Marriage: Dealing, Predicting, and Tips
Dealing With The New Rules of Marriage
The new social changes, especially women’s liberation, are imposing difficult pressures on the marriage relationship. Help for executives in dealing with these changes-in terms of themselves and the employees they manage-is available from Dr. Ari Kiev, eminent psychiatrist and the author of eight books in the field. His observations:
The usual gripes and complaints that erupt when the wife of a middle-aged man begins to work, go to school, or lead a more independent life are merely the symptoms of a much larger struggle that can be solved, says Dr. Kiev. Husband complains about dinner not being ready on time, about the house being untidy, about having to help with the dishes, or his wife being tired and irritable (instead of fresh, adoring, and waiting) when he comes home. In short, he seems to be complaining that the rules of the marriage contract are being changed, making life less comfortable for him.
In fact, says Kiev, he is probably suffering from a lurking fear that he is about to be abandoned. This exaggerated, even childish, notion of what’s going on must be recognized and put aside before a healthy, basically good marriage can begin to function well again.
Reality: The partnership rules are changing. The woman isn’t threatening to dissolve the partnership.
Then why do men react as if there were a real threat? What most people don’t realize, and what goes against the conventional wisdom, explains Dr. Kiev, is that most men are far more vulnerable to threats of being abandoned than women are. So they perceive the threat even when it doesn’t exist. Psychiatrists know, he says, that when women think their husbands may leave them, they usually respond by trying to solve problems in the relationship. They try to cement it. Women reach out for counseling and therapy. Men don’t.
Reason: The threat is so overpowering for most men (because it springs from their early childhood dependency on their mothers, which gets mixed up with their views of a wife’s true role) that many are incapacitated by fear (often they are not even fully aware of this feeling).
How should a husband deal with this change? The first step, says Dr. Kiev, is to understand his role in the problem and the motives behind his reaction. Once he gets that understanding, the problem, in effect, simply becomes less of a problem.
Here is the all-too-common pattern of the husband’s reaction: First he encourages his wife’s efforts to find independence. Her efforts, on one level, even flatter his ego, and he may brag about her achievements to his friends. Typically, however, the changes accelerate, and he begins to feel that what she’s doing is getting out of his control. That’s when he begins to feel rejection. (She’s ignoring me, he thinks, and if this continues, I’ll be left alone and helpless.) So he counterattacks by being quarrelsome, taunting, and threatening.
The hope is, Dr. Kiev says, that once he becomes aware of the pattern, he’ll be able to break it, and not overreact to the innocent actions of his wife.
What can the wife do? That’s a great dilemma, Dr. Kiev says. If the wife pursues her objective without modification, she endangers the marriage. If she capitulates, she risks her own personal future.
The wife’s best route: Pursue the objectives, but she must make clear to her husband that these moves don’t represent rejection, let alone a plan to abandon him. That’s not an easy course, and there’s bound to be a great deal of stumbling. But there is no alternative for a healthy marriage and two successful adults.
Fifteen Tips For A Better Marriage
Few things in life are more worth saving than a good husband-wife partnership. It is still the best arrangement devised for domestic economics, child-rearing, and emotional nourishment. Here are 15 tips that have worked for couples seeking a well-founded, growing relationship:
1. Keep it realistic. Honeymoons may recur, but marriage is a day-by-day relationship between changing humans. Sacrifices and heartaches are challenges you must expect.
2. Don’t be afraid to say something nice. Compliment one another on appearance, considerateness, and so on.
3. Show affection. Hold hands, touch, kiss-even in public.
4. Don’t let the children divide you. Keep your shared responsibility to the children separate from your responsibility, and loyalty, to your mate.
5. Don’t let in-laws make inroads. Good relations with relatives are an advantage, but don’t let them influence you against your spouse. Talk about the problems that in-laws create-and solutions to those problems.
6. Grow together intellectually. It won’t work 20 years later if one partner has progressed while the other slipped backwards. Openly discuss shared goals and the intellectual expectations of one another.
7. Fight when necessary, then forget. Bring things that disturb you into the open-even if it means conflict. Seek solutions. Ultimately, there are no winners or losers. Compromise as much as possible, and then downplay the conflict. The next, far better stage, is making up.
8. Don’t confuse honesty and cruelty. Honesty that has no purpose except to hurt the other is a false virtue. Protect your mate’s feelings.
9. Be forthright financially. Set realistic expectations about money and its problems. Work toward shared financial goals.
10. Don’t let careers diminish the marriage. Overachievers can let careers shut out the spouse. Ironically, bad marriages often diminish the career. Together, work out the right balance. Point: It’s easier to get a decent job than a good mate.
11. Do things together. Couples that work and play together, also stay together. (Allow your spouse enough independence, too.)
12. Cooperate sexually. Everyone is vulnerable sexually. Talk, explore, experiment. Communicate with one another and protect one another’s feelings.
13. Keep talking-even when it’s tough. Barriers of silence and non-meaningful communication only grow and become more impenetrable. The more difficult it seems, the more important it is to keep communicating-especially about communicating.
14. Don’t get self-righteous. Each of us has flaws and inhibitions. A good marriage takes these into consideration. Overlook the petty irritants. If your spouse forgets to screw on the toothpaste cap, just do it yourself, and forget it.
15. Keep positive. Keep the relationship upbeat. Turn problems into opportunities for greater understanding, and work toward creative solutions and projects.
Predicting Marital Compatibility
Birth order influences marital behavior. Certain personality characteristics develop as a result of the individual’s placement in the family. Examples: (1) Only children often search for a surrogate parent. (2) First children become self-reliant and goal-oriented.(3) Middle children are competitive. (4) Youngest children are more dependent. Thus, two spouses who have the same birth ranking in their respective families may have the same needs instead of complementary ones. Key: How the power in the marriage is divided. Worst marriage risk: Male only child (highest divorce rate). Best marriage risk: Female only child. Compatible combos: A man who has sisters marries a woman with brothers. A last born male marries a first-born female. Less compatible: Both spouses are first-born or are the youngest children.
Best unions: The strongest, most resilient marriages are those in which the traditional male and female roles are blurred. Each partner takes suitable responsibilities without blind adherence to rigid sex roles. Women who play the traditional feminine role (centering their lives on their partners and children) have the most difficulty in marriage, according to one large survey.
Top executives tend to be lucky in love as well as in their work, psychiatrists who have been observing them say. Their marriages are more stable. Possible reasons: The ability to persevere at work also helps to keep their marriages together. And the high incomes executive families have cause marriage partners to have fewer conflicts over money.
Rating husbands: Married women today value most the capacities of affection and emotion in a mate. Switch: When they were being courted, however, half of these women said that the sexual attraction of the male was the strongest influence.