The All-or-Nothing Marriage: A Review

Last Sunday, the New York Times ran an article called, “The All-or-Nothing Marriage” by Eli J. Finkel.
The byline was “Couples can be happier now than ever before. But it’s rare”.
The research findings seem to indicate that the average American marriage is weaker than the average marriage of the past, in terms of both satisfaction and divorce rate, but the best marriages today are much stronger, in terms of both satisfaction and personal well being, than marriages used to be. The researchers believe that Americans today have elevated their expectations of marriage and can in fact achieve  an unprecedentedly high level of marital quality–but only if they invest a great deal of time and energy in their partnership. In this way, marriage in American has become an “all-or-nothing” proposition.
Until around 1850, we lived in the age of “institutional marriage”. The union was based on the need to help each other with food production, shelter and protection. Roughly, between about 1850 and 1965, because of the shift from rural to urban life, American marriages focused more on intimate needs like loving, being loved and an active sexual life. Sociologists call that era, “companionate marriage”. Today, we seem to be focused on “self-expressive marriage”. We look to marriage increasingly for self-discovery, self-esteem and personal growth. And while satisfying these higher level needs yields greater happiness, it also requires more time, energy and work to get there. Unfortunately, average Americans are investing less in their intimate relationships–to the detriment of these relationships. We are stressed, over-worked, and financially challenged. And in fact, people from lower socio-economic levels divorce 30% more than their wealthier counterparts. What can be done? The author of this article suggests that couples can choose to invest more time and energy in their marriage if possible. If not, they might be wise to adjust their expectations and cultivate an affectionate bond without trying to facilitate each other’s self-actualization.
The author concludes, “The bad news is that insofar as socioeconomic circumstances or individual choices undermine the investment of time and energy  in our relationships, our marriages are likely to fall short of our era’s expectations. The good news is that our marriages can flourish today like never before. They just can’t do it on their own.”
Call me today. I can help with premarital and marital workshops, counseling and Intensives.