Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Is A Healthy Relationship An Option In 2014?

Are we all destined to loveless marriages of resigned accommodation?

 

A reader named Andy commented on our recent blog and brought up a great question:

Is that an option?

Submitted by Andy on December 17, 2013 - 3:47am.jbrunswrote:Our message is clear: why don't you consider having a healthy relationship instead of the two extremes of "going along to get along" or withdrawing from the very concept of marriage?

 "Is the option of attaining a healthy relationship open to these men, given that only they change but the general arms race of courtship continues? Or will the act of toning back the courtship to a sustainable level be a de facto retreat of the man from the marriage market?

My guess is that many men believe, correctly or not, that hyper-courtship is the only way they'll ever be able to compete in the market. That includes men looking for committed relationships.

(Notably, there's an arms race among the women as well - what is a more common wish among men than the wish that their girlfriends or wives remain just as they were when the couple met..?)"

 

Honest courtship is always an option, Andy

It is tragic that men have been persuaded by the constant barrage of movies, television, the internet and music to follow the media-driven, insane, dishonest "hyper-courtship" of this era. Men need to realize that continuing to compete in the  mirage relationship market will not result in the happiness they think they are going to find. They won't be "missing out" or "falling behind" if they choose health. The result of staying in the contemporary  system of dating and mating is captured in writer/actor Ben Stein's short story "Men's Club" through his character "Harry":

"I have figured out something," he said."It came to me on my 45th birthday one year ago. This is what it was. All my relations with women the last ten years have been terrible. I don't know why. It doesn't matter if the women are here or in New York or in Hawaii or anywhere. Somehow, sometime in the last twenty years, a great rip took place in the fabric that binds men and women together...

...The women feel as if the men are ripping them off. The men feel as if they're being ripped off. Nobody wants to do a G@!#d thing for each other. It's like we're all little kids screaming at and for each other in a nursery, and all the adults have gone away somewhere. No one knows how to care for anyone else any longer; people don't even know how to care for themselves. It's like chaos out there."

American men and women competing in the market using "hyper-courtship" are becoming emotionally and physically committed to one another before they find out what their partner is really like and the results are a plethora of alienated, adutlerous and divorcing couples. The seeds of destruction are planted early when physical attraction and charm are emphasized over compatiblity.  Approval seeking is then used to meet the partner's many and varied needs and desires to keep the momentum of the romance going. In the peak of the relationship both partners indulge themselves in idealized views of each other This would be great if it could last forever. Unfortunately, the difficulty of living a phony life eventually wears thin once the thrill of the romance fades. One or both partners eventually must make peace with the fact that the reasons they had fallen in love were myths. They may seek solace in others,abandon ship, white knuckle the relationship or bury their pain in compulsive behaviors.

The result of "hyper-courtship" is threatening the very future of the country as the bedrock institution of marriage declines and out of wedlock births skyrocket. It is as if we have collectively lost our minds  amidst the distraction of  film, TV and the news of the world and forgotten how crucial it is to a country's very survival to have solid marriages that will provide a stable environment in which to raise the next generation. Using Ben Stein's analogy, men and women should grow up and use honest self-disclosure early in the dating process to weed out potential suitors who are not compatible. It's time to get out of the nursery and behave like an adult again.

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

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