I have recently been talking to a young lady at the Health Center at which I’m staying.  She is contemplating marriage, but has doubts.   It’s not that she doesn’t love her future husband.  Rather she is scared of the institution called marriage.

“So many get divorced,” she says.  “Apparently a good marriage has a time span of maximum fifteen years.”

This made me think.

Here is what I said to her:

You are right only if the behavior between the spouses does not change over time.

The reasons they want to be married to each other change with time.  Marriages have a lifecycle, and if both parties do not change how they relate to each other throughout its course, the marriage will dissolve emotionally and in some cases legally. .

When a couple first marries, they are typically doing so because of physical attraction and “love that cannot be explained.”  Then when and if a child is born, this relationship has to change: now they need each other to share the responsibility of raising children and supporting each other.

When those children are out of the nest and the two are left alone and retired, the needs change again.  Now they need in each other a real friend with whom to age graciously, to go places together, and to learn new things together.

It is not the same “marriage” for the length of the life cycle of a marriage.

People that do not change “grow apart” which leads to divorce legally or emotionally; by emotionally I mean they are “divorced” behaviorally while married legally.

Here are the transitions:

I have known people who get married but their behavior continues to be as if they are single.  Obviously it does not work.

When the child is born if the husband continues to have demands as if nothing has changed it is not good either.

When the children are out of the nest, if one of the spouses continues to brood about loneliness and feel depressed for being alone, for having lost the role of being a mother, it is not good either.

When looking at a potential spouse, I said to her, look how would that person be for the long run. Do not make a decision just because you are infatuated now.

OK, you are in love NOW but how will it be for you when you have a house to take care of, and mortgage, and various obligations that need to be met as a couple, as a family?

And when the children are born how will your spouse be as a parent (Check how their parents raised them; Apples do not fall far from the tree)

And how do you believe your spouse will be as a friend when you are alone and retired.   Can you imagine that? (Again, check the parents…)

A successful marriage like any organization has a lifecycle. Our style has to change as the marriage moves along the lifecycle.  If one or both of the spouses do not change, it will bring tension and stress to the marriage and may be a divorce too.

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I am aware that this blog over simplifies the causes of successful marriage or of a divorce. There are many more factors to consider.

In this blog, I wanted to highlight one factor out of many: the need to change as the marriage goes through the life cycle.

Sincerely,

Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes