A while back, I ordered a magazine put out by the folks at Christianity Today entitled Marriage Partnership. We got the invoice before the magazine and Arwyn got miffed at the fact that I complain about spending money and then would blow $19.95 on this. Last week, we got a reminder in the mail. I was ready to write them a letter, explaining that we never got the trial issue. But Arwyn said that we had. I asked her what she thought of it, and she said it was okay. But she never said whether or not it would be worth $20. She still couldn't believe that I'd blow money on it although she acknowledged that I had good intentions. I asked her if she ever thought about doing anything to improve our marriage. No answer. None. Deafening silence.
Josh Coleman writes about a study that was conducted of marriages where the partners were unhappy. They followed up 7 years later and found those couples that stayed together were happier. He identified 3 strategies to make it through:
1. The Marital Work Ethic: Marriage counseling, self help books, talking, communicating and striving to solve problems fall under the work ethic. Ironically, Coleman classifies separating and filing for divorce as part of the work ethic. Trying to improve things and make them better.
2. The Marital Endurance Ethic: Couples who stick it out long enough will simply outlive and outlast many of their problems. Children bring on a host of problems, but eventually they move out. Have kids that won't leave? A friend of mine told his adult kids he was going to chase his wife around the house naked, regardless. The kids found their own place.
3. The Personal Fulfillment Ethic: Some people make it by finding interests and fulfillment outside of the marriage. This can be work, hobbies, causes or, not surprisingly, finding an affair. The couple stays together, but they get their needs met through other outlets or avenues.
Only #1 really involves confronting the problems of marriage. But the fact is, is that there are going to be problems within a marriage that will never be resolved. What do we do with those? I suppose it depends what they are.
I'm rereading Coleman's book, and I like it because it does deal with the reality that things will not always come up roses. He also makes the compelling argument that staying together for the children is most often in the best interest of the children. However, if that is the case, it might be best to make this a more explicit arrangement. Basically, sitting down and saying, "You know what? You don't seem very happy with our marriage. And I'm not too thrilled with it, either. If we're not going to make this better, then we need to come to some sort of understanding."
I can see the value of counseling in this case, or having someone impartial and objective involved in the process of renegotiating the marriage. In the case of Arwyn and I, I don't think it would be difficult for us to agree that we can do better jointly for our kids. She has some serious limitations and so do I in different areas. Together, we do a better job of providing for them and balancing each other out. Being together is just practical that way.
There are those who always object to this, wondering where the children are going to get a proper model for a good relationship. Fact is, I think that cutting and running is a worse model than sacrificial giving.
Another thing I'll go ahead and talk about is the idea of finding a better relationship. Is there a better match for me out there? Maybe there is and maybe there isn't. I'm not going to say there is no one else out there; because that would be me talking about something I know nothing about. I hear people say they stick with a lousy girlfriend or boyfriend (So Gone) because they don't think there is anyone else out there for them. That's not a good enough reason to suffer, in my opinion. But that's just me.