Posts Tagged ‘Marriage’

HOW TO CHOOSE A SPOUSE

One of the most important decisions most people will ever make is who to marry, if anyone.   A good marriage can be very fulfilling, so if you marry,  you would want it to succeed, make both of you happy, and last a lifetime.   How do you do that?  Some marriage counselors have much  more than their share of broken marriages, and I have had two marriages and two divorces, but it’s true that you learn a lot more from your failures than from your successes, so I’m presenting my analysis.  But first let’s look at a few statistics on marriage:

o 50% of married couples will eventually divorce

o 60% of second marriages fail

o 31% of people in a marriage have had an affair

o 47% of people in a marriage are not sure they would marry the same person again

In an interview with Longevity magazine years ago, actress Zsa Zsa Gabor was asked, “do you think you’ll ever meet the right man?”  She replied, “I was very lucky because I find eight times the right man.”  Of course we want our first  and only spouse to be the right man or woman.  My experience with marriage/relationships comes from my two marriages, two divorces, living with a girlfriend for three years and reading everything I could get on marriage and relationships so that I wouldn’t ever have another divorce.  Here’s my advice for selecting a lifelong mate:

1. It’s very helpful if you and your intended are best friends before you marry, to the extent that you both can be yourselves and be able to joke around with each other and have fun in each other’s company.

2. Being honest with each other is very helpful.  Making “I” statements can make this possible, so you might say, “I think that…” rather than imperial statements such as, “that’s bad” or “that’s good.”  Be diplomatic in your honest communications with each other, and not lie…but do not be brutally frank or unkind.   Why is being honest important?  Because it fosters trust and intimacy.  Look for honesty in a potential mate.

3. Respect each other’s feelings about people, ideas, beliefs, attitudes, and interests.  Of course, the more of these you have in common, the better, but you really need to respect your significant other’s views even though they may be very different from yours.  Does your spouse-to-be respect your feelings?

4. Resolving differences amicably is something that John Gottman PhD, marriage researcher and counselor, advocates as one of the most important skills for maintaining a good marriage.  My first marriage lacked this and was the underlying culprit responsible for its failure.  To check this out you need to be going together long enough to have at least one good fight or big disagreement to see if you both can resolve it amicably.  This ability might be more important than all of the others.

5. Dr. Gottman: “a healthy balance between positive and negative feelings and actions toward each other…really separates contented couples from those in deep marital misery.”  Further, “if there is five times as much positive interaction as negative between couples, the marriage is likely to be stable over time.”  Dr. Gottman then specifies that negative interactions are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.  To use this in determining how well you and your significant other might get along as husband and wife, look at your positive and negative interactions…is there a healthy balance?  If not, modify your behavior so that it becomes healthy.

Not listed above is the question of romance and sex.  Of course these are very important…in fact, I heard a marriage counselor comment that, “if the sex is good, the marriage is usually good.”

Even if you do everything well, there’s still no guarantee that your marriage will succeed.  To illustrate, Ellen Kriedman states in her book, Light her Fire, “while dating, a man usually has no problem talking, because he has a goal in mind.  He wants her to find him desirable, so he’s charming, witty and pays a great deal of attention to what she’s saying.  He wants to discover what her needs are so that he can fulfill them.  As a result, he has a woman who finds him irresistible.  Once this happens and she’s his forever, he stops talking.  In his mind, there’s less need to talk and listen to her than there was in the beginning.”  And, of course, the female partner might equally change after marriage, but in a different way.

Finally, it’s certainly a lot easier, after discussing your concerns with each other, to stop dating someone whom you think you would be incompatible with, rather than marrying him or her and eventually getting divorced after a few years of marriage and two children.  It’s far better to be single a little longer rather than getting married quickly and being miserable because your prince or princess turned out to be a frog, con artist, spouse abuser, philanderer, alcoholic, drug addict, gambling addict, etc.  Whatever your problems, things can always get a whole lot worse.  If you love someone even though he or she has serious problems, it’s important to consider what your heart says, but your mind must make final decisions…and keep in mind that few spouses, partners and significant others are better companions and more loyal friends than homeless stray cats or dogs that might visit your home for food and water, so you might want to consider adopting a stray for companionship and take your time before choosing a spouse.

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IMPROVING COMMUNICATIONS IN RELATIONSHIPS & MARRIAGE

THE PROBLEM

I’ve been married twice and divorced twice.  The dissolution of my first marriage was tragic because we both loved each other dearly (though I didn’t tell my wife often) yet we were not able to get back together, despite our loving each other, and our marital breakup almost destroyed me and I’m sure was very hurtful to her.   My brain tumor was mostly responsible for my first divorce, but poor communications played a large role in both of my divorces.  It’s extremely painful for both parties to go through divorce to the extent that I believe that its possibility today in the U.S. (50%) is a legitimate reason why some may not want to ever marry.

But marriage is important, especially if you want to have children; therefore, you want to minimize the chances of getting divorced.  What do you do to accomplish this?  What I did was to research and study marriage and learn why people divorce, in my effort to avoid repeating those things that led to my divorces.

THE SOLUTION

From numerous experts, but especially from the premier researcher on marriage, John Gottman, PhD, the most important skill to keeping a relationship or marriage healthy is for both partners to be able to amicably resolve differences…in other words, negotiate or fight without metaphorically killing each other.  An easy-to-do measure from Dr. Gottman to help you determine if your marital/relationship communications  are doing well is to frequently check to see if you’re having at least 5 positive interactions with your spouse/significant other for every negative one.  My first marriage tragically ended, despite our love for each other, mostly because my wife and I did not resolve our differences amicably.  Let’s look at what some of the other experts have to say….

