PDF The Good Enough Spouse: Resolve or Dissolve Conflicted Marriages

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For this pair, events related to Peter's jealousy propelled the relationship forward.

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He was the force behind their destroying letters and pictures from former lovers. It was a phone call between Suzie and an old flame that prompted him to bring up the idea of marriage in the first place. And it was a fit of jealousy--over Suzie's claiming to go shopping and then coming home suspiciously late--that convinced Peter he was ready to marry.

Theirs was a recipe for disaster: A short courtship, driven largely by Peter's jealousy, enabled the pair to ignore flaws in the relationship and in each other, setting them up for disappointment. That disappointment eroded their love and affection, which soured their perception of each other's personalities, creating feelings of ambivalence. Ten years after saying "I do," the disaffected lovers were in the midst of divorce.

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When Suzie filed the papers, she cited as the primary reason a gradual loss of love. The parallels between Peter and Suzie's failed marriage and my own are striking: My courtship with my first husband was short, also about nine months. Like Peter, I had shallow criteria: This guy was cool; he had long hair, wore a leather jacket, played guitar and adored the same obscure band that I did. When it came time to build a life together, however, we were clearly mismatched. I wanted a traditional family with children; he would have been happy living on a hippie commune.

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In college, when we wanted to move in together, we thought our parents would be more approving if we got engaged first. So we did, even though we weren't completely sold on the idea of marriage. The road to divorce was paved early, by the end of the first year: I had said I wanted us to spend more time together; he accused me of trying to keep him from his hobbies, and told me, in so many words, to "get a life.

While the disillusionment model best describes those who divorce, Huston found that another model suits those who stay married, whether or not they are happy: The "enduring dynamics model," in which partners establish patterns of behavior early and maintain them over time, highlights stability in the relationship--the feature that distinguishes those who remain together from those who eventually split up.

The major difference between the unhappily married couples and their happy counterparts is simply that they have a lower level of satisfaction across the board. Yet, oddly enough, this relative unhappiness by itself does not doom the marriage. It's not that they're happy about their marriage, it's just that the discontent doesn't spill over and spoil the rest of their lives. And while all married couples eventually lose a bit of that honeymoon euphoria, Huston notes, those who remain married don't consider this a crushing blow, but rather a natural transition from " romantic relationship " to "working partnership.

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Nancy and John, participants in Huston's study, are a shining example of happy, healthy balance. They met in February and were immediately attracted to each other. John said Nancy was "fun to be with" and he "could take her anywhere. During their courtship, they spent a lot of time together, going to dances at their high school and hanging out with friends. They became comfortable with each other and began to openly disclose their opinions and feelings, realizing they had a lot in common and really enjoyed each other's company. John paid many surprise visits to Nancy and bought her a number of gifts.

Toward the end of the summer, John gave Nancy a charm necklace with a "genuine diamond. The two married on January 17, , nearly three years after they began dating.

3 Ways to Resolve Conflict in Marriage - wikiHow

The prognosis for this relationship is good. Nancy and John have a "fine romance"--a solid foundation of love and affection, built on honesty and intimacy. A three-year courtship enabled them to paint realistic portraits of one another, lessening the chances of a rude awakening after marriage. In , when they were last interviewed, Nancy and John were highly satisfied with their marriage. They were very compatible, disagreeing only about politics. Both felt they strongly benefited from the marriage and said they had no desire to leave.

When the seminar ends, I can't get to a pay phone fast enough. After two rings, the phone is answered. He's there, of course. That's one of the things that first set my husband apart. At the close of one date, he'd lock in the next. Unlike the fantasy -quality of my first marriage, I felt a deep sense of comfort and companionship with him, and did not harbor outrageous expectations. We exchanged vows three and a half years later, in August There at the convention center, I try to tell my husband about Huston's study, about the critical first few years, about "enduring dynamics.

Sometimes I wonder: Knowing what I know now, could I have saved my first marriage? Probably not.

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Huston's research suggests that the harbingers of disaster were present even before my wedding day. And he blames our culture. Unlike many other world cultures, he says, Western society makes marriage the key adult relationship, which puts a lot of pressure on people to marry. Our culture is also to blame, Huston says, for perpetuating the myth of storybook romance, which is more likely to doom a marriage than strengthen it.

He has few kind words for Hollywood, which brings us unrealistic, unsustainable passion. So if your new romance starts to resemble a movie script, try to remember: The audience never sees what happens after the credits roll. Choose the answer that best describes your level of agreement with each of the following statements:.

As newlyweds, we were constantly touching, kissing, pledging our love or doing sweet things for one another. As newlyweds, how often did you express criticism, anger , annoyance, impatience or dissatisfaction to one another? As newlyweds, my partner and I felt we belonged together; we were extremely close and deeply in love. As a newlywed, I think one or both of us were confused about our feelings toward each other, or worried that we were not right for each other.

By our second anniversary, we were dlsappointed that we touched, kissed, pledged our love or did sweet things for one another less often than we had as newlyweds. By our second anniversary, we expressed criticism, anger, annoyance, impatience or dissatisfaction a lot more than we had as newlyweds. By our second anniversary, we fell much less belonging and closeness with one another than we had before. By our second anniversary, I fell much more confused or worried about the relationship than I did as a newlywed.

The Good Enough Spouse: Resolve or Dissolve Conflicted Marriages

Scoring: Add up the points that correspond to your answers in Part 1. If you scored between 4 and 8, place yourself in Group "A. If you scored between 4 and 8, place yourself in Group "C. The contrast between the giddiness you felt as newlyweds and how you felt later may cause disenchantment.

While you and your spouse are still affectionate and in love, there are clouds behind the silver lining. You may bicker and disagree, which, combined with a loss of affection and love in your relationship, could give rise to the first serious doubts about your future together. Food for Thought: Your relationship may be at risk for eventual divorce. But the pattern of decline early on does not have to continue. Ask yourself: Did we set ourselves up for disappointment with an overly romantic view of marriage?

Did we assume it would require little effort to sustain? Did we take each other for granted? Did our disappointment lead to frustration and anger? Will continued bickering erode the love we have left? You have a highly affectionate, loving and harmonious marriage. It may have lost a touch of its initial glow as the mundane realities of marriage have demanded more of your time.

But you feel a certain sense of security in the marriage: The relationship's gifts you unwrapped as newlyweds continue to delight. Food for Thought: You have the makings of a happy, stable marriage. The cohesive partnership you have maintained bodes well for its future. You will not always be happy--all marriages go through rough periods. But your ability to sustain a healthy marriage over the critical first two years suggests that you and your partner operate together like a thermostat in a home--when it's chilly, you identify the source of the draft and eliminate it, and when it's hot, you find ways to circulate cool air.