When a couple comes in for marriage counseling for the first time, I ask them each to describe their style of communicating to one another. From each person’s point of view, what had become the main way to share with and tell each other? Neither husband nor wife has very much to say. “Either we aren’t talking at all, or we argue.” Actually, both seem to prefer silence.
There’s a book often given to couples to read in early counseling called, “The Five Love Languages,” by Gary Chapman. I don’t suggest it, only because it is one more way to avoid communicating. It is helpful to learn, yet one more thing, about the differences between man and wife, yet how is that helpful? We are brought, again, to the main question, “Can men and women live together and remain together?”
I recommend active listening. When one person allows the other to talk without being interrupted. That person shares what is going on and the other gives the consideration of listening, just listening. It is one of the greatest gifts one human being can give to the other. What happens to our ability to tolerate the other person in the marriage? I always hear from each individual, “I wish it could be the way it was in the beginning.” So how do couples communicate in the beginning of a relationship? What happens once the commitment is made to each other as husband and wife? Why does it appear to begin to disintegrate not long after? And, why does having a child bring most couples to a point of disconnect and two children to an absolute need to divorce or find someone else?
There are exceptions, to be sure. Of course, there are, we are looking at the trend of divorce now being statistically a hopeless bet. Why is that? Statistically speaking, opinions and ‘facts’ tell us that the divorce rate is relatively low. The Huffington Post cited an article from the New York Times data blog Upshot, which states that ‘the high divorce rate of the late 1970s and early 1980s may have just been a “historical anomaly” rather than a trend.
Hmm, let’s take a look at another article:
“Marriage & divorce"
Marriage and divorce are both common experiences. In Western cultures, more than 90 percent of people marry by age 50. Healthy marriages are good for couples’ mental and physical health. They are also good for children; growing up in a happy home protects children from mental, physical, educational and social problems. However, about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.” This comes from the American Psychological Association 2016 article on marriage and divorce. As I read down the list of marriage and divorce statistics, the divorce rate ranged from a low of 3.2% in the year 2014 from a survey done by the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to a long winded article about the inability to quantify divorce statistics as there are too many factors to consider. Therefore, neither the 50% often used rate of divorce is accurate and neither are the many other statistics tossed about. We just don’t know. However, within each family, we know. We see it for ourselves the number of marriages ending in divorce and then remarriages. Hard to keep track really.
So, the more we try to figure it out, we can not figure it out. We, then, look to ourselves and our own family. In what way has divorce impacted you? I am divorced. There were three out of five of we siblings who divorced. There’s the closest statistic that I know. If we, as a population of any community, do this, I wonder what statistics we would come up with?
The heaviness of what each husband and wife carry emotionally in their day-to-day world equals what they have carried within themselves for their entire lifetime. How does one person share with another any of those deeply hidden secrets, forget the idea of husband sharing with the wife? It appears there is a bottom to be hit within a marriage also that both people must decide whether the marriage itself lives or dies.
It is a precarious spot and time when a couple comes into counseling with expectations of find a quick answer. There isn’t one. “How do I tell him I’ve fallen out of love with him?” asks the wife. “There’s someone else I’ve met who is more interested in me than my wife is.” States the husband. “Of course there is” I state to the couple. “There’s no other way for a marriage or a commitment to evolve if there is no way for you both to talk to each other. Silence and hoping for things to get better doesn’t work.” I’ve just read that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are divorcing. Really?! Doesn’t this speak right to the idea that living together works but as soon as a couple gets married within a short amount of time there will be a divorce?
This desire of wanting total freedom from the person with whom the commitment has been made comes in every relationship. How would any of us know how to talk to one another after the initial thrill of dating is over? I mean really communicate from the honest parts of us where our longing to be together originally come from. The fear of remaining together is paramount in this discussion. What or who are we missing out on. The fear of communicating and committing to that process drives more divorces than any one other thing. Underneath anger is fear and sadness. There is very little to be angry about since each of us must take into account our own part in why the relationship is the way it is.
Let’s go to the place where honesty and willingness are available for the husband and wife, man and women, partners to talk about what is underneath all of the fear.