15 March 2012

The Truth As I See It

When we announced our separation to our friends and family, it is amazing how personal other people took the announcement.   Quite a few people seemed to take the failure of our marriage as an assault on their own marriages.  I have gotten loads of unsolicited advice from self-declared amateur marriage counselors.  It has been along the line of marriage takes work, sometimes you are holding the other person up, its not always 50/50, sometimes it 90/10, sometimes its 10/90 etc., choose love and forgiveness, you two are such great parents, you always seemed so happy, we never expected it from the two of you, marriage is tough, it doesn't get any better, have you tried counseling etc.?  My first reaction was sarcasm, and I had strong desire to respond with pithy comments, like, really?  I didn't know that, I thought marriage was supposed to be a cake walk, why didn't anyone tell me this all before?  However, my second reaction to give people more understanding.

When Paul and I decided to end our marriage, it was not a decision we came to lightly, especially when we considered the ramifications for the children.  We read books, we consulted happily married couples, we went to counseling, and we even tried to grin and bare it, but ultimately none of that was working for us.  A study done by Neil Jacobson, Ph.D. of the University of Washington concluded that only 35% of of couples who enter marriage therapy improve their marriage as a result of therapy (Gottman & Silver).  When you consider that 67% of first marriages end within the first forty years, (Gottman & Silver) it isn't really all that surprising that marital therapy has such a low success rate.

The truth of the matter is that most books, most therapists, and most married couples are not basing their advice on facts or statistics, but on anecdote and experience.  However, if only 33% of marriages are lasting past forty years, I have to wonder how many of those marriages are actually happy, and how many of these people are staying together because of children, shear willpower, financial reasons and/or religious convictions? Very few marriage counselors have ever actually studied marriage with a scientific approach in the way they have studied mental illness.  None of this unsolicited advice is based on fact.

What I do know, and what I have learned is that every relationship is different, and you can not apply what made one couple happy to a whole range of relationships.   

Gottman, John & Silver, Nann The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work. Three Rivers Press, New York 2002. Kindle Edition.

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