The XX Factor

Mysteries of Marriage

Tara Parker-Pope starts her New York Times piece on the science of successful marriages by repeating the truism that the only people who really know what’s going on in a marriage are the two people who are in it. But is this always true? Many of us have had been in the uncomfortable position of knowing a couple in which one partner thinks he or she is happily married, but everyone else knows the other partner is deep into an affair. Madeline Albright wrote in her memoir that when her husband confessed he was in love with another woman and wanted a divorce, she was astounded to discover her marriage wasn’t a great success. I’ve known couples in which it seemed obvious that one of the partners was gay, and when the gay spouse came out, the other one was completely blindsided. I was friendly with another couple who had a long, seemingly idyllic marriage-they were always holding hands and cooing at each other. Then he got arrested for prescription drug abuse, and it turned out he’d been a long-time addict, and she had no idea-and the marriage collapsed. Of course, I recognize the people in a marriage do, in general, have a better idea of what’s going on that any outsider-but not always.

Image of wedding rings by Litho Printers/Flickr Creative Commons.