Marriage Revisited: On Soulmates, Paramours And Avoiding Suffocation

Marriage, and how to improve it, is a bottomless pit kind of discussion.

So it’s not terribly surprising that CommonHealth’s recent post on a new, “all or nothing” model of marriage, in which researchers questioned whether we’re asking too much of our spouses, went viral.

Like sex, child-rearing and religion — everyone’s got an opinion to share.

(Wikimedia Commons)

(Wikimedia Commons)

Some commenters say they’ve had to readjust their expectations of finding the fantasy soulmate:

Deborah Rebisz wrote: “After a series of broken engagements, I went on an eight-year dating hiatus. My goal was to learn to rely upon myself for my own happiness…Expecting someone else to fill that spiritual, psychological, or emotional gap in my life was unrealistic, not to mention there was little chance of finding someone who could do all that.”

Another reader, AED added, “This issue hits the historical/biological/neurological nerve of pair bonding. It seems that our expectations of what marriage accomplishes should be balanced, rather than increasing the number of individuals who have very little chance of fulfilling psychological, emotional, and higher purpose desires…Marriage is not meant to be the purpose of one’s life. It is supposed to mark the transition from self-interest into being an adult who is responsible for another person’s life and having the honor of raising a child with him or her.”

Others said that having multiple relationships helped satisfy their myriad needs.

Speaking of her polyamorous relationship, Neesi Hansen wrote: “It was successful and happy and required a level of communication that brought us closer together.”

The reports’ authors suggest turning to other, non-romantic relationships for additional support:

“If a man notices that his wife becomes overwhelmed when he comes to her to deal with feelings of sadness or vulnerability, he may choose to revive his relationship with his old college roommate, who was always an excellent shoulder to cry on, and call him up when needing comfort,” the study says.

Marriage, of course, began as a business arrangement and in many ways, the socioeconomics of marriage remain a critical dynamic.

Americans without a high school diploma have historically been more prone to divorce as compared to those with at least a college degree, according to researchers. But the gap has increased considerably over the years.

For Americans who married in the late 1970s without a high school degree, the 10-year divorce rate was 28 percent, compared to 18 percent among those with at least a college degree. In the early 1990s, the same divorce rates were 46 percent and 16 percent, reports sociologist Steven Martin.

“The problem is that the same trends that have exacerbated inequality since 1980 — unemployment, juggling multiple jobs and so on — have also made it increasingly difficult for less wealthy Americans to invest the time and other resources needed to sustain a strong marital bond,” wrote Eli Finkel, lead author of the marriage study, in a New York Times op-ed last month.

The “Suffocation of Marriage” model is one of many that propose ways to strengthen the modern marriage. But there is no universal fix.

“The good news is that our marriages can flourish today like never before,” wrote Finkel, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University.. “They just can’t do it on their own.”

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