The State of Marriage by Jennifer Olden, LMFT

This is in response to Anthony D’ Ambrosia’s viral blog post about the state of marriage. http://legacy.abc10.com/story/life/2015/12/30/columnist-5-reasons-marriage-doesnt-work-anymore/78093780/

Dear Anthony,

I appreciate your brave and honest post.  I’m sorry about your divorce and all the pain you endured.  The challenges you outlined are real, but the conclusion you drew—marriage is over—is misguided.

It’s true:  Technology is often not good for marriage.  In fact, it’s not good for relationships, period.  This is because an emotional bond requires emotions—both the ability to feel emotion and the willingness to talk about it.  Technology is an immediate feel-good distraction from negative emotion.  People stop feeling deeply, and without the ability to feel deeply, they can’t bond.

But that doesn’t mean we should just give up.  

The same could be said for parenting.  Technology makes parenting more difficult, but we don’t just throw in the towel.  We make conscious choices about how to limit its influence. Similarly, I encourage couples to put away their phones during dinner and dates.  Practice just sitting and being a person without checking the sports scores, trolling Facebook, and endlessly texting.  This requires a conscious decision not to let technology be the main vehicle of conversation.

Regarding access to pictures of sexy people via the Internet:

If you are not a pornography addict, there is no research that sexy pictures of other people on the Internet actually make you want your spouse less.  Good sex is less about how much your partner resembles the magazines and more about how well you are able to attune and respond.

You also mentioned financial hardship.

Limited finances increase stress, which can strain a marriage.  I’m pretty sure this isn’t a new problem, however.  Our grandparents did live through the Great Depression.  From my perspective, the challenges in the world make marriage more important.  If you are able to reach for each other for comfort and care when stressed, then the marital bond actually strengthens.

It’s not the stressful event that breaks up a marriage, but how it’s managed.  The most difficult problems can create a more enduring connection.

This isn’t me being overly optimistic.  I successfully teach skills to help couples be vulnerable with each other so they aren’t withdrawing or lashing out when the going gets tough.  And no matter what generation, there will be tough times, tragedy, profound loss, and 9-to-5 grinding boredom.  You are not the only generation that has suffered, even though the circumstances may be different.  It’s how the struggle is dealt with that determines whether the marriage will strengthen or be broken.

Your final point about privacy being out the door is also well-taken.  We can get caught up in wanting to be popular on the Internet for a day and become less focused on the most important relationship of all—the one with our spouse.  We are busy showing off and waiting for applause from the world, and then are disappointed that our spouse doesn’t offer the same standing ovation when we come home from work.

Here is the main point I want you to hear:  WE ARE WIRED TO CONNECT.  The need to be loved and love a significant other isn’t icing on the cake or some socially constructed pact we’ve all implicitly agreed to, like moving the clocks forward in the spring.  It’s not a decision or even a choice.  Through millions of years of evolution, love has become a wired-in survival code.  You can’t outrun it, and it’s not going to be stamped out by technology, finances, sexy pictures, or the Internet.

You mentioned a longing you’ve had ever since you were a little boy to have deep abiding love with a partner or soul mate.  You were touching this biological survival need.  You were clear about it before you grew up and had your heart broken, before life happened and disillusionment set in.

That place is still in you, buried but alive, and you can trust it.  The generational challenges are real but not insurmountable.  Love still exists and can thrive despite everything.

Couples Blog

The Attach Place Center for Strengthening Relationships

Warmly,

Jennifer Olden, LMFT

www.jenniferolden.com

 

 

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