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Love the One Your With (for life)

How satisfied are you in your marriage? That is a loaded question for many couples. One of the marital satisfaction assessments I use with couples I see for counseling a very pointed question is asked: "Would you marry the same person again?" Obviously a "No" answer is an indication of just how difficult saving this marriage will be. There has been so much pain, difficulty, and disconnection in the relationship that the person cannot imagine going through that experience again. They believe they made a mistake and married the wrong person.

In our society there is still a strong expectation that we are to marry for life. Even though this expectation appears to be weakening most marriage vows include something like "till death do us part". We are making an incredible commitment and many of us fail to keep it with divorce likely for 43-46 percent in the first 15 years of marriage. It is interesting that the divorce rate has come down from a high of 53 percent in 1979. I do not believe we are getting better at relationships, especially long term committed ones. I believe some of that decline is due to more people choosing not to marry. In fact, 59% of the population is married, down from 62% in 1990 and 72% in 1970 (http://www.divorcemag.com/statistics/statsus.shtml). There is an apparent trend that marriage as an expected rite of passage of adult life is losing momentum.

Maybe one of the reasons for the decline in the number of marriages is due to fear of failing. Individuals who have observed their own family's failure to stay together may want to avoid the pain and trauma of divorce. Of course that assumes that "getting married" has anything to do with relationship pain and trauma. When any involved and "committed" (whether for life or not) relationship breaks up, there is pain and trauma. Just remember, or ask your teenager, what it was like to break up with someone in high school.

It is obvious to anyone who has been in a committed relationship that we are designed for relationships to last. Why else would it be so painful when we lose a relationship if we were not made for lasting attachments to one another? We can even think of ourselves as an "attaching species". Think about it: we become a part of, attached to many things like organizations, communities, teams, churches, etc. Something about our identity is in whatever or whomever we join. It is possible to even think of addictions as attachment disorders. We become overly attached to and engaged with substances and behaviors. We even become identified by the substance we are addicted to; "I am an alcoholic". Most, if not all addictions have roots in poor or dysfunctional parental attachments. A major component of any recovery program is finding a healing community of available and responsive people. That is part of the power of Alcoholics Anonymous.

If you happen to find yourself in a difficult relationship and you believe getting out of it will solve your problem, please think again. You will find something or someone else to attach to or become a part of that defines your identity and it may be worse than what you already have. Please consider working on your present relationship and learning how to make it work. We can learn to establish secure, safe and rewarding relationships; we are made to be in harmony with one another.

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