Thursday, September 1, 2016


I really, really, couldn't resist. 

There's a reason fairy tales always end in marriage. It's because no one wants to see what comes after. It's too grim.

So begins Belinda Luscombe's TIME article, "How to Stay Married" (June 13, 2016). 

Rule #1:  

One constant is to avoid contempt at all costs. By contempt, therapists mean more than making derogatory remarks about a partner's desirability or earning power. It's also communicated by constant interruption, dismissal of their concerns or withdrawal from conversation. 

Contempt, says therapists, sets off a lethal chain reaction. It kills vulnerability, among other things. Vulnerability is a prerequisite for intimacy. Without intimacy, commitment is a grind. Without commitment, the whole enterprise goes pear-shaped. 

Alas, contempt's favorite condition for breeding is familiarity. And you can't have family without familiarity. 

Gary Chapman, the article continues, says that can be prevented by knowing exactly what makes your partner's heart go pitter-patter, and by apologizing and forgiving properly. 

Disagreements are inevitable and healthy, so learning to fight fair is essential; resentment is one of contempt's chief co-conspirators. 

Rule #2: 
Obvious idea that actually works No. 2 is to find shared interests, which can help offset the changes that relationships go through. 

Rule #3:  

Another helpful adjustment is to drop the idea of finding a soul mate. "We have this mythological idea that we will find a soul mate and have these euphoric feelings forever," says Chapman. In fact, soul mates tend to be crafted, not found. . . 

And how to you make a soul mate? Practice, practice, practice. Karl Pillemer observed that long-married couples he interviewed always acted as if divorce was not an option. 


a) Therapists urge couples not to let the kids keep them from going out. "It does not have to be huge swaths of time but bits or chunks," says Scott Stanley. "Even something as simple as taking a walk after dinner." This is not the time to work out differences. "When they should be in fun and friendship mode, [some people] switch into problem and conflict mode. Don't mix modes." 

b) One of the more controversial ideas therapists are now suggesting is that men need to do more of the "emotional labor" in a relationship—the work that goes into sustaining love, which usually falls to women. . . recent scholarship has reinforced the value of old-school habits too—having family dinner and saying thank you actually make a difference. 

Now, this one is for the single ladies: 

c) The one piece of advice every expert and nonexpert gives for staying married is perhaps the least useful one for those who are already several years in: choose well. The cascade of hormones that rains down on humans when they first fall in love, while completely necessary and wonderful, can sometimes blind individuals to their poor choices. 

In this past week's Unhitched, when asked why they married, Barbara says: 

All their friends were getting married.

“I remember thinking it wasn’t quite right but could not articulate why,” she said. “He really liked me, and I lacked self-esteem and thought I might not find anybody else.”


Would they have done anything differently?

She: “. . . I was angry at myself for having married a romantic idea . . .”

He: “I would have been much more receptive and accepting of Barbara’s priorities and planning. In short, I would have been a better partner.”

Looking back, what advice would they offer?

She: “Don’t cave on your beliefs to keep the peace, and don’t overlook trouble. Don’t fall in love with an idea of how you want your spouse to be. Fall in love with and accept the actual person as they really, truly are. . . ”

He: “Be aware of your unfulfilled expectations, your own thwarted intentions and be responsible for your own emotions.”

It seems the article pans out in real life. 

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