The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines duality as “The quality or state of being dual or having a dual nature”. This is a common issue faced by individuals and one that I, on a personal basis, fought for years. I used to act one way around my extended family, another way around my church friends and yet another way around my old college buddies. Life in this manner is okay, as long as you can keep your circles completely separate. But it causes considerable stress at those times when the circles overlap; and inevitably, they will overlap. Imagine the overall discomfort when an old friend hands you a beer (which seems completely natural to him) in front of a church friend (to whom you’ve made the impression that you don’t drink). You get the idea.
A few years ago, I decided I was tired of trying to keep all of these lifestyles separate and decided to be who I was in front of everyone. I no longer hide my faith, or the fact that I like to drink or shy away from what television shows I choose to watch. It’s very freeing. Not everyone will agree with all of my choices, but I cannot be accused of hypocrisy. Whereas I used to worry about what people might think, I have now become a firm believer that it is hard to gossip about a person that is an open book!
I always assumed that this was limited to a struggle as individuals. But I’ve come to realize that duality is just as common in marriage. The public face of the relationship often does not resemble the marriage that exists behind closed doors. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been surprised by hearing of a couples impending divorce. From all external appearances, it appeared that were happy and had it all together. That was the external face they chose to display. But under the surface, there was misery, stress and division… all hidden from those around them.
I’m not suggesting that couples conduct loud, angry arguments in public. But I am saying that transparency in a relationship (both internally and externally) will lead to an improved marriage. No marriage is perfect, so why do we insist on portraying them as if they are? If you are married, you will go through rough patches. How you choose to deal with these patches will determine your long-term success as a couple.
Imagine if you could eliminate the (self-imposed) stigma of reaching out to a friend, or a counselor when things first began to get rough instead of waiting until the point of no return. Every couple should have at least one other trusted couple that they can be “real” with, reach out to for advice, or for venting. This outside perspective can help them to see things as they are in the bigger picture and help get out of the ugly moment. If we could all be a bit more transparent, and learn to encourage each other through the rough times I believe we could radically improve the success of marriage in our culture.