Could our marriage be too perfect?

We never fight. Is that a problem?

Published May 17, 2006 11:04AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I know this may sound strange, but can a relationship be too good? My husband and I have never had a fight, ever. Never a raised voice, an annoyed tone, an awkward silence, despite plenty of situations where that would be the norm for a couple. We do occasionally disagree over something, usually small, but we have a civil discussion and resolve our difference.

We're not kids still googly-eyed in love. This is a second marriage for both of us. I came from a verbally and sometime physically abusive 10-year marriage. We fought all the time and I was miserable for years. He came from a 25-year marriage to a woman who didn't mature like he did and was threatened by his business success. She hated sex because of childhood abuse, but never wanted to get help for it. They didn't fight much, but after his mother's early death, he decided that he didn't want to spend the rest of his life in a loveless relationship.

When we met, we had an instant bond. We found our emotional refuge in each other and married fairly quickly. We have been together for five years now. It did occur to me that maybe this was a classic "rebound" relationship and we'd dissolve into "normal" bickering and spats, but that never happened. We're both easygoing and positive and I can truly say I love this man and nothing about his demeanor contradicts his love for me.

In relating our success story to others, I've had the strangest reactions. I've been told that it's not healthy to get along this well, and that one or both of us is repressing feelings that will explode someday into irreconcilable differences. I'm not holding anything back that I'm consciously aware of. Should I be worried that we're doomed? Should we be doing something else to maintain our good relationship?

Too Good to Be True

Dear Too Good,

Personally, I don't think a relationship can be too good. I wouldn't worry about it right now.

If you're looking for a dark side, though, I can think of one thing: You might get so used to things going well that when something challenging happens you're not quite ready for it. You might question the fundamental soundness of your relationship on the strength of a minor ripple.

I don't agree with those who say that this is somehow unhealthy or that you are repressing feelings that will explode one day. That's not how I see it. The only downside, as I said, that I can see is that you may not be prepared, or in practice for, some big instances of adversity.

If some adversity should arise ... do you know how you and he will manage? If, say, you reach a point where you disagree on something fundamental and crucial?

While you don't want to disturb the placid waters unnecessarily, you might want to talk about how you would handle a big conflict if it should come up. And you might talk about what would happen if echoes of past traumatic relationships started to surface. I'm not sure exactly what that would be, but it's worth thinking about. You don't provide enough details about your work and family to provide specific examples, but life can often provide us with echoes of traumatic past events that really do challenge our equilibrium. If, for instance, he had some weakness that did cause him to become verbally abusive, you might be affected more strongly than you thought possible. Or if, for some reason, your sex life deteriorated, he might find echoes of his previous marriage.

So, more than being suspicious of the placid surface of life as hiding some repressed anger, I would just be aware that life as it is lived can pose challenges we aren't quite ready for, to disturb the placid surface of our lives and plunge us into turmoil.

But, hey, why go looking for it? Why stir up the waters unnecessarily? Just don't be surprised if it comes along. Try to keep in mind, if that does happen, that it doesn't mean there is something fundamentally wrong with your relationship. More likely, it would mean simply that you are living in the real world with the rest of us.

It's nice if it's perfect, but it doesn't have to be perfect.

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