Seventeen years ago I set out to develop ‘a golden formula’ for successful marriage, defined as they do not separate. Not perfect and perhaps not even very good marital arrangements, but mutually satisfying for who they are and what they have as a couple plus some method to hold them together.
I was motivated by this comparison. Grace and I had 59 years of success in our one and only marriage. We saw so many broken marriages that included our three sons. Why was separation for Grace and me so difficult, and yet so easy for so many others?
I discovered that couples are not held together by common emotional connections such as love, vows, mutual likeability, legal pressures, and good intentions. All of which are prompters of motivation stronger within women than men. Although highly exploited, those connections are only fronts and often temporary. They are positive concepts and affirming emotions that help a lot but are less influential than negative disruptions that too easily pile up in pressure fronts and disturb relationship equilibrium and steadiness.
Example: Husband goes off to work with wife’s kiss and nice wishes the last thing out the door. Before the car is out of the garage, his mind is elsewhere. With men, positive endorsements of his importance to others is well known to him. It’s not a concern or worry, and he has more important matters to occupy his thoughts today.
If the same thing happens to wife, she’s more inclined to longer enjoy his departing thoughts. Perhaps until she gets to the first stop sign or light. Positive and affirming thoughts are essential for successful marriage, but they are less impressive and occupy the mind far less than statements that identify or criticize one’s individuality.
Couples are held together better by the absence of little things that accumulate, offend, and wear down one or the other mate: blame, shame, irritants, impatience, misunderstandings, criticism, nagging, fault-finding, unfilled promises, abuse, and disrespect. All of which can too easily accumulate and morph into contestable pressures so unacceptable that one or both has to escape. IOW, personal differences drown out the attractions of gender differences. Separation follows based on determination of one or the other to escape their anti-respectful, self-induced environment in which opinions differ as to one’s worth to self or the other.
Too little respect motivates one mate to express negative opinions about the other. True respect for someone discourages defining or describing their faults; respect encourages their acceptance, warts and all. So, when mutual respect is not present, love and vows and other affirming connections are not enough to hold a couple together.
The roots of mutual respect one gender for the other, one guy for one gal and vice versa goes back in time. So, it begins with how they are born to be distinctly different from birth and even before. Next, there’s a difference between the war and the battle of the sexes.