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Marriage: the laws of motion

According to Robin Trimingham, marital problems begin when a husband and wife start travelling in different directions

“Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change.” Frequently attributed to Albert Einstein

Continuing last week’s analysis of fishy quotes, let’s take a look at the well-known one above which is frequently, but erroneously, attributed to Albert Einstein.

It strikes me as funny that we like the idea that the originator of the scientific theory of relativity would also be something of an authority on human relationships, so much that the myth surrounding these words of wisdom persists to this day.

It would make more sense if Sir Isaac Newton, creator of the three laws of motion (the first being that a body at rest tends to stay at rest and a body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force) had made this observation about marriage because at least a marriage can be rightly said to be a bond between two people who are “always in motion”.

The tricky thing about marriages, or any other long-term human relationship for that matter, is that sometimes you both travel in the same direction at a constant speed, and sometimes you travel along diverging paths at different speeds, and sometimes one of you travels forwards (or backwards) at a rapid pace while the other one travels in a circular pattern so slowly that they don’t appear to be moving at all.

Needless to say, when both people are in sync -travelling in the same direction at the same rate- neither are even aware that they are moving, in much the same way that people travelling together on an airplane cannot feel that they are hurtling through the sky at approximately 500 miles per hour (relative to ground speed).

But when two people inside a marriage bubble start travelling in different directions … that’s when all the trouble starts.

Accusations are levelled, threats are made, feelings get hurt, all because the person we are travelling with no longer seems to be the same or is not behaving the way that we want them to.

And as much as some of this may well be true, we often fail to acknowledge that although we have made a commitment to travel through life together, we are also individuals being “acted upon by outside forces” and it is just as likely that our own experiences are influencing how we perceive our life partner at different phases of the journey as it is that they themselves have actually “changed” as a result of their own experiences.

It's enough to make your head spin just thinking about it, and it’s not surprising that many relationships fall apart as a result.

But how can we ever accept (let alone make peace with the fact) that it is quite normal for there to be an ebb and flow between two people in any long-term relationship if we were never raised to understand this in the first place?

Perhaps by telling our children fairytales in which we find “Prince Charming” or our “soulmate” and live happily ever after, we are simply setting them up for disappointment.

Yes, we want them to be happy, and yes, we want them to believe that they can find a life partner, but don’t we also want them to be able to understand how to make a good relationship last?

In short, would it not be better to offer them a realistic view of the world ahead and offer them some coping mechanisms so that they can handle the things that they experience in life?

Robin Trimingham is the managing director of The Olderhood Group Ltd and a business consultant, journalist, podcaster and thought leader in the fields of life transition and change management. Connect with Robin at https://bit.ly/3nSMlvc or robin@olderhood.com

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Published February 22, 2022 at 7:38 am (Updated February 22, 2022 at 7:38 am)

Marriage: the laws of motion

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