Much of the incentive that used to exist for marriage is gone. Women used to need a man to support them, now they either have a job or can in some cases get more money without a man on welfare. The incentive for men has diminished as well. John Hawkins wrote:
So imagine dating a woman who’s making as much money as you, who just decides she doesn’t want to be married anymore, takes your kids away from you and then to add insult to injury, you have to pay this woman who broke your heart and took your kids, your hard earned money every month while she sleeps with some other guy in a house that the two of you used to share. Almost every man reading this knows other men in this situation and because it’s so common, it makes the potential cost of entering into a marriage considerably higher for a man than it used to be...
Meanwhile, you and a woman both do a little drinking and have consensual sex; then, Uh-oh, you “raped her” because both of you were drunk, but you’re the “rapist” because you’re male and she changed her mind about whether having sex with you was a good idea.
One criticism young people hear when they get married is you're too young that they don't know if the person is right for them because they are so young and so on. There are plenty of people who marry when they are older and divorce so it's not clear that age helps. Perhaps one is better at getting along when one is older but one may also be more inflexible when one is older. When you're a young woman you're at the height of your attractiveness to men and that's your best chance to find the person you want. I remember going to a singles event where the room was full of almost all women and they were all middle aged or older and many of them were unattractive to me. It was sad to see them in a situation where they are unlikely to find someone. I've been to events where the men are fat and bald and older and they can't find anyone either. In fact on a singles hike one of the men said "Do you know why we're all single?" Because none of us live up to what each other wants. We age and lose our attractiveness but that doesn't mean we don't still want someone who is attractive. Our best chance of finding someone like that is while we're still attractive. The one thing that might make you more attractive when you get older is if you become wealthy and successful. I think that is more likely to help men with women than the other way around although I did know a man who was looking for a woman with money.
Another reason to marry young is that the best chance to have healthy babies and not suffer complications from pregnancy is when you are young. Men too are more likely to have healthier babies when they are young.
Dear Abby shared a list of Ten Rules for a Happy Marriage from a couple who reached their 50th anniversary.
1. Never both be angry at the same time.
2. Never yell at each other unless the house is on fire.
3. If one of you has to win an argument, let it be your mate.
4. If you must criticize, do it lovingly.
5. Never bring up mistakes of the past.
6. Neglect the whole world rather than each other.
7. Never go to sleep with an argument unsettled.
8. At least once every day say a kind or complimentary word to your life partner.
9. When you have done something wrong, admit it and ask for forgiveness.
10. Remember it takes two to make a quarrel.
The last item I don't entirely agree with. I think it only takes one to make a quarrel. If someone is continually criticizing you unfairly and you defend yourself that could be considered a quarrel but only one partner might be responsible. Otherwise, there is a lot of excellent advice here. After a fight between my spouse and I her parents gave us the above list to hang on our wall. For a while after we received it, if I violated one of the rules my wife would say "You are violating rule number 5" or something like that. It's funny but it's was also helpful for our relationship when she did that. Dealing with anger in relationships is discussed on another page on this web site called The Danger and Value of Anger.
Linda Chavez wrote a column in the New York Post (6/23/02) titled A Happy Marriage Policy in which she wrote about why she believes her marriage was successful. She wrote:
First, we became friends before we were lovers. I firmly believe that friendship is at the heart of most successful marriages. Passion and romantic love ebb and flow over the years, but true friendship remains a constant. Friendship entails sharing at least some important common interests, enjoying each other's company and treating each other's opinions with respect, even if you don't necessarily share them...
Second we argued a lot...Keeping disagreements bottled up usually leads to resentment and more anger. Letting your spouse know how you feel can help resolve disagreements, so long as both parties genuinely listen and try to empathize with each other. Doing so in public, particularly by trying to marshal allies against your spouse, is usually a disaster. So too, is rehashing past grievances...
Third we gave each other space.
Finally and most importantly we made a conscious commitment to stay together. Like most marriages, ours went through rocky periods, but we made a commitment to stick out the rough and unhappy patches. Commitment takes hard work, but it is also a state of mind. If you're forever thinking that the grass might be greener elsewhere or that today's unhappiness or dissatisfaction will last forever, it's impossible to stay committed.
