In two previous blogs I asked two questions. Is marriage obsolete and secondly, why people marry when they see a conflagration during courtship. In too many cases, it seems they hope to douse the raging fire once they say “I do.” That reversal rarely comes to pass.
In that vein, I’d like pursue the reason why marriages (including long-term relationships without marriage) fail or succeed. We spend an inordinate amount of time on the trials and travails of love in poems, songs, stories, novels, how-to books, psychological and sociological studies. We are in a constant state of romanticizing whether attached or unattached.
I’d love to see a study done that tells how often in a day people think about their relationships in a serious vein. We have statistics (that might be disputed) on how often men and women think about sex. Why not try to research the number of times someone thinks about the relationship they are presently in, evaluating the emotional and intellectual qualities. I suspect more thought is given to past romances like the one who got away, or the guy/gal someone still hopes to snag.
What is sorely needed is reflection to delve below the surface to exploit previous errors and attempt to come up with rational, intelligent answers for oneself. This is when romantic chemistry has to be set aside. In too many instances we have become overly dependent on chemistry to guide our happiness. Let us not forget the times chemistry has led us astray. If we possess unhealthy chemistry then a train wreck awaits.
When relationships go bad, it can throw us into a mental sink hole. Trying to breathe life into a relationship that has gone on life supports is a very sorry state. Look at art and music We are forever inventing poems that laud or scorn a significant other and singing songs of love-angst. What happens all too often is we find ourselves scraping the bottom of our hearts for those passionate flames when what actually remain are ashes of a burnt-out love.
I know we like to think of love as spontaneous. That can be very dangerous. We have to use our intellect way before meeting someone and as well as throughout the romance. It’s imperative that past failed choices be carefully scrutinized and mulled over thoughtfully. Otherwise we are open to repeat mistakes. There are certain steps to take before allowing ourselves to become inundated with anger and resentment from a failed relationship. Both people involved need to concentrate on the good qualities and be able to express what we perceive as annoying in order to avoid going through emotional hell when the end is in sight.
For starters let’s see who is getting married, who is not and all the reasons why. The New York Times, on March 2, 2010, published an article entitled, Study Finds Cohabitating Doesn’t Make a Union Last, by Sam Roberts. “Couples who live together before they get married are less likely to stay married, a new study has found. But their chances improve if they were already engaged when they began living together.
“The study of men and women ages 15 to 44 was done by the National Center for Health Statistics using data from the National Survey of Family Growth conducted in 2002. The authors define cohabitation as people who live with a sexual partner of the opposite sex.”
Yet, living together has become, generally, a ritual prior to marriage. We have gotten used to thinking that if we successfully live together we have a better shot at marriage. I have seen many situations where a couple live together for anywhere from a year to ten years and divorce within the first year of marriage. The article states that the proportion of women in their late 30s who had ever cohabited had doubled in 15 years to 61%.
Roberts goes on to say; “The study found that, over all, 62 percent of women ages 25 to 44 were married and 8 percent were cohabiting. Among men, the comparable figures were 59 percent and 10 percent.
“In general, one in five marriages will dissolve within five years. One in three will last less than 10 years. Those figures varied by race, ethnicity and sex. The likelihood of black men and women remaining married for 10 years or more was 50 percent. The probability for Hispanic men was the highest, 75 percent. Among women, the odds are 50-50 that their marriage will last less than 20 years.”
What is the upshot of all the statistics? I think they are instructive but they leave out the human equation. In all the years since formalizing relationships by marrying, it would seem that we have not learned much from past history.
Why are their more divorces now than years ago? I think people in marriages stuck it out because, by and large, women were not trained to earn money and it was more economical for the couple to hang together. I feel certain that their children sensed the tension and unhappiness even if there was not outright fighting.
The easy answer is that the offspring of feuding couples should have developed insights and dissected the reasons for parental discontent. In this way, they should attain the skills that allow them to avoid the pitfalls in their own relationships. The parental unhappiness they were exposed to should be the learning experience whereby one acquires the ability to choose relatively stable mates. That makes for a potentially happier marriage.
In most instances, these choices are left to chance, romantic chemistry or spontaneous combustion or whatever you choose to call it. It appears that when we do that we tend to repeat mistakes. If we don’t use rational thought and self-exploration, we go into marriage with the same poor emotional baggage that we absorbed from our mentor/parents throughout childhood. We must be cognizant of learning positive qualities rather than coming to adulthood with the negatives wired into our crippled emotional intelligence. The lack of self-exploration makes for bad mental health which ups the ante drastically to make a mistake in choosing a mate.
Denial creates a void that allows dysfunctional to overflow until it reaches its own level. That happens when a combination of universal issues such as power struggles along with issues unique to the individuals are ignored. And this can occur repeatedly in every relationship that an individual enters. It is a difficult task to unearth motives behind destructive behavior but quite doable – or should I say a necessity.
I know some serial wedders and they often come from an unhealthy background. They tend to marry their parents in disguise. Poor mate selection may duplicate personalities and an atmosphere similar to what we saw during our childhoods. The illusion is that we have another chance to attract the love we didn’t get from our parents. Unfortunately, the mate we picked just like the parents, is incapable of showing love. And the outcome is another broken marriage. We haven’t learned to listen to the warnings of our inner voice.
But the situation isn’t hopeless. If our parents have serious inadequacies, we need to look around to find better mentors. Watch the couples who speak to each other with obvious interest, and those who cultivate a healthy, affectionate, caring relationship. These are the qualities that create staying power for a deeper more romantic relationship. You have much more control over your relationships than you realize.
We must be cognizant of these factors if we want love and happiness with a spouse. You’ll have a much better shot at reversing what you’ve simply been calling bad luck in choices.
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