Though romantic love and marriage, as often idealized by the film industry, fascinate and enamor the public, recent surveys indicate that more than fifty percent of marriages end in divorce.
How can it be that a person who at one time seemed so desirable, later becomes a virtual enemy?
Jung's model of the psyche offers some helpful insights. He wrote that when a man falls in love, he projects his own unconscious feminine side (his anima) onto a woman. Similarly, a woman projects her own unconscious masculine side (her animus) onto a beloved man.
From the perspective of psychological types, Jung noted that the anima is integrally related to the inferior function. We tend to feel attracted to someone who is adept at our own least-developed side.
It has come to light on closer investigation that either type has a predilection to marry its opposite, each being unconsciously complementary to the other. (CW 7 par 80)
Such marriages of opposites can work quite well for a while, because each person compensates for the other's weaknesses. Using a somewhat old-fashioned example: The husband is good at making money and repairing things at home. The wife takes care of organizing dinner parties and sending the Christmas cards.
But after a few years, the original glamorized projections can start to erode; each may start to realize that the partner is not so ideal after all. The title of a book by Polly Young-Eisendrath on this topic, You're Not What I Expected, characterizes this realization. The partner is not the projection; rather he/she is a flesh-and-blood person with human feelings, complexes, and struggles.
Jung wrote the following about such couples:
So long as they are fully occupied with their adaptation to the manifold external needs of life, they fit together admirably. But . . . [when] they have time to occupy themselves with each other . . . they turn face to face and look for understanding--only to discover that they have never understood one another. (CW 7 par 80)
Knowledge of types can help intimate couples understand one another more fully. They can acknowledge and respect their differences. If the two can listen to one another, without judgment, they can awaken in each other their own unconscious sides that are seeking expression.
Marriage can be challenging and hard work, but it is a unique opportunity for individuation. Through this intimate relationship, we can actively experience our less developed gifts and begin to integrate them more fully in ourselves.