One issue I have faced in my marriage is the issue of control. I tried to encourage my wife to lose weight. She interpreted my efforts as my being mean and controlling. After many fights over food I once told my wife, "If you regard me as a mean controlling person who is harassing you when I try and get you to stick to a diet then I can't help you but if you regard me as a friend who is trying to help, then I can help you." She told me I got through to her.
I have married friends who have a control problem. The wife is always making demands on her husband. He has made a lot of concessions that are unpleasant for him and that leads him to feel resentment toward his wife. He takes that resentment out on her in day to day fights in which he attempts to resist her will. When he doesn't do what she wants she becomes angry. A little show of appreciation for the concessions one's partner is making can go a long way toward preventing resentment.
Sometimes there are misperceptions of being controlled some of which I suspect are encouraged by anti-male sentiments of the feminist movement. Partner's are always going to try and influence each other, that is a natural state of things and should not be interpreted to mean that the partner is controlling.
Asking instead of demanding can go a long way to preventing resentment and the feeling of being controlled.
Often spouses try and influence their partners out of the best of intentions. The problem is when good intentions lead to behavior that alienates the other person in the relationship. A friend of mine was in love with a girl with false memory syndrome. He tried to get help for her by contacting people who she considered against her and bad . As a result of this and other actions he took on her behalf she turned against him and left him. Years afterwords she explained a major reason she had left him was because "He had talked to people". Their story is on this web site. Daughters some times turn against their fathers because their fathers prevent them from dating the men they want to date. These fathers may have the best of intentions and may be simply trying to protect their daughters.
Often love by itself is not enough to keep a relationship together. There even is a book about relationships by Aaron Beck which is called Love is Never Enough .
Howard Markman, Scott Stanley and Susan Blumberg in a book called Fighting For Your Marriage wrote:
We believe that marriage is the most risky undertaking routinely taken on by the greatest number of people in our society. What starts out as a relationship of great joy and promise can become the most frustrating and painful endeavor in a person's lifetime.
Why do so many marriages which start out happily end miserably? Often communication problems play a role. According to Markman et. al. what is important in a marriage is not if you fight but how you fight. Their book Fighting For Your Marriage teaches how to communicate better and how to fight in a constructive way for your marriage instead of against each other.
Why did they write about how to fight instead of advocating not fighting at all? In any relationship partners will have complaints they want to make toward the other partner. This complaint has to be made otherwise the situation won't be corrected. How the complaint is sent and how it is received is of fundamental importance to a marriage. If the complaint is made in a nice way that's half the battle, the person receiving it has to realize it does not necessarily imply nastiness of the complainer. A complaint I made to my wife is a good example of this. We were in the kitchen and she said "Could you find the measuring cup"? I said to her, "You should at least open the cupboard for cups and glasses before you ask me to find it?" She said "You're picking on me". She received my complaint as a personal attack by me instead of as a reasonable request.
Another wrong way to deal with complaints is to say yes yes yes I'll do whatever you say to get the complainer to shut up and then go ahead as if he or she didn't say anything. Although in the short term that may get the complainer to shutup you violate their trust in you when you say yes yes yes and those yes's turn out to be a lie. You lose credibility when you do that and the person doing the complaining learns that they can't change your behavior that you will continue to do whatever it is they find distressing. They receive the message that you don't respect their opinion or their wishes and that you don't care about what they want. If in addition you react with paranoia toward the complaint and the belief that the person is just picking on you because he's nasty he will resent that.
Although complaints may seem like unfair attacks they are in reality a second chance. The person doing the complaining is basically saying, I want to give this relationship another chance so I'm trying to communicate to you what you can do to help it work. If you react by lying to shut him up or paranoia toward his complaint you are destroying that chance.
There is also a web page on this site about conflict resolution. One very good peace of advice about fighting and marriage was given to me by an owner of a wedding hall. My bride to be said she wanted chocolate icing on the wedding cake. I started to argue that I wanted a white wedding cake. The wedding hall owner said to me
I've been married a long time and one of the things I've learned is to pick your fights.
Partners are always going to have differences in what they want. Should they stick up for their rights or give in to each other? I received advice from my mother before getting married about this. She said to me:
The best way to ensure a happy relationship is to make your chief goal the happiness of the other person. That takes care of a lot of decisions and although you may find it hard to believe, makes the person who sets out with that goal far happier than one who emphasizes his or her rights.
