January 20, 2006
Posted online: January 31, 2006
Couples who stay together form lasting
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
- 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
- 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.