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In 1979, humorist Sam Levenson, wrote: “The gods gave man fire so he put it out with water. They gave him love so he put it out with marriage.”
Whether or not that is true, there is something that makes this statement ring “true” in many of the marriages I work with, and have been working with, for the past 40-plus years.
The institution of marriage by itself is obviously not responsible for people falling out of love. How is it that so many couples struggle to sustain love in their marriage after the romance of the courtship begins to fade?
One author states: “it seems much easier to fall into love than to stay in love” (Karen Kaiser, 1993, “When Love Dies”).
What takes place within some marriages that seems to extinguish the joy that was felt so powerfully in the beginning? When do apathy and indifference begin to emerge? The society we live in seems to promote the thought of “why get married, anyway?” So couples decide to just move in together and forget about getting married — an obvious open act of non-commitment.
I guess the thought is “if it doesn’t work out, then walk away and get on with your life.” It is stated, however in literature about marriage that “almost 90 percent of all Americans will marry at least once” (Glick, 1989). Even those who have chosen or have, at best, been subject to divorce, remarry.
Clearly, people who marry have high expectations of marriage, and when this does not happen, the marriage will often end, unless there is professional intervention.
Now, let’s talk about the expectations, to get a better idea of how, if these are not adequately met, they can begin to deteriorate what could still be an enjoyable and fulfilling marriage relationship.
The expectation of love in marriage is definitely not a new concept. I would hope that before one attempts to get married, there would be a strong measure of love between the couple. However, love in a marriage does not necessarily mean that when a couple has a adequate sex life, it must mean that they love each other — not necessarily so.
Intimacy in a marriage is a necessary part of a growing and complete marriage relationship, but intimacy is more than adequate sex, in and of itself. Real intimacy, which is an ongoing ingredient in the best of marriages, includes the sexual relationship between the couple, but intimacy is a whole package of much more than that. It includes care, attention, affection without sex, kindness, thoughtfulness, special words and acts that each says and does for one another.
Love has different parts and is not always strong because one does this or that on a regular basis, especially if what is done becomes routine, humdrum, boring, etc.\
One of the problems with expressing love relates to what was experienced in one’s past when being raised in the family of origin. If you have not been exposed to or witnessed love being displayed by your parents, or other significant family members, you may not find it as natural to show that kind of love to your partner, but it still can be taught and applied, although not as easily as when you have witnessed it as a child.
It must also be stated that many couples, even today, stay married mainly because of certain legal, social, moral and economic factors. Many years ago, choosing a partner was often based on whether the future husband was capable of being a good provider and/or whether the future wife would be a good mother and homemaker. While these matters are still important to consider, no longer are these considered by most couples to be the most important standards for choosing to marry each other.
Also, intimacy and love have been identified as the best indicators of whether couples plan to continue or terminate their relationships (Kingsbury & Minda, 1988). Therefore, it needs to be stated that as financial, social and legal obstructions to divorce in the Western world weaken (Trost, 1986), more emphasis is placed on the emotional bond as a motive for staying together.
Divorce is a major social concern involving emotional pain, grief, financial difficulties, the reported increased risk of illness, and a sense of personal failure — as well as a costly impact on children.
If at all possible, do what you can to assess what, if anything, can be done to build a better marriage. Even if you are the only partner interested, or at least the partner who is most interested in working on the marriage, you can learn ways to attempt to make changes in the marriage. It will be hard, I know this as I have been involved in numerous marriages when only one partner is willing to come, but it is still your marriage. Maybe what you do can make a change, and if not sufficient to foster that change, you will always know that you gave it your best shot/
For more information, call my office at 477-2818, or email email@example.com.