Some Reflections On Successful Marriages
Marriage, Reflections On What Keeps Couples Together?
After celebrating our 42nd wedding anniversary, my wife and i talked about what it is that kept us together all of these years? What is it that keeps other couples together? After all, the divorce rate is more than 50% nationally.
In attempting to answer this question its necessary to point out that longevity does not mean having a successful marriage. Through my work, I have met with too many couples who remained married despite being deeply unhappy with each other. They remained together out of fear of being alone, strong dependency needs, the fear of financial resources being decimated, worry that the children would be adversely affected and religious prohibition of divorce.
None of these factors were true in my marriage nor in the enduring marriages of many other couples. Those are what I would define as successful marriages. I can also report that there is no such thing as "marital bliss holding people together. I'm always skeptical about those people who assert that they never quarrelled. During our forty two years together there were plentiful amounts of disagreements, conflicts, struggles and stress and strain. Both my wife and I love to jest that, "we never had one fight...hundreds of fights, maybe, but not just one." In my opinion, a marriage without some strife and tension is a dead marriage.
Simply stated, passion is a necessary ingredient of a successful marriage. Passion, as I'm discussing here means a willingness to engage fully in expressions of sexuality and love-making, irritability and anger, laughter and fun, failure and success, love and respect and every other variable that life brings. A couple has to endure the "slings and arrows of misguided fortune."
An important factor that has kept our relationship together is that we never stopped talking. Even after 42 years, we constantly talk to each other when we're together. Both of us have noticed some couples sitting solemnly together in a restaurant, diner or coffee shop, in total silence. By contrast we discuss our children, grandchildren, movies, news events and every other possible subject, including hopes and plans for the future. We also regularly hold hands, touch each other and, most important of all, hug.
Perhaps most important of all is something my wife pointed out is that we are both stubborn and determined. Regardless of how far apart we might have been on some decisions we had to make and no matter how angry, we were determined to stay together because that was more important to us than being apart.
Many times, I would ask the couples I worked with, usually at the initial session, who there best friend was. Generally speaking, those who agreed that each other was their best friend were likely to succeed in overcoming their problems.
I'm sure I could go on discussing successful marriages but its important for the reader to fill in the rest or to send in questions.
As always, your comments and questions are encouraged.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD