8.14.2015

Marriage Is So Easy!





Happy marriage does not equal good sex and good sex does not equal happy marriage. As a marriage counselor, I have spent ten years observing couples try to stay together. The vast majority of couples work very hard - something akin to crawling through broken glass - to preserve their marriage and family stability. Most relational conflict is everyday run-of-the-mill stuff and people can and should do their best to stay married. Even in the face of severe relationship despair, most people feel an imperative to "make it work," mentally and emotionally weighing the scales, choosing to remain in our commitment opposed to the more sensually exciting anticipation - "what would it be like?" -  with someone new. Welcome to Luke-Warm-Dom.

I’m talking here about “normal” relationships: mentally sound people who have been together for years, raising children, working decent jobs, that now find co-existence dry, boring, and without desire. Parenting, aging, illness, financial strain – straight up buzzkill. Even the strongest couple will experience seasons of dislike for each other, at times bordering on revulsion. Of course I love you - but I want to want you.

The benefits of marriage include longer lifespan, greater financial wealth, social desirability and healthier kids across every spectrum. I'm not justifying our social construct - people really like to be married.

The New York Times recently had a piece that trended on FB for days, The Wedding Toast I'll Never Give, with the net message that the way to stay married is to not get divorced. Wiser words never spoken. Yet, two-thirds of marriage end in divorce and two-thirds of divorce are initiated by women, with the vast majority of those divorces ending with the first seven years. 

The popular assumption is that men cheat and women lose libido, but in my experience these issues are shared fairly.  A large portion of the divorced population now wishes they had sought counseling prior to ending their marriage, telling us that many of life's wrinkles are less-severe in hindsight.

A question actually researched is just this: Is the absence of conflict enough?  Or, in fact, do we need a supreme connection, emotional joy, to call ourselves "happily married." The answer is not obvious but it's worth personal reflection.
 
For the partner hoping to find an uptick in his desire for said betrothed - as he knows he should - I suggest a variety of techniques. For starters, recognize that our culture conceptualizes our marriage partner capable of completely meeting our needs. We live a really long time. 

We are alone in this interpretation, putting volumes of pressure on our partner to be all things: provider, gorgeous, fit, engaging, educated, maternal, spiritual, and sexual. What a tall order! A deeper understanding of our unrealistic expectations – know thy limits – expresses relief for what isn’t and allows for appreciation of what is

It helps to spend time with other couples; it is edifying to know that others are in the same boat, gutting it out another day. We are rarely applauded for staying married. At the end of the day, there's not a nod of respect..."Props! You stayed married one more say!"

In Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation, sex counselor and biologist Olivia Judson, dispels the common belief that male species are promiscuous and females are saintly. In fact, she argues that female organisms (r-e-a-d) are mean, hungry and horny: benefiting from multiple hook-ups, evolutionarily speaking. Scantiness of egg production exalts the superabundance of sperm. 

Alternately, healthy masculinity is ill-defined and dismissed in our current culture, resulting in its own stifled articulation. It's hard to be happy if you cannot ask for what you want. An earnest desire to understand male psychology pays off greatly for both sexes - I recommend He, by Robert Johnson.

Couples can recover from both sexual boredom and betrayal, and many do. Counseling positively impacts marriage in an estimated 70% of couples. Healthy autonomy and self-acceptance go a long way to feeling, and appearing, sexy. Usually the partner hoping to make it work becomes drip-drab clingy, “I love you…I love you…I love you.” I recommend that the partner most motivated to make the relationship work become busy and happy

The partner least invested, leaning out, will not want the "old relationship," instead, craving new and better feelings, with new ways of connecting; and this can be accomplished.
Carl Jung described this as the highly evolved transition from being in love to loving another. 

Ask yourself how and when you feel drawn to your partner, e.g. “When he’s with his friends and I see him smiling, laughing, looking attractive.” Ask your partner, “When do I look good to you? When do you see me and feel happy that I’m yours?”

Anne Rice, author and married for 41 years, said that in one marriage, we marry and divorce many times over - to fall in love again (oh, how we love those big emotions).

A good therapist should never answer, “Should I leave him?” or “Is she lying to me?” I’m steering my own bigwheel…you must steer yours.

Book Recommendations: After The Affair
For Christian readers, The Healing Choice Guidebook
 
 
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 (I want one!)