Is Your Marriage A Bonding Or A Battle? ...by Bill Knell
If you listen to any of the self-styled gurus who have failed in their own marriages, but plan on saving yours, you will find some pretty insane ideas being tossed about. They talk about starter marriages, people outgrowing each other and they're always willing to provide you with fifty ways to leave your lover for what they consider to be the right reasons. But before you pack your stuff and drive by your local divorce store, you might want to consider their motives for giving out that kind of counsel.
TV talk shows exist and excel on conflict. A really good host or guest expert is one who can get their audience upset or excited using a controversial topic. It's no accident that more people tune into Maury Povich when he does DNA segments to prove or disprove parenthood. It's a given that people who watch Jerry Springer do so to see very ordinary people fight with and scream at each other over relationship conflicts. We just love watching people sort out their messy lives on TV!
While the folks who kick and scream at one another make for high ratings and good laughs on our part, we forget that these are real people. When a seemingly concerned TV Shrink sits a couple down and decides the rest of their lives for them in less then an hour, we laugh, cry and sometimes even sympathize with them. If we stay tuned and emotionally interact with a TV Show like that, the host or expert has done their job. That brings us to what these shows and their hosts are really all about. They are not on television to help us, but rather to hook us as viewers. Once hooked, we become customers of the latest book or tape series being sold by them.
It's tough to know who to talk to when our marriage or relationship seems to be in trouble. That's because most people who offer help have an agenda that goes far beyond our problems. While TV Shrinks and Hosts hope to use us as topics to create ratings and sell stuff, real life therapists and even clergy may also be giving us advice that does more harm then good.
While there are many sincere professionals and volunteers who have an honest desire to help people having marriage or relationship difficulties, there are just as many with agendas that place personal happiness about everything else. To them, personal happiness means absolute bliss. Anyone or anything that they consider a threat to our self-esteem and immediate happiness is the enemy.
I know a number of people who counsel couples each day and believe that traditional marriages or relationships are dead. They feel that every marriage or relationship has a time limit on it. Once that time limit is exceeded, one or both parties outgrow that union. But if we follow that train of thought, where will it end? Do we find a partner, mate or spouse for each decade of our lives? And what happens to those annoying little details like children who tend to be a byproduct of each temporary union? Before you buy into that kind of thinking, take a moment to consider the consequences of transitional relationships.
No one is happy every day. We have personal highs and lows in our lives whether we are involved in a relationship or not. Anyone we are involved with has the same highs and lows. This doesn't mean we have to change partners every few years to fit our changing selves. Everyone changes, but people can change together. The consequences of just dumping a partner who has invested themselves in us for the next best thing can lead to a never ending series of short term liaisons that have no long term meaning. Before you listen to another expert concerned about your personal happiness, make sure their advice will not leave you miserable.
One thing missing from all those tape sets, magazine articles and TV shows that preach personal happiness as the primary target of life are the success stories. When is the last time that you saw any of these people parade two or three formerly married or involved people and their kids before the public to prove that what they offer as advice really works? A recent national survey indicated that most people who get divorced are less happy then they were when they were married. The same survey showed that most children of divorce are less successful, find it hard to emotionally commit to anyone and get divorced themselves if they ever marry.
Junk psychology has people always re-examining the reasons they initially got together. In their eyes, most people get together for less then perfect reasons and, therefore, have no reason to stay together when it threatens their personal happiness or perceived emotional well being. They often go back a few generations to point out how that people who married just before or after World War Two did so on a momentary whim and then spent many decades after that in a miserable relationship because they didn't believe in divorce.
I have no doubt that some couples who tied the knot quickly for an emotional attachment as one went off to war did so without thinking things out and regretted it later. But I also know many who did the exact same thing and have treasured each other from that time until the end of their lives. Any marriage or relationship has the potential to be a bonding or a battle. The choice is one that's up to the participants and should not have to be filtered through anyone else.
All marriages and relationships are subject to internal and external pressures. We exert internal pressure on our relationship when we decide that our union is flexible enough to tolerate inappropriate behavior. This could be over-spending common funds meant to be shared, cheating or doing just about anything that brings undue stress on a relationship. Friends, relatives, children and economic situations can often create external pressures on any union. Friends flirt or offer unwanted advice, relatives can sometimes go out of their way to break people up, children with behavioral problems and economic stresses can often tip the scale in favor of ending a relationship. What we need to consider is whether we want to face these type of problems together or alone? Will they get better or worse without the help and counsel of our partner?
Most marriages or relationships end up in trouble when those involved cease communicating with each other. While it may be annoying or even frustrating to for two parties with a major beef to speak with one another without a third party moderating the session, it's often more productive. After all, a third party has to take some sort of a position on what's being said and that can further frustrate an already explosive situation. The best way to start a dialogue over almost any disagreement is to be flexible. Don't begin by hurling accusations. Start with common ground. No matter how bad things have gotten between you and your mate, there is always some common ground available to talk about. Once a dialogue is begun, it's important for each party to define their expectations for the relationship. It's within those expectations that some progress can be made.
Most people opt to run away from relationship problems rather then try and solve them. If just seems easier to say that we have outgrown a particular relationship, then to work at saving it. Instead of seeking to meet the goals and expectations people have for one another or find a middle ground within those, they seek to move on to the next thing regardless of the eventual consequences. It's a true saying that divorce is easy, but marriage is hard.