Thursday, November 18, 2004

Marriage ain't fair...And that's a good thing

In my therapy practice I see couples everyday in conflict, deep and entrenched conflict, with each other...the person they are in love with. Almost to a person they are fighting for what is fair.

If there were one sure way to make a marriage fail it would be for the couple to seek fairness. Business is fair. Playground games are fair. Marriage - it's not fair.

For all of the good press fairness gets, it's bad medicine for marriage. Think about it. If my wife does me wrong, or I think she did me wrong, I must (get to) do her wrong back to make things fair. On the other hand, if she does something nice, I probably deserved it.

When does it ever get even? I mean, when is it even and both partners agree that it is even?

Sadly, I can answer that one. In divorce court...and even that is rare.

Rather than "fair" being the measuring stick for a functional, healthy marriage, how about "goodness." Goodness is something you can take responsibility for, while fairness is really, really, SUPER REALLY subjective. Fairness begs for one person to control the other, while goodness seeks to free the other. Goodness, pure goodness, requires nothing in return and requires nothing to get it started. Fairness is the road to revenge while goodness is the road to forgiveness.

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