Monday, October 24, 2005

Marriage Education

Being engaged and planning a wedding is a very interesting process. At least for me it has inspired arguements, passion and creativity. So much thought goes into what kind of cake to have or what dress to wear or what song to dance to, but in the end I can't help, but think none of this matters in the long haul. None of this determines the health or longevity of a marriage.

Many people believe that finding your soul mate is the key, but I am not convinced. Infact, I once read in the April 2004 issue of Psychology Today pyschologist argue that "there's no such thing as compatability." For many people this thought is horrifying. Many of us belive that "remaining in a marriage that doesn't make you blissfully happy is an act of existential cowardice." But in reality, the article says, "feelings of dissatisfaction or disappointemet are natural, but they can seem intolerable when standards are sky-high." If this is true what is the key to a sucessful marriage?

According to a series on NPR many pyschologists believe the marriage education may be the ticket to saving couples from divorce. According to the website for Smart Marriages, the coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples education, "successful couples have the same number of
disagreements as the couples who divorce. Even more interesting, all couples disagree about all the same basic issues - money, kids, sex, housework, in-laws and time. The difference between successful and unsuccessful couples is how they handle their differences."

Pyschologist John Gottman is so good at noticing the things couples do wrong, he can predict marriage stability with 94% accuracy. The four horsemen he says, or the "four key problems that lead to divorce are criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling. And the worst of these? Contempt for a partner." But in recognizing this are we doomed. Is there now hope?

That's where marriage education comes in. Preferably psychologists want to catch couples while they are still happy and to give the the necessary skills that they say poor and rich alike are lacking when it comes to dealing with our differences. Advoactes of Smart Marriages "agree on one thing: marriage is more than a simple piece of paper, it's an institution that needs to be preserved."

Many of you know, either from reading this blog or from knowing my fiance and I that we are not the perfect couple. And while we have come a long way in our relationship with regard to healthy communication it looks as though we still have a long ways to go. Perhaps it's time for us to invest not only into our wedding, but into our marriage as well.

1 comment:

Paige said...

Bravo Nat, It seems like a lot of work the whole marriage thing. I think that is a huge part, no one can expect it to be easy. If both partners expect it to be hard work but fulfilling at the end of the day than it can be a success. As I learned from "Around the World in Eighty Dates" the author compared relationships to careers. No one expects to find their perfect career and as soon as they land the dream job it is easy street from there on out. Instead when one lands that dream job you know your real work has only just begun. You know you have to take your effort and work ethic up to a whole new level in order to prove yourself and actually succeed at your career. However you also know that your future earnings and rewards will grow along with the work load. Humans and especially Americans are incentive based. We have to have an incentive to work harder at whatever career we choose. Whether that be money, power, or prestige this incentive is what drives us to succeed in our careers.

Why should marriage be any different? Once one finds that person that you want to be with "forever" the work has only just begun. Much like a career though there are incentives to working hard so that your marriage is successful. In theory the incentives to marry are: growing to know each other better and share a home, children and a whole life. These are in contrast to career incentives like money, power or prestige. However home, family and life are so much more important than money, power and prestige when it comes to acheiving life happiness. If we look on our careers with such realism than we should also look on our marriages with the same level of realism and understand that because of the importance of home, family and life in achieving happiness our determination to work hard on one's marriage should even surpass our determination to achieve career rewards. At least that's my theory, maybe I will re visit this topic after I have been married for five or ten years as then it wont as theoretical :)