How to Make a Marriage Work Essay

Pages: 10 (2926 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Family and Marriage

¶ … Marriage Work

According to commonly cited statistics, at least half of all marriages end in divorce in the U.S., the average length of marriage is approximately 7-8 years, and sexual infidelity issues affect more marriages than not. Even if the definition of success in marriage is no more than duration and fidelity, more marriages are unsuccessful than successful.

Unfortunately, duration and fidelity are tremendously low standards for defining marital success because statistics about divorce and infidelity rates fail to account for all of the additional marriages that last comparatively long and in which infidelity is not a problem, but one or both spouses is unhappy most of the time. By that standard, the successful marriage would be quite rare.

To a large degree, successful marriage depends on choosing appropriate candidates for romantic relationships in the first place, rather than someone whose primary draw is in our own unresolved psychological issues. Successful marriage also depends on marrying for the right reasons and not because of family pressure, societal expectations, or by ultimatum. Friendship is also crucial to successful marriage, but that requires an understanding of what being friends means in the context of marriage.

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Parenthood is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding of all human experiences, but it is not necessarily right for many couples. Even when it is right and where the marriage is successful in general, there are negative consequences to the marriage, at least temporarily. On the other hand, having children for the wrong reasons is likely to be fatal to marriages that are not successful in general beforehand.

Essay on How to Make a Marriage Work Assignment

Continued sexual attraction in marriage is another element that contributes significantly to the success of marriage, and that requires avoiding fairly typical patterns seen in many marriages with respect to making some of the same kinds of effort for one's spouse that one made for the purpose of attracting a partner. In many respects, the most important issue for the success of marriage may have to do with simply maintaining a realistic perspective of marriage beginning long before we meet a prospective spouse.

Choosing an Appropriate Partner:

In principle, choosing the right partner may be the single most important element of achieving a successful marriage, although it is no guarantee, and certainly not on its own (DeAngelis, 2001). In that regard, there are two principle measures of who the "right" person is for any particular individual. First, (and without suggesting that either is necessarily more important than the other), prospective partners should be physically attracted to one another and sexually compatible; second, they should be at least as compatible in every other respect as they are with their closest same-sex (or other platonic) friends (Branden, 2004).

Physical and sexual chemistry is important, but all too often, people choose candidates for marital partners heavily swayed by those factors where other crucial elements are missing. On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes people choose a marital partner despite insufficient physical attraction and sexual chemistry because they believe (incorrectly) that is "shallow" to consider those factors necessary in a potential partner (Branden, 2004). Another way of characterizing the importance of both elements is to suggest that there is a minimum degree of physical and sexual attraction that is necessary for happy long-term marriage and that there is also a simultaneous (and equally important) requirement that a marital partner be someone we would genuinely like and choose to have in our lives very closely even without any issues of attraction, such as if both were of the same gender (and heterosexual).

Avoiding the Repetition Compulsion:

Most psychoanalytical theorists (and many other experts in human relationships) consider the so-called repetition compulsion to be a universal feature of human psychology (Hendrix, 2004). In principle, it describes the manner in which we tend to develop particular psychological issues or themes in our relations with others based on the way that some of our foundational experiences affected us. In general, human beings tend to recreate some of the circumstances that affected us negatively early in our lives, partly in an unconscious attempt to "fix" things in our psychological past, and partly because biological organisms tend to repeat whatever is familiar to them, often, even when it is negative (Branden, 2004; DeAngelis, 2001; Hendrix, 2004)

The fact that we may choose circumstances and people in our lives that recreate negative experiences is counterintuitive, because it makes little sense. If a child is neglected or verbally abused at home, one would expect that at an adult, that person would never choose a neglectful or abusive partner but someone who is the exact opposite. However, especially in the realm of romantic love, we have a powerful natural but completely unconscious urge to seek out individuals who exhibit the same behaviors as those we experienced in our formative years (Hendricks & Hendricks, 1999; Hendrix, 2004).

Therefore, one of the elements of successful marriage is picking potential partners in a more conscious manner and learning to understand what aspects of our early experiences and family-of-origin relationships may play a role in our romantic impulses and choices (Hendricks & Hendricks, 1999).

Marriage for the Right Reasons:

There are many bad reasons to get married and people who get married for the wrong reasons are much less likely to experience successful marriages than couples who marry for the right reason. The fact that one has reached a certain age, that many of one's friends are getting married, or that one's parents would like one to get married are all wrong reasons to consider marriage (Bradshaw, 2002; Branden, 2004; DeAngelis, 2001). Another bad reason to get married is to "fix" a failing relationship or to reconcile a breakup, or in response to an ultimatum (Hendrix, 2004).

Moving toward marriage because of a preconceived notion about what age a person "should" get married, or because everyone else seems to be getting married, or to satisfy one's parents all dramatically increase the chances of settling for someone who is not necessarily a good candidate, provided that the goal of marriage is for both partners to be happy for the long-term. Marrying in order to fix a failing relationship, to reconcile a breakup, or in response to an ultimatum as a condition of continuing the relationship almost guarantee that a marriage will be short and unsuccessful (Branden, 2004).

In some ways, the right reasons to get married are much simpler: namely, the best reason to get married is because two people are enjoying a healthy and happy long-term relationship and decide (mutually) that they are both equally interested in making their relationship a permanent (and official) one. Therefore, according to Branden (2004), one might distinguish the wrong reasons to get married from the right reasons the same way a famous sculptor once described how to sculpt an elephant from a shapeless mass: "You just cut off everything that doesn't look like an elephant." Likewise, when you eliminate all the typical wrong reasons for getting married, people generally get married for the right reason: namely, because they have made each other happy long enough to expect that to continue in the long-term.

Being Best Friends: What That Does and Does Not Mean:

Successful marriage does not necessarily mean that spouses enjoy all the same things or share superficial similarities. That is not to say that it is not helpful when they do, just that it is relatively unimportant in terms of meaningful compatibility (Branden, 2004; DeAngelis, 2001). A marriage between two sports fans can be completely unsuccessful while a marriage between an extreme athlete and a poet can be tremendously successful. Ironically, the belief that marital partners must necessarily share all their hobbies and preferences to be "happily married" is probably responsible for a tremendous amount of unhappiness in marriage (Branden, 2004).

It is not necessary (and counterproductive to individual happiness) in marriage that either spouse participate in any activities not enjoyed by both partners. What is important is the manner in which partners accommodate each other by allowing each to pursue and enjoy whatever superficial enjoyments either prefers and that partners are not threatened or offended by the fact that partners may not necessarily share all of each other's interests. In fact, individuals whose principal basis for a relationship was their mutual love of movies, or rock climbing, or music are unlikely to have successful marriages because those are superficial bases for a lifelong relationship. What is much more important than superficial similarities and preferences is that a prospective couple share a general outlook of beliefs and perspective, or a worldview of core values and attitudes about life (Branden, 2004; DeAngelis, 2001; Hendricks & Hendricks, 1999).

Having Children: Right Reasons and Wrong Reasons:

Just as in the case getting married, there are right reasons and wrong reasons to make that choice as well. Also as with marriage, the wrong reasons for having children would include the fact that one has reached a specific age, that everyone else seems to be having children, or that one's… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

How to Make a Marriage Work.  (2009, May 15).  Retrieved July 8, 2020, from

MLA Format

"How to Make a Marriage Work."  15 May 2009.  Web.  8 July 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"How to Make a Marriage Work."  May 15, 2009.  Accessed July 8, 2020.