Being the rebellious son that I am I still think one has to stick up for one's rights. If one always gives in to the other person one may wind up resenting that person. I think there has to be a compromise between the two approaches.
The great economist Milton Friedman, when he was 88 years old was asked what was the secret of his long happy marriage. He first said "Well we love each other" and than said "well there is something else, tolerance."
There was a funny commercial for a game named Mastermind which was actually very profound. In the commercial two newlyweds come home after their wedding jump on the bed and pull out the Mastermind game. They play and the woman wins. The man says to her, you never used to win and the woman replies, "That was before we were married".
People's behavior often changes once they are married. They are no longer pursuing their partner and so may not feel the need to be on their best behavior. In rare instances they may fear that their partner will leave them and so attempt to restrict their partners social contacts. Often though, they may take for granted that their partner is there and no longer feel the need to attract him or her.
At a former job of mine their was a very attractive girl. She got married and became overweight. She cut her beautiful long hair. Soon she just looked like your typical secretary.
Before marriage people are trying to be attractive to the opposite sex but once they are married often people no longer try. They are no longer motivated to be attractive because they already have their spouse, yet if they would continue to try and be attractive they would have a happier marriage.
When my wife told a colleague at work that she was trying to lose weight her colleague said "Why, you've got your man?".
While trying to get my wife to lose weight I bought her an exercise bike. I flagged a taxi to help me deliver the bike to her apartment. The taxi driver asked me about the bike and I explained why I bought it. He told me that he is very frustrated with his wife who has gained a lot of weight. He says he keeps telling her to eat less. He says once you're married they don't listen.
The taxi driver said he had even thought about leaving his wife for a more attractive woman but that they have children and a divorce would hurt the children. The taxi driver's wife's unwillingness to make the effort to lose weight has become a threat to their marriage. Even though they are staying together it is a source of conflict.
Listening is a key part of communicating which is a key part of a successful relationship. Yet once married people often don't make the effort to listen to their spouse. Much of the focus of Fighting For Your Marriage is teaching people to listen to what the person is saying without drawing incorrect conclusions and without rejecting it immediately when it implies a criticism of oneself.
Sometimes replaying a fight can be helpful. by that I don't mean fighting the fight over again but rather to discuss what happened that led up to the fight and what happened during the fight in order to understand what each partner did wrong.
Often people use the PED defense when faced with criticism and that can be very destructive to a marriage. What this can do to a marriage and how to counter it is discussed on the PED defense page.
Before one lashes out in anger at one's spouse it's important to remember that one has to live with them afterwards. If you tell your wife she's stupid you will have to live a woman who remembers how you said she was stupid.
It's important to have a realistic expectations about marriage so that when the honeymoon phase is over one can still have a happy marriage. Brooke Shields a model who became a movie actress and then an actress in the sitcom Suddenly Susan spoke about difficulties in her marriage with tennis star Andre Agassi. (New York Post Article)
"The honeymoon phase comes and goes," she said.
"They don't tell you a tremendous amount about what to expect after marriage. You're brought up with this vision, and then it becomes an expectation...It gets solidified into your psyche as the way it's supposed to be. Then the world changes, you change, everything changes, but the expectation doesn't. The image of how it was supposed to be stays the same."
There are some easy things we can do to make it change a little less and that is give our spouse an occasional compliment. Lorraine Ali and Lisa Miller, in an article titled The New Infidelity (Newsweek 7/12/04) wrote about women who were cheating on their spouses. They wrote about Veronica, the wife of an airline pilot, who
took up with a wealthy businessman she met at a Dallas nightclub. Her lover gave her everything her husband didn't: compliments, Tiffany jewelry, flowers and love notes.
They wrote about another woman who was cheating on her husband who also mentioned the importance of compliments.
Marisol can't remember the last time her husband payed her a compliment. That's why the 39 year old grandmother who was pregnant and married at 15, looks forward to meeting with her boyfriend of five years during lunch breaks and after work. "There is so much passion between us," she says. "He tells me my skin is soft and that my hair smells good. I know it sounds stupid but that stuff matters. It makes me feel sexy again."
Some husbands who may have praised their girlfriend in the beginning criticize their wife constantly and vice versa. A friend of mine saw my wife criticizing me and told me that, that's the reason she never got married. She said she saw spouses constantly bickering and didn't want that to happen to her.
