Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Loving more or less is a mess
Equal Partnership? I once heard you're supposed to marry a man who loves you a little more than you love him. Today, in our modern world, people say marriage should be an equal partnership.
What do you say?
Carolyn: My answer was going to be: "Don't base any major personal decision on what anyone tells you you're 'supposed to' do."
But then I remembered that many letters I receive are cautionary tales about what happens when someone follows the marry-a-man-who-loves-you-more advice. Here's one:
"What advice do you have for someone who married for the wrong reason? I wasn't sexually attracted to him, but he was very devoted and willing to do pretty much anything I asked. I knew he would never dump me, so he was a safe bet.
"Well, after two children and 16 years, the attraction hasn't gotten any better, and I can honestly say I've been frustrated my entire marriage. Now that I'm getting older I wonder if I can do this for the rest of my life. I haven't left because I don't want to screw up my children's lives."
So, no, going into a marriage where there's a known deficit in feelings, one way or the other, is just asking for wrenching unhappiness of the worst kind: between two people who were really just doing their best.
I would suggest you marry someone you're still happy to see walk in the room, even after you've known each other for two or three years, past the butterfly stage, and who seems just as happy to have you around as you are to have him.
Equal Partnership Again: Thanks for answering my question and posting what someone else sent in. I did want to clarify that I wasn't asking about a deficit in feelings. I guess that would be something that would leave me wondering. I am asking about where both people love each other and have a good/healthy relationship but one loves the other just a little more.
Carolyn: That's my definition of a deficit, though. The example was specifically about a deficit in physical attraction, and maybe your issue is different, but if one loves the other "just a little bit more," then one loves the other just a little bit less. That's a deficit, and that's a problem.
To know you love someone less than he loves you is, in other words, full consciousness that you could love someone more than you love this man you're about to marry. That's unfair to both of you.
Love is not an easily quantified thing, obviously, but if anything, that makes it more important that you not consciously enter into a marriage under "less than" circumstances. If a difference is noticeable, then assume it has to be pretty big.
So, same advice, different phrasing: Marry when you're grateful for him and amazed at your luck — not telling yourself you should be happy.
Anonymous: Re: Loving someone a little more:
I have no idea if I love my wife more than she loves me. All I know is I love her a lot and she loves me a lot. Sometimes people make things too hard.
Carolyn: Or work too hard to rationalize something they know isn't working. Thanks.