The extraordinary experience of romantic love conveys the feeling that "the two of us are as one." But the daily tasks of marriage can quickly disabuse a couple of the notion that they have found such a perfect union. As their different rhythms and preferences emerge in the course of living together, each comes to feel that the other is not, after all, the ideal partner who brings salvation from loneliness, deprivation, a sense of personal inadequacy, or other anxieties of the solitary self. "You are not who I thought you were," they tell each other. And from the depths of this disappointment, they often turn to accusing each other of deception, selfishness, or worse.
If you were to experience Shelley's and Franklin's unhappiness individually, you might think they both were depressed. But in my office, they reeled off their disappointments to each other. It was like witnessing a trial between two plaintiffs, each making a case for being the bigger victim, the major sufferer of unmet needs at the hands of the other.
Disappointment is a stage of love nearly every serious intimate relationship—probably every one that lasts longer than overnight—has to struggle with. It may strike suddenly or build up slowly, but once the battling begins, it can assume tragic proportions for a couple trying to make a life together.