While the blissfulness of love is quite simply a matter of the heart, marriage is more complicated and most likely leads to some form of anxiety at some point.
Setting aside the usual wrong reasons for wishing to marry- peer pressure, wanting to leave home, wanting children- to name a few, each partner comes to the marriage with what John Bowlby describes as Style of Relationship.
There are four. Three of them involve anxiety:
- Secure Attachment – Securely attached adults tend to be more satisfied in their relationships.
- Anxious Preoccupied Attachment – Unlike securely attached couples, people with an anxious attachment tend to be desperate to form a fantasy bond. Instead of feeling real love or trust toward their partner, they often feel emotional hunger. They’re frequently looking to their partner to rescue or complete them.
- Dismissive Avoidant Attachment – People with a dismissive avoidant attachment have the tendency to emotionally distance themselves from their partner.
- Fearful Avoidant Attachment – A person with a fearful avoidant attachment lives in an ambivalent state, in which they are afraid of being both too close to or too distant from others.
- (John Bowlby, 1907-1990, British child psychiatrist & psychoanalyst, cited in Matthew Hunt,
- Anxiety of Troubled Relationships: 4 styles of relationships, 5 Ways to overcome a troubled relationship, Counseling on Demand)
What are the odds of marrying a secure person? Do the math.
Luckily 50% of us are Secure Attachment- the one style without anxiety.
So what were the remaining 50% seeking in a marriage partner? Many pundits’ advise on questions to ask beforehand abound- and theirs are easy to find.
Now here we are- married. What comes next? Inevitable disagreements (money, religion, travel, jobs, children, etc).
In a word- fights. What happens when push comes to shove?
Daphne de Marneffe, The Secret to a Happy Marriage Is Knowing How to Fight,
“As couples move from whispering sweet nothings to mounting strategic wedding-planning campaigns, their minds and inboxes will be deluged with checklists and countdowns, vendors and venues. But for the most part, their attention will be riveted by the Big Day, not by what comes after.
The capstone wedding promotes the notion that its flurry of decisions represents a high point of stress and intensity, to be followed by the predictable routines of married life.
Not so. I have been treating couples as a therapist for 20 years. I see couples whose unproductive fights over the dishes or in-laws are virtually unchanged, 17 years in. I also see couples whose frozen 17-year marriage begins to thaw once they start saying difficult things that need to be said.
People who study marriage, or work with couples in therapy, as I do, talk about the need for a “we story,” a collaboration between partners about values and goals. But if couples are going to collaborate, they have to figure out how to have a productive conversation. A conversation — as opposed to parallel monologues — involves two people who are making an effort to understand each other. In the grip of strong emotion, productive conversation can be surprisingly hard.
That is why many manuals offer advice for navigating communication traps. They counsel asking your partner whether it is a good time to talk (since couples routinely broach complicated topics on the fly), and striking a balance between empathy and problem-solving. If your partner is an avoider, don’t give up trying to connect. If your partner is an emoter, stay compassionate and firm: “I’ll be able to respond better if you take it down a couple of notches.” In bad moments, we all need these skills.
A wedding is a one-shot celebration of tying the knot, but marriage is an open-ended practice of disentangling misunderstandings. I wish the newly engaged great happiness. I also wish that in between picking a caterer and a font for the invitations, they pause to think about how they fight, and how they want to talk.” (Daphne de Marneffe, Ph.D, a psychologist is the author of the forthcoming book “The Rough Patch: Marriage and the Art of Living Together.”, The Secret to a Happy Marriage Is Knowing How to Fight, in New York Times Sunday Review)
Lisa Fields shows the other dimension of fighting in How to Say I’m Sorry (And Really Mean It) citing, “Ohio State University researchers found that effective apologies have six components:
2.Explaining what went wrong
4. Declaring repentance
5. Offering to repair the situation
6. Requesting forgiveness”
(Lisa Fields, a freelance writer, How to Say I’m Sorry (And Really Mean It, Reader’s Digest)
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