The Science of Marriage: The kid effect, divorce proofing and eyes half shut
With a gallon of milk and loaf of bread in hand, I spotted it out of the corner of my eye. The next thing I knew, Time magazine’s special edition this month, “The Science of Marriage,” moved down the grocery conveyor belt and into my bag among the other things that actually were on my list that day. After 23 years of marriage I wanted to know the secret to stay happy in a long-term relationship, which the sub-headlines promised to deliver.
MIKE: A- It was not on the list I gave her. I managed all these years to survive our kids’ requests for candy displayed prominently in the check out aisles. I should have known the mom-targeted magazines might be too tempting to pass up, especially when she could justify the learning opportunity with the word science in the title. B – I hypothesize this particular science guide will come back to haunt me, prompting a discussion or a request for me to do something differently.
The magazine covers a number of relationship topics from how to stay married and the definition of a good sex life to divorce proofing your marriage and couples therapy. Last week I referenced media that said “failed parenting” attributed to millennial behaviors, and this week the term is “intensive parenting; “ both reference the fact that parents today spend more time with children than parents did a decade ago, but this, intensive parenting, now also puts a strain on marriages.
I am reminded of my OB-GYN doctor for our first child - who is now in her 20’s - who wrote me a prescription to go on dates with my husband after the baby was born. He also sized me up – physically and mentally – when he wrote me another prescription to read Deepak Chopra and relax.
MIKE: I love it when other people my wife respects share some feedback and she actually listens. In this case, she assumed positive intent when he said it. Had I said, “relax,” well, I thought it, but glad I did not have to say it, because the outcome would have been very different.
Another tip from the science manual on long-lasting marriage came in the divorce-proof section: “Realize that if you can agree on what constitutes a clean room, you can agree on anything.” This seems easy enough, but aligning on the same vision isn’t always a walk in the park. We have had issues with alignment over the years and it began even before we were married. During our pre-marriage coaching, we each answered a questionnaire, and I was shocked when my then fiancé said I had an issue with drinking. I may have had the occasional glass of wine, but I was no lush. What was he thinking?
MIKE: Okay, let me explain. From the time we were 16-years-old, my wife has had issues with people drinking and driving. She felt so strongly about it that she was an advocate for Students Against Drunk Driving (now called Students Against Destructive Decisions). So, yes, she had an issue with drinking. I can’t help it that she doesn’t think like I do.
Suffice it to say we see things differently, as many couples do. Are we doomed? No, “We went to couples therapy,” which was not just part of our life, but also another section of the magazine. The author, a journalist, wrote a very authentic, vulnerable piece about the experience she and her spouse had with a family therapist and advocate. At one point, she writes, “I tell the therapist that we almost never fought before we became parents, and he laughs.”
We aren’t the first ones to recognize marriage has it challenges. A scientist, inventor, founding father, married man and father of three children himself, Ben Franklin is quoted as saying, “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half-shut afterwards.”