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Resentments accumulated between these two busy professionals. Everyday demands overwhelmed their earlier vision of married life: a dream of four or five decades of thriving careers interspersed with romantic evenings and weekends. From the beginning of courtship through the initial excitement of moving into one or the other's small apartment, from the wedding ceremony through the honeymoon, being newly in love tends to hide or at least blur two people's differences—particularly differences in needs for sex, for intimate time together, for autonomy and time apart, for planning and organization, for control over finances, for being with the children, and for freedom from parenting—in just about everything.

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.

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