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Friday, December 22, 2017

Why marriage seems harder now than ever before Eli J. Finkel

Eli J. Finkel, a professor at Northwestern University and the author of “The All-or-Nothing Marriage,” explains three different ways you can strengthen your relationship.
Eli Finkel: We have arrived at a moment in history where the best marriages are better than the best marriages of earlier eras, while at the same time, the average marriages are getting a little bit worse. Historians divide marriage in America into three different eras. There’s sort of, from the Colonial Era until about 1850, when we industrialized, the second era is from about 1850 to 1965 or so, and then we are currently in this third era.
And the first era was really about helping people achieve their basic, physiological, survival sorts of needs, things like food production, clothing, shelter. People preferred to love their spouse, of course, but it wasn’t the reason that you married and certainly, if you didn’t love your spouse, that wasn’t a reason to get divorced. The institution was too sacred, was too important. And so spouses were workmates, rather than soul mates.
And then if you fast-forward, in the second era, people increasingly want to marry for personal fulfillment and in particular, they want to marry for love. And for the first time ever, people start to say things like, “I’m not going to marry that person because I don’t love him or her.” That was a new idea.
And then as we fast-forward to this third era from 1965 to the present, we see that, these days, we are looking not only for love, and connection through the marriage, and sexual fulfillment, of course. But also for these more tricky, complicated sorts of need fulfillment. Needs like self-actualization, personal growth, and a sense of vitality. And so these days, for the first time, if you can find yourself in a situation where you’d say, “Look, he’s a loving man and a good father but I’m not going to live the next 30 years feeling stagnant, feeling like I can’t really grow.”
Our expectations for what we want the marriage to provide us have gotten higher in a lot of ways, more sophisticated in a number of other ways, more emotional, more psychological, and because of this additional complexity, more of our marriages are falling short, leaving us disappointed.
 Why marriage seems harder in 2017

Social media conflicts with couple's quality time

While it may have been considered rude less than a decade ago, taking the time to scroll through your phone while in the presence of another human being is considered pretty commonplace nowadays. But according to Jim Seibold, PhD, LMFT, practicing in Arlington, Texas, the seemingly harmless act of checking Instagram while on the couch with your spouse is leading to bigger issues in present day marriages.
"For many of my marital clients, social media has become quite intrusive for two related reasons," Seibold explains. "First, it takes away from interactive time together. Spending too much downtime checking social media limits face time with each other. A lack of interaction ultimately leads to feelings of disconnection. Second, couples become resentful of social media use, and often report feeling that social media is more important to their partner than they are. They feel that given a choice of spending time with each other or their smartphone, their partner will choose the smartphone.
Another way that social media is putting stress on today's relationships? Comparing your own, unfiltered marriage to what other married couples are posting on their profiles. "An additional issue that arises occasionally is when people start to compare their lives with what they are seeing displayed by others on social media," he says. "This is particularly problematic when couples compare their lives in a more negative light."

Relationships are given less priority

Not so long ago, men and women had a very short runway before their new spouse became their top priority. Tying the knot a decade or more after you've graduated from high school opens up opportunities to establish other priorities, like forging strong friendships and carving out career trajectories. Michael D. Zentman, PhD and director of Adelphi University's post graduate program in couples therapy, says that this can end up competing with the amount of attention a marriage needs in order to be successful.
"The overall impact is that, for many contemporary couples, their relationship is unwittingly given much lower importance than most marriages can endure," he says. "If the job, the children, the gym and the friends are consistently prioritized over the marriage, the marriage, over time, can wither like an underutilized muscle."

More privacy means more infidelity

Before the age of cell phones, extramarital affairs were much more difficult to carry out — and as a result, more easily found out. Today's marital indiscretions can all be carried out on a personal, password protected phone that it is not at all uncommon for our partner to be constantly glued to — which Beth Sonnenberg, LCSW, practicing in Livingston, NJ says has a lot to do with rising infidelity statistics.
"One of the biggest changes in modern marriage is that people have more private lives thanks to texting, emails, IMing and Facebook Messenger that make dishonesty more prevalent," she says. "Whether it's having an emotional or sexual affair or gambling or porn addiction, it's easier to hide things from your spouse. Gone are the days of the mistress calling the home phone during dinner time. This makes cheating more prevalent than ever before." Men have long been thought of as the cheating sex, but a recent study of over one thousand men and women done by the Kinsey Institute found that nearly 20 percent of both the men and women surveyed have cheated on their partner.

Couples are having a harder time communicating

You'd think that with modern day technology, allowing you to shoot over a text or email any time of day, communicating with your partner would be easier. But clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly says it's actually causing complications.
"Many couples are seeking assistance on basic communication skills," she says. "Electronic communications are often at the root of misunderstandings. When texts, emails and even telephones are used as a replacement for in-person discussions, communication often suffers. It is easy for couples to misunderstand each other when there is not a ready, in-person opportunity to add clarity and address any misunderstandings. As well, such contact is devoid of the vital messages contained in body language, eye contact and facial expressions."
Today's married couples are also competing with more of a time deficit when it comes to having these important face-to-face conversations. "Busy schedules leave couples rushed in the mornings and exhausted at the end of the day," says Dr. Manly. "Communication is often shoved into tight spaces, such as when the kids are doing homework, dinner is being cooked or as preparations are made for winding down for the night. None of these common situations allow for the focused attention on whatever topics might be at issue."

People are entering marriage with more baggage

Today, the majority of men and women are spending a good chunk of their 20's solo. But psychologist Dr. Vijayeta Sinh, PhD, says that while this has benefits for our careers and friendships, it can also make operating as one half of a couple harder to do in the long run.


"Getting married older means struggling with adjustment issues," he explains. "By the time we reach our late 20s, we've already figured out for the most part who we are and what we are/are not willing to put up with, which in turn makes it harder to adjust to the other person, their likes/dislikes and preferences."
Compromise is key to any marriage, and an established feeling of independence can make the ability to do so much harder. It's also worth noting that the more time we spend alone, the more time we have to form personal habits that may not jive with the person we end up marrying.
"Because people are putting off marriage to later in life they tend to have more baggage that they bring into the relationship and marriage," says psychotherapist and author Jonathan Alpert. "For example, bad habits from past relationships. Putting marriage off until later in life can be a double-edged sword — they might be more mature and ready for marriage because they're more settled in their careers and feel more stable — but they've had more time to get comfortable being single and might feel more settled in their single lifestyle."