Let me start with a quote from Peter Devries, an American editor and novelist –
“The difficultly with marriage is that we fall in love with a personality, but we must live with a character.”
We can only appreciate the profundity of this statement when we reflect on what is meant by CHARACTER.
“Personality” is easy to understand. Your “personality” is how people experience you. It’s your public persona.
But what is “character?” And why is “character” so crucial in your marriage?
Character is who you are when no one is watching.
You see, when you and your spouse met, you met each other’s PERSONALITIES. You showed your spouse and you were shown by your spouse your public personas. I’m not saying you tricked each other. It’s just your personality; how you display yourself to others.
But marriage lasts too long in too close quarters for anyone to sustain a public persona. Personalities eventually give way to an INNER SELF that gets revealed for the first time. And there you each stand, naked as if no one is watching. But someone is watching. And that’s when you meet for the first time…again.
You and your spouse don’t meet the person who charmed each other’s friends, bought gifts for each other’s parents, and always smiled from ear to ear. No, this time it’s a meeting of your CHARACTERS.
In many cases, it’s not only that you’re meeting each other for the first time, but it’s that you’re meeting YOURSELVES for the first time.
Most people wouldn’t be caught dead treating anyone the way they treat their spouse. Most people don’t recognize their own behavior. “I’m just not myself with him/her.” Well then who is that person? …., that’s YOU…it’s your character. (And your spouse meets their character.)
The reason so many people fail at marriage and an attempt at marriage renewal is NOT that they don’t like their spouse. It’s that they don’t like THEMSELVES. And while everyone else in their life is like a mirror reflecting their personality; their spouse is a mirror reflecting their character. And most people don’t like what they see.
Many people would rather choose to be with someone else than remain with their spouse and have to continue to be with themselves. (Did you get that?)
Balthasar Gracian wrote in his 17th century manual on success, The Art of Worldly Wisdom, as follows: “You are as much a real person as you are deep. As with the depths of a diamond, the interior is twice as important as the surface. There are people who are all facade, like a house left unfinished when the funds run out. They have the entrance of a palace but the inner rooms of a cottage.”
That is why I will like to conclude that individual character development is key to marriage/relationship renewal.