Every one knows the statistics: Half of all marriages end in divorce. Conclusion: Marriage is hard (Yes, I needed a Ph.D. to figure this out).
Therapists basically know what happens when marriage fails. We know that some couples have no business getting married in the first place. We know that some couples do not have the resources or maturity to handle the inevitable stresses and strains of marriage when they arise. We know that some couples could, but are unwilling to do the work that marriage requires. John Gottman is probably the only marriage researcher out there who has developed anything approaching a scientific model for studying marriages, and he concludes that marriages fail because, when stress hits, friendship erodes and is replaced by either apathy or, worse, contempt.
Many therapists have developed models for how to think about the erosion of this friendship (mine can be seen by clicking Alienation Cycle), but having a model and having a solution are two completely different things! Nonetheless, models DO generate ideas about how and when and where to intervene in this alienation cycle.
Lately, the following idea has taken shape in my mind, and seems to have been of some help to the clients I’ve started discussing it with.
I’d summarize it like this:
In my previous entry I described three core values that shape life: survival, enrichment, and/or formation. I also said that I believe a person’s life will be fundamentally shaped by which of these three values he or she chooses to place at the center.
When I take this idea and apply it to marriage, I come up with three core reasons to be in a committed relationship:
- Marriage as Survival – I marry in order to survive.
- Marriage as Enrichment – I marry in order to be happy.
- Marriage as Formation – I marry in order to mature.
I’ll be using my next three entries to say a bit more about each of these.