Marriage Is a Union of Two Wounded People

We are all wounded people. The hurts, frustrations and their compensatory character traits were already baked in as early as age 4, when ego identity began to emerge. They were the inevitable product of an imperfect human genome, wounded human parents and wounded human culture. If there was any trauma involved, stressful or catastrophic, multiply by 10 (95% of families, according to one expert). This is the real, messed-up person who you “gave” and “took” in marriage. There are no other kind.


The Party Favor – Norman Rockwell – 1919

Most couples live in denial of this foundational picture. Their working theory is that their partners were great when the relationship began but then began behaving badly later. Part of the problem is that we tend to see our strengths (areas where we are healthy) as normative for all. “This is not a problem for me. How could it be a problem for you?” Then we are blind to our own weaknesses because our egos are too fragile to look at them. Our partners can look at them just fine.

Until we can examine ourselves with radical honesty and humility, we have no chance to grow in love. Loving your own ego ideal projected onto another person is neither human nor divine love. Simply, it is not love, but enchantment (making beautiful music together), or idolatry, neither of which is not going to sustain a marriage past the honeymoon. You have to go much further; you have to be able to acknowledge the wounds and embrace the whole person.

To expose one’s wounds is to be vulnerable (Latin vulnus is “wound”). Nobody with a pulse is going to be vulnerable if they are going to be attacked or rejected. Thus, the first question in a marriage is a personal one: Can you acknowledge your own wounds and still hold yourself together in dignity as a person worthy of love? Loving yourself, a significant other, others and the Other is all one project. Take the simple case first.