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January 20, 2006
Posted online: January 31, 2006

Couples who stay together form lasting bonds

University of Illinois Extension

He says they have grown apart and are no longer as close as they once were. She says their relationship has grown stale.

Do they stay committed to the marriage, or do they look elsewhere for the fulfillment they once felt as a couple?

"If the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, fertilize your own lawn," advised Deborah McClellan, University of Illinois Extension educator, family life.

In a consumer culture where the drive is to obtain the best cell phone, largest TV screen and fastest computer modem, the marriage relationship becomes disposable. Yet couples who opt to divorce often find they made the wrong choice.

In a 20 year national study of 2,000 married adults, researchers found that divorces seemed to fall into two categories. Forty percent of the couples who divorced reported high levels of conflict and very low levels of happiness and involvement together. But 3 out of 5 divorced couples indicated they were experiencing the average marital problems---the same quarrels and disagreements as the couples who remained married. Of those divorced couples, almost half said they were very happy and reported strong feelings of love for their spouse just one and one-half years prior to the divorce.

"Instead of building on their relationship, they looked elsewhere," said McClellan. "As a result, their emotional well-being was reported as lower than the individuals who stuck with their marriage."

American married couples are typically happier, wealthier and healthier than single people and unmarried couples who are living together. Staying committed to a marriage through the rough spots often brings about change that can rejuvenate a relationship.

Marital education, which is not to be confused with therapy, can be beneficial for couples just starting out in marriage, as well as for those who have spent 50 years together. Communication skills can be learned. McClellan provides workshops on helping couples rekindle the romance, and form a closer bond.

McClellan provided these suggestions on staying connected in marriage.

- Consider the relationship more important than material possessions. Our desire to have more things causes us to spend more hours at work to pay for them. We sacrifice time that could be spent together.

- Remind yourself of the benefits of your marriage. Pull out old photos and memorabilia and remember what attracted you to your spouse.

- Remember that no one gets it all. Even in great marriages, you may come to the realization that marriage is not everything you had hoped it would be. Stay focused on what you have in the relationship instead of what is missing.

- Keep a long-term view. Spend time dreaming about your future together. Keep that vision of growing old together in place, even when you are angry.

- To make a better marriage, give your spouse a compliment, exchange small kindnesses, share a joke, and count your blessings. Spend five minutes telling each other how lucky you are to be together.

© 2005 The Cairo Gate