Most of us know people with negative associations with marriage because their parents fought a lot, or got divorced. But what about people who are scared to marry because their parents' marriage was too perfect?
Meet Benjie Goodhart: he's in a long-term relationship that he pursued and is the father of a 2-year-old. Now his girlfriend wants to "make it official," but he's dragging his feet because his parents' marriage was too good:
"I know how self-pitying and lame that sounds. I am entirely aware of my own good fortune in being raised in a family filled with love and laughter. But the fact remained that I was terrified of getting married because my parents had done it so well. I felt like an emotional freak. Not so, according to Christine Northam, a relationship counsellor with Relate. "It's like having a terribly clever elder brother at school – it sets a competitive standard," she says. "It's a normal anxiety about a big change, and you've got the added pressure of wanting an idealised version of your parents' relationship."...It seems such anxiety is not uncommon. "As much as it's hard to cope with parents being imperfect, cheating, splitting," says therapist Tracey Cox, "it is sometimes harder to be presented with the ideal happy marriage." Avy Joseph is a cognitive behavioural therapist and founder of CityMinds. "It's quite common for people to put pressure on themselves," he says, "if they've grown up in an environment where, in their view, things have been perfect."
Read more about the cheerfully-named Benjie Goodhart and his predicament here.
So, no matter what, is it inevitable for us to compare our marriages to our parents? And is that fair? Or good?