With all the freedoms the modern woman enjoys, could it possibly be true that marriage is harder today than it was in generations past?
Surely the freedom to work, raise children, have a social life and be in charge of ones own finances is a bonus … or does too much choice ultimately lead to matrimonial dissatisfaction?
Married life has changed remarkably since World War II. Until the mid 1940s, marriage was viewed as a contract far more binding than it is now. The reality was once they were married, most women had few opportunities to be independent and fulfill their needs and dreams outside the home. Society had a very clear view of what was acceptable and this was generally based on what worked well for the children and the husband.
Married women were not encouraged to have independent means; once you were married, work opportunities were significantly limited and the man was expected to provide. Women received a
fraction of the pay that men did for doing the same job.
Divorce was frowned upon by society and in particular, the church (which had significantly more
influence than it does now). Divorce made women a social pariah.
When a marriage wasn’t working for whatever reason, women were expected to suck it up, accept the “will of God” and make the best of even the most loveless or abusive relationships.
Fortunately, circumstances have changed and women have a far greater range of choices.
Does a wealth of choices make things easier for the modern married woman?
In one way, it’s easier for people to end a marriage than ever before. It’s been my experience that couples find this to be a double-edged sword. As the pressure to stay together diminishes, the pressure for the marriage to match up to the individual’s perception of what a good marriage is greatly increases.
Why? The answer is complex, but I think there are some key reasons.
1. Expectations of marriage have changed.
So many young people, particularly women, appear to believe in the fairy tale of “happily ever after.” These expectations that everything will remain perfect are unsustainable. Many marriages are failing within the first year — almost before they have the chance to succeed.
Many of the clients I see have an unrealistic expectation that marriage will be perfect from the outset and are disappointed when they run into challenges. Once the razzmatazz of a big wedding is over, many marriages falter unless there’s a real commitment to make the relationship work.
Fix: Remember that it takes a great deal of commitment and work to create a loving, inter-dependent relationship. Just because you’ve hit a less-than-perfect patch doesn’t mean it is time to throw in the towel.
2. Communication has become a minefield.
Misunderstandings and mixed messages create disharmony and unhappiness, much of which you can avoid with more effective communication.
Think about what “love” means to you. Does your partner think the same? How do you show your partner you love and cherish him or her? What do you need to feel loved by your partner? You’d be surprised how different these answers are.
Ironically, in this world, where technology creates ever-more opportunities for communication, so many people fail to take the time to really talk (and listen) to their partner.
Many spouses spend significant amounts of time on their laptop or on social media. They’re in the same room but they are engaging with the gadget and not each other.
Fix: Use the off button. Having a time embargo or gadget-free nights are proven to help enormously.
3. You don’t make enough time for each other.
Women who are married with children may find they must work in order to help pay the bills. By the time the practical day-to-day stuff is dealt with, there is no time left to spend on nurturing and supporting the relationship between with their partner in marriage.
Exhaustion and frustration lead to anger and very quickly relationships deteriorate, often past the point of no return.
Fix: See how you can both share the day’s tasks so there is “together time” before everyone reaches the end of their tether. Make at least one night a week a date night; even if you don’t go out, it is scheduled one-to-one attention.
4. You spend too MUCH time together.
Retirement is a common cause of marital disharmony. Unless the relationship has been nurtured and both parties have grown and matured, it’s difficult for marriages to survive happily in the long term.
Once the children grow up and leave the nest, the cracks show and deepen. Without a friendship and at least some shared interests, many marriages falter. A growing number of divorces begin when one partner retires. What has been bearable, because work filled so much time, becomes untenable; couples have much more time on their hands. To add even more pressure, there is usually a reduction in finances.
Fix: Act now to create regular time together and to really connect with one another — not just “being in the same space.” It pays dividends in sustaining and developing a lasting and loving relationship.
Make time to go out on a “date” with your spouse, tell each other what you love and like about them, and understand that relationships need nurturing for the best rewards. Above all, remember that marriage is hard, but it is worth working at making it a success!