Within the first two years of marriage work is being done. Keep talking to create an awesome style
"A wife says to her husband (or vice versa), "Do you love me?"
"Of course," he replies. "I've been married to you for twenty years, haven't I?"
How satisfied would we be if we presented someone with a vintage wine and, upon asking his opinion of it, he replied, "I'm drinking it, aren't I?"
Love still needs expression between those who share it."-Leo Buscaglia
Within the first two years of your marriage, very important work is being done. Many times, this work is being done without the awareness of one or both partners. A marital style is being created. Couples who don’t understand this or talk about it may develop communication issues that didn’t need to be part of their marriage. Perhaps the scariest notion is that once a marital style is developed, it begins to embrace or erode the marriage.
When a couple is having problems in their marriage and they seek counseling, part of that counselor’s job is to identify the way the couple communicates. In the field of counseling, we understand that no matter what is happening between the couple, if we aren’t able to stabilize the communication style, we won’t be able to help the couple. It is amazing how mindless we all become after two years of marriage. We say things to our partner, and react without contemplating what is being felt by them. One of the reasons therapy is successful is due to the fact that if a moment of pause can be added to the couple’s mode of responding to one another, the derogatory marital style can be re-taped and mended to a style that is more compassionate toward the couple’s needs.
One of the leading psychologists in the field of marital style is Dr. E. Mavis Hetherington. After thirty years of divorce research, she came up with five basic marital styles. What is important to note are the ones that were most likely NOT to end up in divorce. The two that led to the longest, most content marriages are the cohesive marriage and the traditional marriage. Indentifying your style may be the first step in re-taping your communication and saving your marriage.
1. Cohesive Marriage. This marriage style is one in which the couple doesn’t spend every waking moment together, but they are tightly bonded. These couples often have their own interests, their own careers, but at the end of the day they want to be in each other’s arms. They draw their support and love from each other. They are the gold standard as they make marriage look real. Most people idealize this type of marriage.
2. Traditional Marriage. This is the marriage your parents may have had. The breadwinner is the guy, and the wife takes on the duties of the home, kids and running the couple’s social life. Although it led to the least divorces in Dr. Hetherington’s thirty-year research study, the individual people may not have been the happiest. This marriage works great if both partners enjoy and embrace their roles. If something changes, such as the wife begins working, this type of marriage may become unstable.
3. Pursuer/distance marriage. This type of style has many names. Nag-withdraw, or rejection –intrusion pattern. This style is also what romance novels, soaps, and chick flicks commonly use as their running theme. It may be the most romanticized of all the styles, but that’s where the positives end. It is the most likely style to end in divorce. Basically it looks like this. One of the partners wants to talk about an issue. The other partner doesn’t want to discuss it, and withdraws by watching TV, reading, or by using 1000 other excuses. The partner, who wanted to talk about the issue, becomes angry, resentful and sees the avoidance from their partner as a sign that they don’t care. This causes them to become cold, and bitter. The partner who resisted talking about the issue may sense the coldness, but withdraws further to protect themselves. By the time he or she is ready to talk, their partner has gone.
4. Disengaged Marriage. These couples are symbolic of many of my professional couples. They are so self-sufficient they don’t need each other on a daily basis for emotional support. They lack mutual interests and have many differences in their family backgrounds. They don’t require intimacy to be close. These couples don’t fight much, because you have to be engaged to fight. These couples don’t change their life for marriage. In fact, if they divorce, you don’t see much of a change in them from married or single. Dr. Hetherington notes in her study that these couples are the second most likely to get a divorce.
5. Operatic Marriage. These marriages are exciting to be around, but not to live in. They have the extreme highs and lows. They have the highest marital sex satisfaction scores because they are emotionally volatile and their quarreling often leads to sex. The problem is, words can wound as easily as a fist in a quarrel and eventually one partner is too wounded and leaves. These couples come in and are easy to identify. One of them will clearly state, “The great sex is no longer worth it.” When I hear that, I see a red flag and discover this marital style exists. It usually begins while dating, and because it feels natural to the couple, it continues into marriage.
This article can be helpful if couples sit down, talk together and identify their style. Don’t blame any one person, as a style is created by the couple’s interaction. In a sense, you are both actors playing your part. If you can be candid with one another to re-create your part, you can save your marriage before you contemplate divorce. “Quitting the play because you don’t like your part is analogous to divorcing your spouse because you didn’t like the script you read. Write the new script together.” –Mary Jo Rapini
A wonderful book to begin your New Year and help your marriage is “For Better, the science of a good marriage.” -Tara Parker-Pope
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Tags: Marital Style, Marriage, Divorce, Communication