The self-proclaimed "Love Doctor" Terri Orbuch, Ph.D, has been making the rounds on the mainstream media this week proclaiming that spending ten minutes of quality conversation a day can make your marriage better. Dr. Orbuch said that her study showed that the happiest couples spend time really talking and listening to each other's innermost thoughts.
The problem with Dr. Orbuch's study is it puts the cart before the horse. Many relationships in the 2010s are based on artificial intimacy and approval seeking. Men who practice such deception in dating will listen to a woman go on and on about her innermost thoughts for hours if a kiss and more wait on the other side of the conversation. Chameleon-like, they will adopt the woman's values, interests and goals if they think it will result in short-term physical satisfaction.
The approval-seeking technique that the man uses to win the woman ultimately prevents him from having an emotionally rewarding relationship with her. According to psychologist Harriet Lerner, deception in a relationship creates distance between the partners and "erodes connections and blocks authentic engagement and trust, and strips the couple of spontaneity and vitality and keeps them operating at a higher level of anxiety." The deceptive means results in a physically intimate relationship without the capacity for true emotional intimacy.
Once these "mirage men" are committed to their woman, the relationship is predicated on their continued portrayal that they are "Mr. Right". Their greatest fear is that their partner will discover that their courtship persona of Prince Charming was a fraud. These men will become committed to the full time job of deceiving their new mate. They will create a long-term strategy that allows them to function in the relationship without destroying it. They purposefully become poor communicators with their girlfriends and wives because they fear the consequences if they show their true selves. These men believe it is less threatening to their marriage to hide behind a wall of silence and enjoy a low level of happiness than reveal their true feelings and risk losing the marriage immediately. No wonder writer Leslie Dorman observed in Redbook magazine that "What are you thinking?" are the four most terrifying words a woman can say to a man.
Dr. Orbuch is right that there is a link between happy marriages and self-disclosure. But this self-disclosure must begin at the first date, when two people can freely and openly choose one another based on shared values, compatible personalities and character, not after irreversible commitment has been made. Many men have built their marriages on deception. They know they can not allow their wife to get to know the real man behind the baby blue eyes, or the relationship is over.