Five Questions to Ask Yourself Before Your Tear Your Family in Half A recent report showed that since the recession, the divorce rate in America is the lowest it’s been in 30 years. Divorce is an expensive business and maintaining two households can get steep. So instead, couples are taking a closer look at their relationship flaws and asking themselves if their marriage is “good enough” to stay. If you are in that situation, here are five questions to ask yourself before you tear your family in half.
1. Am I leaving because of boredom or excitement about meeting someone new?
You should know your notions about marriage are up against a media that spins fantasies about youth, beauty, money and sex. If you believe in the family life created by TV and movies, all partners stay fit, youthful, happy and rich. Unfortunately in real life many partners grow chubby, bald, fall into depressions, and lose money in a recession. Sexual energy gets diverted to nesting energy and the excitement of your youthful love affair morphs into a the drudgery of married life. If you answered “yes” to this question, the answer isn’t a new partner, it’s a new system. And you have the power to charge your “good” relationship.
There it is. That giant silence between you and your partner. You know you want to tell him what’s bugging you. But will he tune you out, respond with a wall of defenses, or might you actually be heard?
Criticizing in a healthy way is a delicate business. It’s so easy for the recipient of your “gentle shaping” to perceive it as an attack, and shoot back with a strong defense before the full value of the words sink in. It’s also really hard for the communicator of a criticism to use kind enough language. Too often, our criticisms come in the form of an angry explosion after a buildup of irritation. Or, perhaps you have been taught not to express your needs, so that when you finally do, guilty feelings cause a kind of confrontational tone — as if you are trying to convince yourself that it’s okay to criticize.
The shape of our families is changing. People are marrying for the first time later in life, and the divorce rate is soaring, giving way to many single parent households. Single life is no longer a short rite of passage; it’s an important consumer demographic. For the first time in history (since the immigration of mostly male, early settlers), almost half of adult Americans are now unmarried. There’s even a magazine devoted to the lifestyles of those who have made a commitment to be single. It includes ads for commitment rings to purchase for oneself.
But has love changed? Has committed love been replaced by a revolving door of dates? Is long-term monogamy even necessary for our species’ survival? The answers are complicated. Marriage may be changing, but it will never go out of style. In case you’ve been living under a rock, there’s a fight going on right now in America to allow more people to be granted marital rights.
Marriage may not be going away, but its purpose has shifted. Historically, marriage was a place for women and children to have economic protection. It was a place where religious values could be taught and extended to the next generation, and a place where family fortunes could remain intact. More recently, marriage became a place for a relatively new invention: romantic love. But since dating and hooking up have morphed into America’s favorite pastime, full of hopeful highs and disappointing lows, even romantic love is losing its luster.
So why choose marriage today? Because it is an intellectual decision that leads to survival of the species. Anthropologists have always said that it was human’s sophisticated social structures, including the adoption of long-term monogamy, that help our species procreate and thrive.
Humans are the animals that require a huge amount of nurturing for our psychological and physical survival, more than virtually any other animal on earth. While most newborns are up on four legs and running with the herd just hours after birth, we Homo sapiens have a vulnerable in-arms (or stroller) phase that lasts almost four years. And it’s really, really hard to nurse and carry a baby while extracting resources from the environment. Just ask any single mother. Doable, yes, but very difficult. Remember the mission: to grow up healthy and create offspring that are also healthy and ready for careers and parenthood.
Family therapists know that dysfunctional family systems eventually fall out of evolution’s chain. Each generation has fewer and fewer offspring that survive through the next procreation, until the family line finally dies off. Apparently, neglectful parenting can create drunk drivers, criminals caught in crossfire, hermits, drug addicts, and narcissists too selfish for parenting — all people with lower chances of reproducing. But let me make one thing clear before I get inundated with e-mails about this: I am IN NO WAY SAYING that all single mothers create dysfunctional families. What I am saying is that every time one factor is removed from a system that has been selected through evolution, the chances for dysfunction increase. Plenty of single mothers are raising healthy kids with the help of extended family, surrogate male role models, and friendship villages that act as a de facto family. And this is part of our changing family structure.
Evolution has shown that our best chances for survival and for the survival of our offspring’s offspring is a team approach to raising humans. And the best team captains are people who have a biological interest in the child. And to create that, we need to sometimes put the notion of romantic love aside and make an intellectual decision to do what’s best for our genes, ahem, I mean kids.
I’m looking forward to helping you finally get the love you deserve! I hope you’ll join my new online workshop on popexpert.com, 10 Secrets of Mindful Relationships. Registration is open now: http://bit.ly/1GOwq3v
Let’s face it conflict is part of all intimate relationships. Parents get angry at kids. Wives get angry at wives. Brothers get angry at sisters. When I hear of a couple or family that “never fights” a red flag gets waved for me. And, I am quite assured that they don’t have true intimacy. When two separate people join together for common life goals, clashes are inevitable. But the presence of conflict alone is not an indicator of a relationship’s health. I prefer to focus instead on the ?nature of how couples and families make repair. How do couples make up after a fight? With apologies, contrition, consoling and even laughter? Or is the aftermath of anger marked by silence, distance and a new rule to never speak about the subject of the fight?