Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Learning About Marriage The Hard Way

What the divorced have to teach us about marriage

A provocative new book by University of Michigan's Terri Orbuch, Ph.D. called Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship, is based on the long-term NIH funded study "Early Years of Marriage Project" that studied couples between the ages of 25 and 37 who were in their first year of marriage in 1986. Since then 46 percent of these couples have divorced and 70 percent of those who divorced are in new relationships including over 40 percent who have remarried.

The study showed that one the most significant hurdles in first marriages is money issues. That's something that needs to be addressed early in a relationships instead of hoping it will take care of itself after the couple has committed completely to one another. The study showed it is a major compatibility issue with over 50 percent saying it strained their marriage.

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The study also showed that divorced couples who held a grudge against their ex seemed less likely to find relationships over time. Obviously new potential partners don't like to hear how they compare to the previous spouse. It's also much more attractive  to make your peace with bitterness and anger and have something positive  to share with the new person in your life.

Ms. Orbuch found  that "husbands who reported that their wives noticed them and made them feel special were very happy" and were two times less likely to divorce than those husbands who didn't receive regular positive affirmation. This makes sense because a wife that is happy with the relationship will continue to show it outwardly. Once a wife sours on her husband she will usually physically withdraw.

Sonya Rhodes, a marriage a family psychotherapist and author of Second Honeymoon: A Pioneering Guide To Reviving the Midlife Crisis, observed the damaging effect a poor relationship has on the physical aspect of a marriage. She observed through her years of clinical therapy that women tend to see sex as a natural result of a healthy relationship, while men consider sexual relations unconnected to the interpersonal aspect of the marriage or cohabitation. When a marriage is ailing, the sexual relations will tend to be withheld by the woman, while a married man "wants to have sex even when the relationship is under stress.

This finding of Ms. Orbuch's group about women making their man feel special was a symptom of a happy marriage. The big question everyone wants to know is: how does one get there? It's nice to have tips like this book gives out, but if you use physical attraction, charm and approval seeking to conjure up a relationship with a stranger, it isn't very likely that you will be talking about how to handle finances until you are already physically and emotionally committed to one another. Then you may discover you have bonded with a person who is addicted to shopping, likes to gamble away their paycheck or refuses to compromise on financial matters. Likewise, women who discover they married a man who pretended to be Prince Charming but is actually a big frog are not likely to be offering up positive affirmations.   

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.

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