When the reality of marriage doesn’t meet our expectations, we tend to blame reality. When it comes to marriage, we expect the fairy tale.

Raised on Cinderella and Ozzie and Harriet, we’re convinced that marriage will solve all of our problems, our partner will meet all of our needs, and that we’ll live happily ever after.

But a great many of us don’t get the happily-ever-after part; we get divorced. So where did we go wrong?

When the marriage or the partner fails to live up to our ideals, we don’t recognize that our expectations were much too high. Instead, we blame our spouse or that particular relationship.

We think that our partner can meet all our needs, know what we’re thinking, and love us even when we’re not terribly lovable. When those things don’t happen, then we blame our partner we think that maybe if we had a different spouse, it would be better.

The significantly higher expectations held by students, come straight out of the “happily ever after” fantasy.

Such irrationality can lead us to conclude that when the ‘thrill is gone,’ or when the marriage or partner doesn’t live up to our inflated ideals, divorce or abandonment of the marriage in some other form is the solution. One of the most senior family judges in England and Wales says the number of family breakdowns has reached “epidemic” proportions.

It is true that we all dream; hope to find the love of our life. It is a yearning that exists within the nature of humankind.

Hence, we are told that marriage refers to it as ‘half of our faith’. But for the sake of sanity, let’s put away the fairy-tale dreams of prince charming and happily-ever-after land and take a look at reality!

As with every worthwhile thing in life, finding a loving, fulfilling relationship is hard work. And that is not the end of the story, it continues. Also, maintaining a loving fulfilling relationship is even more difficult. It requires an amount of insight, self-awareness, giving, forgiving and faith that we as human beings can barely comprehend.

Yet, despite its awesome intricacy, and sometimes complexity, we strive to find it. We live in agony that we may not find it, and then when we do find it, we live in agony that we might lose it! How pitiful we are!

With the rising rate of unsuccessful marriages perhaps it is time we take stock of what may be going on.

I do not say ‘divorce rate’ because divorce is not the only indicator of a dysfunctional marriage; indeed, there are many marriages that are pasted together and are continuing but they are not built on the love and tranquillity that.

Approaching the whole idea of marriage with the attitude that this is ‘my’ right; something that ‘I’ want; and the attitude of what is this marriage going to do for ‘me’, may be a big mistake.

With such an attitude the person will be unable to step back and take an objective look at him or herself and their role in the marriage relationship. Indeed, the marriage relationship can be the most fulfilling, but it is the most challenging.

Without this kind of introspection, the marriages will very likely end up on the boring, dull, routine, unspiritual conveyor belt of human selfishness and short-sightedness that is producing today’s miserable marriages. A lot of the fault for this unhappy phenomenon lies on our shoulders.

We are just not spiritual enough. Perhaps it is a by-product of our materialistic age, but many people consider marriage in terms of how it will enhance their wealth and status. Such people become so self-focused on material and social gain that the vast spiritual aspect of the relationship is lost on them.

Ironically, they believe that a ‘stable’ marriage should in fact increase their wealth and status, while the heart and the depth of the relationship; the place of true fulfilment, exists on another plane altogether.

This state of harmony, deep feelings and commitment cannot be purchased or bargained for. This is the state that people seek; this is what they mean when they say ‘I have found a soul mate.’ This state exists within us and between us and our loved one according to the state of our own individual heart. Indeed, the heart and soul of a human being is potentially great and sublime; far beyond our imagination.

But if it is not purified, discerning and alive, it will not be able to participate in deep and meaningful relationships.

Keeping all this in mind, we become aware that our ability to be close to someone; to find harmony and depth; communication and joy begins in our own heart.

When the heart is free of grudge, envy, and hate, and has the ability to accept people for what they are, the heart begins to feel free and insight begins to flicker and come to life. In this state of awareness and honesty with the self, and without the harness of negativity and self-doubt, the soul can explore, appreciate and grow.

The shape of the heart changes with life events, our health, our mood.

We are probably all aware of how the soul is elated when we pray with true sincerity and concentration; this is the state of the soul that can love and be loved.

We are also probably aware that even if we find a ‘soul mate’; one with whom we can find joy, harmony and tranquillity; that this state fluctuates as is the case with human beings.

We are not constant; our faith goes up and down and our ability to love and be loved also changes.

This is where the character and good habits of the individual come shining through. If one partner is feeling down or insecure, the other will identify the need and fill in the gaps. The couple is like two elastic bands that adjust their tension according to the need so that harmony is always eventually reinstated.

The love of your life may be standing next to you right now.

He or she may have been sharing your life for years but maybe you never realized the ‘heart’ of that person; the real person.

Marriage can be revived; it can find a way to grow and it can make a fresh start from a new angle.

Sometimes the hearts of the couple have grown apart; perhaps they never tried to reach that spiritual plane where they can find rest in each other.

Making the hearts more in tune, and keeping them in tune can take a life time but since marriage is half of our faith, it means it is worth the effort.

Have you heard of the saying? “Marriage is not always a bed of roses”, and with a lot of people going through marriage counselling and divorce; it is a reality that marriage is indeed not always a bed of roses.

Keeping a marriage is not easy and when conflicts arise, you have to learn how to fix a troubled marriage to keep your spouse stay with you. In the next issue we will discuss how to resolve issues that arise within marriages.