Happily Ever After Requires Hard Work

October 10, 2015

Staff Therapist Dr. Rita DeMaria, PhD, LMFT, CST specializes in working with individuals and couples who are struggling with relationship, marital and sexual issues. 

You meet the right person and fall in love, you marry and live happily ever after… Or do you?

Finding Mr. or Ms. Right is a story many of us long to believe – despite the evidence to the contrary. More than one-third of marriages in America are expected to end in divorce within 30 years. Couples are now marrying later in life and finding themselves afraid of being another statistic of divorce.

The problem is that Americans are trying to adhere to an old paradigm of marriage – handed down from their grandparents and great-grandparents – when the norm was “she looked after the kids and home; he went out and plowed the fields.” Our modern society is dramatically different. Women are now meeting men as equals, and that’s where the ambivalence begins. The traditional marriage is no longer the norm. It has been replaced by a “partnership marriage.” Some people are even seeking a conscious, spiritual marriage. But to make these new forms of relationship work, people need a lot more awareness and communication skills than what their parents and grandparents had.

These challenges actually offer us tremendous opportunities, because partnership marriages allow people to start seeing their relationship as a chance for personal growth. Each partner must take more personal responsibility for their happiness and fulfillment – you don’t get to just blame your partner for your misery and unhappiness.

So, what makes for a strong couple and a strong family? Here are some key points to develop and nurture a powerful, loving and passionate relationship:

  1. Get to know one another’s needs. It makes a huge difference when couples make a conscious effort to learn about themselves and each other.
  2. Make the relationship a priority. You need to spend time every day connecting with your partner in a real way – not simply a perfunctory kiss on the cheek as you leave the house. Couples need to stay connected and stay current. Don’t let things build up – deal with challenges on an ongoing basis.
  3. Make time to get away alone as a couple. You need to have one-on-one time with your partner. You can’t expect to have a good connection with your partner if you don’t spend time together. Go out on a date once a week. Aim to spend a total of at least fifteen hours (awake) together during the week. That’s about 10% of your waking hours.
  4. Men should associate with other men on a meaningful level. This doesn’t mean only talking about sports, but yes, that does count. Men need the company of other men to share struggles, challenges, and successes. Men need to develop a powerful support network where they can be real where they can say what’s really going on with their relationships, with their kids, and with their career. Many men today suffer from ‘father hunger’ because their dads were absent, working two jobs, or otherwise emotionally unavailable.
  5. Women also need support from other women, though many have that kind of support already. Under stress we know that women will generally find it easier to talk about such things as relationships and their children, and reach out to others. Women need to support each other as ‘sisters,’ not just mothers and wives, and to be careful not to get into blaming men for their struggles.

These are the kinds of strategies that have helped many couples enrich their relationship and strengthen their family.