One day I was walking my bicycle across the pedestrian bridge in Poughkeepsie. It has a lovely view of the Hudson and the colors were turning and it was a beautiful day. The day I was walking my bike across 1500 other people were walking across to raise money for ALS. Once we crossed the bridge there was music and a big band of balloons for us to cross under and even cheerleaders on the side waving their pom poms and telling us what a good job we did. I started thinking what a contrast there was between those girls and my wife. My wife is supportive some of the time, and some of the time she's right to criticize but what a pleasure it was to receive that praise from pretty girls even though I didn't deserve it because I wasn't raising money for ALS!!
It's important not to expect too much from your spouse. In most marriages there are times when spouses get angry and say things they shouldn't. It's unrealistic to expect one's spouse to never behave that way, we're all human. What is reasonable is to expect one's spouse to admit he's wrong when he is and to apologize for what he does wrong. If he does it's crucial for one's marriage that one forgives him. For a marriage to be happy and to continue there always has to be a way for one's spouse to redeem himself so that he is forgiven. Before we are too judgmental of our spouses it's important for us to remember that we also are human and we also have done wrong.
I had a female friend who got pregnant with her boyfriend. One day when he was driving her in his car she was smoking. He asked her to stop because smoking would be bad for the baby. She continued to smoke and he became very angry and told her to get out of the car. She never forgave him for that and wouldn't marry him after she had the child. Instead she became a single mother and collected benefits to support her child. She judged her boyfriend without considering how he was justified in his anger because she was hurting their baby. Now she has no marriage.
If we have a tendency to say things that we shouldn't it's important for us to remember that we have to live with our hurt spouse. We will suffer as a consequence of any bad feelings our spouse has toward us.
The problems Brooke and Andre had may have had a lot to do with their careers keeping them apart. The high divorce rate of the latter part of the 20th century may be partly due to the fact that often both men and women often have separate careers that sometimes keep them apart while at the same time bringing them in contact with many other potential partners.
Mike Torchia, a Hollywood trainer wrote in Newsweek 7/12/04 that in his 30 years in the training business he had affairs with more than 40 married women. He wrote:
Most of them were in their 30s, married eight to 10 years, with kids, and their husbands weren't paying attention to them. They felt neglected. They didn't feel attractive. Their husbands had become preoccupied with work.
When he first put an ad in the paper a woman called him and said that she was married, that her husband traveled a lot for work and was never home. When he showed up at the woman's house to train her she answered the door in a black negligee. He wrote:
I once had an interior designer client who was very beautiful. Like every client, she started opening up about her life; women do the same thing with their hairdressers and trainers. "My husband isn't attentive to me, he used to be so passionate," she explained...
Shortly thereafter they were having sex. Mike Torchia wrote:
I don't feel bad about having had affairs with married women, because they were feeling neglected and they just wanted to be loved.
Further discussion of issues regarding a happy marriage can be found in the relationship page of this web site. Discussion of the consequences of divorce are discussed on the divorce page. A helpful approach to relationships that can be of value in marriage is the beep method.
Before any man gets married they should consider with care the words of Petruchio. When you get married you give up your chances with every other woman in the world.
On the other hand there are good reasons to get married. The nature of relationships are that they either grow or wither. As they progress commitment becomes more and more important for them to blossom. If the commitment isn't there, there is always a dark undertone, "he doesn't love me enough to commit to me".
Why not just move in together and hope that marriage will take place later? Shouldn't a couple check out if they can stand living together before committing to do just that? There are problems with that. If a couple moves in together there is less incentive to make a commitment. The partner who doesn't want commitment has the best of both worlds. He can come home to a warm cooked meal, snuggle with his wife, go to office and snuggle with his secretary. Also the partner who wants commitment is likely to be unhappy as commitment never comes. The argument that moving in allows a couple to test whether they get along is wrong because although they might not get along without commitment but they might get along with commitment. Lack of commitment can destroy a relationship. My wife had a friend whose boyfriend said to her "Let's move in together". She said "If you marry me we can move in together" and he did.
Finally despite birth control moving in together can lead to children. A child deserves to have parents who are in a committed relationship.
c o p y r i g h t ( c ) 1 9 9 9 - 2004 Karl Ericson Enterprises. All rights reserved
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