Here's a taste:
All of us are crazy in very particular ways. We're distinctively neurotic, unbalanced and immature. . . . A good partnership is not so much one between two healthy people (there aren't many of these on the planet), it's one between two demented people who have had the skill or luck to find a non-threatening conscious accommodation between their relative insanities.
Or as one of the smartest observers of relationships I know once said, "The choice of a partner is the choice of which incompatibilities you're willing to live with for the rest of your life."**
We believe we seek happiness in love, but it's not quite as simple. What at times it seems we actually seek is familiarity.
Human beings aren't good at sorting signal from noise, or identifying which part of a person or relationship is triggering which reaction. I may respond positively to a relationship that feels comfortingly like an old one, without seeing what else is wrapped up in that feeling--or I may react negatively to someone who reminds me of someone else, even if the thing triggering that feeling is unrelated to whatever bad experience I previously had.
We imagine that marriage is a guarantor of the happiness we're enjoying with someone. It will make permanent what might otherwise be fleeting. It will help us to bottle our joy. . . . [But] getting married has no power to keep a relationship at this beautiful stage. . . .In fact, marriage will decisively move the relationship on to another, very different moment: to a suburban house, a long commute, two small children. The only ingredient in common is the partner. And that might have been the wrong ingredient to bottle.
I've got nothing to add to that one except to say that I don't see as much of this as I used to--which is to say, I know fewer catastrophically mismatched couples and fewer people who rush impulsively into long-term commitments. I don't love each and every partner of my each and every friend--occasionally I even prefer one of their exes--but most the people I know are now in relationships that work, where their partnership feels well-balanced. Often this is because the bad matches have broken up or gotten divorced, but in other cases they've gone through years of growth, with or without therapy.
Most people get smarter about relationships as they age, learn more about themselves, and learn more about other people. Or put another way: they get better at recognizing their own dementedness, and seeking out a complementary form of crazy in someone else.
*Once I clicked on the website I realized I'd dimly heard of the organization behind it, The School of Life (which I'm pretty sure is pronounced The School of Life).
**I think this is a paraphrase of something in John Gottman's outstanding, if cheesily titled, Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.