In their book, The Intimate Enemy: How to Fight Fair in Love and Marriage, by George Bach and Peter Wyden, the authors ask if anyone ever heard from a significant other, “you never talk to me, ” or “you never listen to me!”

Because I’ve  made so many painful mistakes in my first marriage which resulted in it lasting only ten months, I became highly-motivated to not repeat the same mistakes.  Therefore my second wife and I learned to communicate with each other and become intimate friends and lovers by attending 5 pre-marital and 30 post-marital counseling sessions with 5 other married couples.  Achieving game-free spontaneity and the consequent well-being that resulted was well worth the effort. The caring needed in a successful relationship is defined by Masters and Johnson in their book, “The Pleasure Bond“, as “paying attention, being concerned, solicitous and protective.”  Fortunately, I learned how to express my caring with my second wife and my second marriage therefore lasted 25 years.

An important concept in men-women communications comes from John Gray, PhD in his book “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.”  Dr. Gray states that communication styles between the sexes are so different that to truly understand each other it’s very helpful to think of each sex as coming from different planets…and a recognition of those differences goes a long way in improving relations…basically because people don’t judge and treat each other with the caution and respect they otherwise would unless they thought the other was an alien.

The differences between the genders that make communications difficult are enumerated in Deborah Tannen’s book, You just Don’t Understand.  Dr. Tannen refers to “Report-Talk” (men) and “Rapport-talk” (women). She states, “For most women, conversation is a way of establishing connections and negotiating relationships.  For most men, talk is primarily a means to preserve independence and is done by exhibiting knowledge and skill, and by holding center stage through verbal performance such as storytelling, joking or imparting information.

Psychologist and marriage counselor Barbara De Angelis continues this theme in a March-April 1992 “Special Report on Relationships” by stating that:

Women and men are from two different planets; we speak two different languages, it’s so essential to learn about their differences.  I know that men are solution-oriented in their conversation, so if I’m complaining about my day, I will add, “I don’t really need a solution, honey, I just want you to hold me.”  If I don’t, he may start giving me solutions, and I may get angry that he’s not being loving and attentive, and now we’re in a fight….”  Maggie Scarf, author of “Intimate Partners,” adds in that same article, that “when a woman brings up a problem, she wants to talk it over, to learn what it means.  A man hears a problem and wants to do something about it.  To most women, this is outrageous.  They feel that to do this (means) the discussion is over (and) is his way of saying, shut up.

The list of differences between men and women’s communication styles goes on and on.  Many of them are based on the fact that men and women have different psychological needs.  If each gender only understood those needs, both would be much happier.  From Diane Dunaway and John Kramer’s book, “Why Men don’t get Enough Sex and Women don’t get enough Love,” states that these different needs can be summed up by saying that “men need to be needed and women need to be cherished.”  In a 1985 article, columnist Ann Landers conducted a survey asking women if affection was more important than sex.  Seventy-two percent of the 100,000 respondents said that they would be content to “just be held close and to forget about the sex act.”  According to Dunaway and Kramer, “Men have sex in order to feel good, women have sex when they feel good.”  Male-Female communications and love, sex, and intimacy are all intricately related; you can’t talk about one without addressing the others.

In Ellen Kriedman’s book, Light Her Fire, Ms. Kriedman states that “while dating, a man usually has no problem talking, because he has a goal in mind.  He wants her to find his desirable , so he’s charmng, witty, and pays a great deal of attention to what she’s saying.   He wants to discover what her needs are so that he can fulfill them.  As a result, he has a women who finds hin irresistible.  Once this happens, and she’s his forever, he stops talking.  In his mind, there’s less need to talk and listen to her than there was in the beginning.”

The Hite Report on Male Sexuality by Shere Hite states that “most men said that, even with women friends or their wives and lovers, they feel some difficulty in talking deeply about their personal feelings — once again reflecting their early male training not to be too emotional.”

Further complicating communication between the sexes is the natural attraction that over 95% of the population has for the opposite sex.   Bernstein and Fast’s book, Sexual Chemistry, cites the nonverbal cues that men and women emit toward each other that demonstrate the sexual chemistry between them.  The book, More than Friends, Less than Lovers, argues that men and women can establish very gratifying relationships by becoming “intimate” without engaging in sexual relations.  This intimacy is a natural occurrence because today men and women work closely together.  But the guilt from illicit sex really messes up what otherwise could be a very good relationship.  In addition, 30 sexually-transmitted diseases make promiscuity a form of Russian Roulette. Desmond Morris, in his book, “Intimate Behavior,” gives a good explanation of the need for social intimacy.  Another book, Intimacy, discusses the need for intimacy.

Finally, while not explicitly contained in any books that I’ve read, but something that I found to be the most important factor in a successful relationship or marriage, is openness, honesty and forthrightness in dealing with each other.  I believe that one should not even tell white lies to a significant other when discussing important issues!  One can be diplomatic, subtle, and kind and not lie, while politely and respectfully giving your opinion.  You can’t work out your issues or problems together if you’re not truthful with each other about those issues and problems.  Many people use the excuse that they are simply being sensitive by telling a white lie, when in fact they may lack the courage to confront their significant other with what’s really bothering them.  I consider this to be a relationship/marriage-killer, no matter how noble the reasons for the deception.

CONCLUSION

There is an abundance of needless pain, suffering, frustration, and anxiety in relationships and marriage due to poor communications.  Marriage counselors can be very helpful but really good ones are rare and can be expensive.  Friends can be supportive but usually inadvertently give harmful advice that makes matters worse.  You can make your relationship/marriage better if you are motivated to do so and are willing to do your homework (read) on how to improve your communications and marriage; and then follow this up by setting some time aside every evening to calmly talk through your marital issues/problems.  I’ve just given you a taste of what’s out there by citing a number of books and authors.  Good luck in your search for a better relationship and/or marriage!

 

 

 

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