Marriage Partnership

02/05/2006

Sunday

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.

D.

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6 Responses to Marriage Partnership

  1. O272 says:

    What would you want for your kids, Dig? Would you want them to spend their lives in an unhappy marriage? Or would you want them to split with their spouses – as amicably as possible – in order to create happiness for themselves?

    They’ll likely choose what you choose. I’m not saying either is right or wrong. Just a thought!

  2. Emily says:

    Actually, I agree with you, Dig, about couples that stay together for the sake of the children. I respect them for doing that, and the sacrifice it represents.

    I mean, its very sad. I would hope that people would do their very best to improve the relationship (model 1) first, but if parents are able to stay together without constant dramas and arguments, I really applaud them for providing that stable, loving environment for their kids.

    My feeling is that couples seem to split up awfully easily nowadays. My man and I have stayed together and kept loving each other through poverty, chronic illness, fertility issues and of course the whole CL problem. And its been worth it. I truly love him and he truly loves me, even though we don’t always get our needs met. I feel a real sense of achievement about that.

    And I’ve seen couples split over what seems like pretty trivial issues. I realise you can never really know what’s going on with another couple, but its so sad to see their childrens’ sad little faces…

    Emily.

  3. So Gone says:

    Just a note: the fact that I don’t think there is someone out there better for me is not the only reason I stay with My Boyfriend. But, if you really think about it, isn’t that a compelling reason to stay with someone? Because you don’t think there is someone out there better suited for you. It seems to me that you question that in your relationship, and that gives you reason to leave – because there may be someone out there better suited for you. I don’t believe that, and that’s why I stay. Who’s really kidding themselves here?

    Also, as much as he isn’t like me sexually, he’s not a “lousy” boyfriend. He’s just not exactly like me sexually, which, while frustrating, does not make him a lousy person. I think that someone who won’t even give their partner the consideration to include them in the family meal plans is more of a lousy person, but hey, that’s just me.

    As for staying together for the kids, my parents did that, and you know what – it makes your whole life seem like a charade when you are a product of that. It makes you feel guilty for your existance, knowing that your parents stayed together, unhappily, all because of you. Having parents separate, at any age of the children, hurts the children, but showing them that you’d rather them stay in a miserable relationship for the sake of someone outside of the relationship isn’t a great picture, either.

  4. kj says:

    I think with time and effort, my x and I could have worked something out. Maybe he was never meant to marry. But he bailed after just a couple years.

    He never dealt with his anger management issues. He never dealt with how to express his frustrations in life without screaming abuse at his spouses or worse.
    I wonder where his kids would have ended up if he hadn’t bailed on 3 marriages and at least 2 live ins. His son is divorced already in his 20’s, his daughter dropped out of college, then in her 30’s began living with a man 15 years her senior. S

    ometimes leaving a marriage because things look greener elsewhere, is just another way of being selfish. And raising kids, is all about NOT being selfish, but becoming a responsible adult.

    Are his kids better off because of these divorces? I highly doubt it.

    Happiness comes from within.

    My neighbor and good friend is staying with her marriage for now, after her husband’s infidelity and his draining their saving account to give $$ to his girlfriend. They’re getting counseling together, and he’s getting counseling for his problems.
    She’s miserable. I’m sure he’s miserable too. They love their kids. They care about each other. To split, reduces their ability to provide for their kids, as it means setting up two households, etc. It’s been a couple of years now. They seem to be at a stalemate. 7 more years before their youngest goes to college. That’s a long time.

  5. aphron says:

    Marriage is damn hard. In some ways it is easier to split up. There have been plenty of times that I thought about it. I didn’t because of 1) kids, 2) faith and most importantly 3) I couldn’t imagine life without Wife.

    I think married couples do split up too easily and for predominantly selfish reasons. They seem to lose focus that marriage is part of life’s journey and not a destination. Also, I think people sometimes lose perspective on their problems. They tend to make them out to be more than they are.

    Bottom line: it takes two. If one isn’t willing to put forth the time and effort, then the other is left swinging in the breeze. The act of loving someone will not guarantee a good marriage.

  6. FTN says:

    As many others have already said — marriage is difficult, and it is a lot of work. Each partner always thinks he or she is doing more work than the other. We have unhappy times, but we made a commitment to work on it and work through it. So that’s what I do. Like everyone else said, divorce can be an easy way out.

    I think the phrase “staying together for the kids” can be misleading. While I do believe it is VERY important for kids to have two parents around, I would hope that parents don’t just become roommates and quit working on the marriage. That also happens too often, and as soon as the kids move out — the parents don’t know what to do, and divorce and depression happens soon after.

    The short answer is that both partners need to be willing to work on it, even if to varying degrees. Did you push Arwyn for more of an answer when you asked if she was willing to work on the marriage? Does she believe that she IS working on it, and perhaps your question just made her mad?

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