Worried that you & your spouse are growing in different directions? As long as you're both growing, that's OK. A new book by Morrie & Arleah Shechtman explains why.
You hear it all the time from veterans of divorce. "We simply grew apart." It's enough to create a sense of fatalism about marriage itself. It may even inhibit your commitment to personal growth, as you reason, "If I don't pursue my Ph.D. or start the landscaping business I've always dreamed of, I can devote more time to my marriage."
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Growing apart is the No. 1 reason marriages fail. But according to psychotherapist Morrie Shechtman, there are things you can do to decrease the likelihood of it happening to you & your partner – they just may not be the things you'd expect.
"What people usually mean when they say 'we grew apart' is that one partner changed & the other didn't," says Shechtman, co-author, w/wife & business partner, Arleah, of Love in the Present Tense: How to Have a High Intimacy, Low Maintenance Marriage (Bull Publishing Company, 2004). "Quite simply, a good marriage fosters personal growth & vice versa. If your partner doesn't grow, then he becomes boring to you. If you don't grow, then you become boring to yourself."
The Shechtmans insist that a fulfilling marriage, like a fulfilling life, is not about comfort zones & status quos. To avoid growing apart, you & your partner must grow together. Not necessarily in the same direction, mind you, but grow you must. The Shechtmans offer the following tips:
- Make sure personal growth is a shared value for you & your partner. As the Shechtmans emphasize throughout their book, good marriages are those in which partners have identical values.
One of the most critical shared values is a commitment to growth. If you view yourself as a work in progress & want to take risks & explore opportunities until you draw your last breath, yet your partner wants to work the same job for 40 years & vegetate on the sofa every night, the marriage is probably doomed.
Harsh, perhaps, but true. Commit to personal growth yourself, & challenge your partner to do the same.
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- Dedicate yourself to your life's purpose. Give it your all-out effort, making full use of your talents & values. "Marriage isn't your mission in life," say the Shechtmans. "Neither is raising children.
In a great marriage, each partner is deeply committed & actively involved in some endeavor outside the marriage. When one partner is dedicated to an outside purpose while the other is dedicated only to supporting his spouse, then the supporting spouse ends up living thru his partner in the same way unfulfilled parents live thru their children.
The one who is fully engaged with the outside world soon grows bored w/her devoted supporter."