counseling).

    Why Does It Seem Like You Married The Wrong Person?

    There are many reasons why it can feel like the person you married was the wrong one. Most of the time that feeling arises when you realize that you no longer feel the way you did at the time you exchanged vows. What people often fail to recognize is that feelings within a marriage do change over time and that’s completely normal.

    That original new-love feeling doesn’t last forever and it’s not supposed to. In a healthy relationship those feelings deepen into an even stronger, but different, love that is the foundation for a family and life together. That doesn’t happen without work though.

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    Every successful relationship requires time, effort and communication. And it’s far easier to recognize the need for those things than it is to make them a reality. Many assume that the love they start the relationship with means the work won’t be necessary. The opposite is actually the case. It’s the effort and work that nurture the love and helps it to grow stronger. So next time you’re thinking, “this is too hard, I think I married the wrong person,” take a step back and look a little closer. Is it the person, or the amount of effort that’s really the problem?

    Do you believe you married the wrong person? Share why you believe that in the comment section below.

    Editor's Note: This post was originally published on June 30, 2012 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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