Friday, September 9, 2011

Examining The Institution of Marriage, Part I

“There is no product in the world
(except perhaps commercial Xerox machines)
that has a 50% breakdown rate and is still in business.
Change the institution.”
Raoul Felder, divorce attorney

For those of you looking for love the second time around, or even for the first time, does the whole world feel like it is coupled except you … and is that making you feel worse about your single status?

I’ve heard that sentiment from many a client, and the first thing I tell him/her to do is to take a good, long, hard look at all his/her friends that are married or in solid, monogamous relationships. After this examination, next, let me know how many he/she thinks are truly happy. The answer is sometimes surprising. If you complete this exercise, you may find yourself hard pressed to come up with more than one or two couples who are completely enthralled with their relationship.

Dr. Pamela Haag, author of Marriage Confidential, contends that many married couples exist in a state of melancholy. “They have a brooding sadness around them that often lacks an obvious, concrete cause.” These couple often ask themselves, “Is this all there is?” or “Is it ever going to be any better than this?” Most of these marriages are low conflict ones – that is, there is not a lot of contention, and when the partners are asked if they are generally satisfied, the answer is “Yes, but …”

It is the “but” that causes people to think about how the grass looks greener on the other side … that a new partner/new relationship will make him or her feel better or allow him/her to recapture his/her dreams of youth.

According to Haag, the “but” consists of “withered passion, boredom, lack of affection, lost affinities or a world-weariness that has beset the marriage.” However, she found in many cases, these did not seem enough to break up the relationship; it did, though, leave one or both of the partners feeling as if something was missing.

If these issues are not addressed, it can lead to further estrangement. When couples focus on what they feel is missing, instead of concentrating on the good features of the relationship and nourishing them, those in a low conflict, nebulously unhappy marriage can easily end up walking towards divorce.

In the next post, I'll address how the lessons we are taught in childhood program us for failure in our relationships. 

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