Excerpted from Make Up, Don't Break Up by By Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil
Challenges to a Lasting Relationship
People who are married or in committed relationships are healthier, wealthier, and happier. So why do 60 percent of marriages end in divorce? Why has the national divorce rate climbed more than 200 percent in the last thirty years? And why are fewer people getting married today than ever before?
The answer to these questions are plentiful, but the main reason is simple. It is easy to "fall" in love, but very few people know how to stay in love. Even though staying in love is our "smartest" choice all the way around! Recent studies on marriage prove it's one of the major ingredients in life-long success for men and women. "It lengthens life, substantially boosts physical and emotional health, and raises income over that of single or divorced people or those who live together," reported an article in the New York Times. Marriage has also been found to boost happiness, reduce the degree of depression, and provide protection from sexually transmitted diseases.
So let's wake up, make up, and turn this trend around! One of the most startling pieces of evidence that shows people are not in touch with what's really going on in their partnerships is the fact that the majority of people who file for divorce say they didn't think there was a relationship-threatening problem just six months prior to breaking up. Another shocker is that most couples wait six years or more to seek professional help when their relationship is in danger. By the time they do wake up and smell the coffee, it is often too late.
Truly there is no reason to resign yourself to a bad relationship -- whether you are dating or married. Rather than changing partners and ending up in this predicament again, you can learn to have a fabulous relationship with the partner you already have! I strongly encourage you to make the relationship you have work because there is a higher rate of divorce and adultery in second marriages.
Getting rid of your partner does not get rid of the problem because half the problem is yours. You can walk out on your marriage, but you can't run away from yourself, no matter how hard you try! Rather than blaming each other, couples can learn how to work as a team and coach each other through the troubled times and power struggles. To do this, you must create a "safe" relationship so you can express your needs and fears and effectively resolve anger and conflict. More relationships break up because people don't know how to validate each other (that frustration escalates to become anger) than for any other reason. This is truly a shame, because the skills for "fighting fair" are very easy to master with just a little practice and patience.
One of the biggest causes of the unresolved anger between people is a lack of understanding. Men and women have different strengths and weaknesses, different ways of expressing ourselves, and different "childhood wounds" that we're trying to heal. While it may seem like we're from different planets, we are actually very much alike when it comes to our need and desire for love and intimacy. We only behave differently in our quest for closeness. Stop doing what is fair and right and start doing what works! It's not about "working harder," it's about "working smarter."
The vast majority of relationships can and should be saved and revived. In almost every case, couples can learn how to keep their relationships alive and growing and reap the rich rewards of real and lasting love. Twenty-two years of family therapy practice has given me the certainty that almost any relationship can be turned into a great one if the people involved are willing.
Make Up, Don't Break Up Copyright © 1999 by Bonnie Eaker Weil. Reprinted with permission of Adams Media Corporation. All rights reserved.