Why Do Marriages Last?
October 18, 2002 2:05 PM   Subscribe

Why Do Marriages Last? Amidst all the psychobabble and religious dogmatics you find on this subject, I found Robyn Parker's review of the relevant literature to be useful, wise and true. After all, aren't the rules of a lasting relationship, whatever your gender or sexuality, the same that govern friendship, loyalty, companionship and fun? Is marriage the secretive exception it's made out to be? Are there really any rules we don't instinctively, from about the age of seven, already know? As some Rabbi once said, the three words that most often save a marriage are not I love you. They are, in fact: I was wrong. Not that easy; but not that difficult either...
posted by MiguelCardoso (36 comments total)
The reason I think my marriage has survived (seventeen years on October 26th) is because my wife and I genuinely enjoy one anothers' company. I can't think of anyone else I would rather spend time with.

And those ten rules are excellent, with numbers 5, 7, and 9 ranking the highest in my book.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:17 PM on October 18, 2002

I think the key to a good marriage is the trite and oft-metioned notion of respect. In a nutshell, act like an adult, and treat your spouse like an adult.

Yelling, screaming, stomping, hitting, teasing, guilt trips, mind games, jealosy, pouting, lying, arguing, nitpicking, insulting, belittling, etc., have no place in a marriage.

Men: Suck it up. You have to make sacrifices. You have to work hard to provide for your family. You have to give up precious video game and hanging out time. You have to mow the lawn instead of reading MeFi. You have to change diapers. You have to pick up your own clothes. Be a man, and don't treat your wife like she's your mommy -- she's not.

Ladies: Not being a woman, I'm not qualified to advise you. Sorry. :-)
posted by oissubke at 2:22 PM on October 18, 2002

Damn, wrong rules.
posted by Ms.JaneDoe at 2:22 PM on October 18, 2002

Two words: Johnny Lingo.
posted by oissubke at 2:25 PM on October 18, 2002

It all boils down to the way he kisses.
posted by oh posey at 2:27 PM on October 18, 2002

My wife is my best friend. That helps. Also, when disagreements (arguments) do arise, even though it is hard, you should try your hardest to not focus on who is right and who is wrong. Instead, focus on listening to your partner and resolving the problem. "I was wrong. Please forgive me." is a very powerful pair of sentences. Especially when followed by "I forgive you."
posted by internal at 2:36 PM on October 18, 2002

"You have to mow the lawn instead of reading MeFi."

Ha! That's why we have children. To (mis)quote Norman Thayer, "What good's a dwarf if it doesn't do chores?"
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:38 PM on October 18, 2002

Ha! That's why we have children.

True that. I haven't gotten there yet, so it slipped my mind.
posted by oissubke at 2:41 PM on October 18, 2002

marriages often last through sheer lethargy to make changes.
posted by Postroad at 2:49 PM on October 18, 2002

Miguel, we know some of your secrets to help ensure a long-lasting marriage!
posted by madamjujujive at 2:54 PM on October 18, 2002

Oh madamjujujive, I've been married three times and those have worked every time, so, while doubtlessly efficacious, they're not exactly guarantees for a long-lasting marriage. In fact, I think downgrading the importance of sex (if one can) is one of the secrets. Well, make that: I suspect... Meaning: I don't believe if for a moment.

Marriage is the combination of friendship, playing, laughing (specially at others), solidarity, complicity, lovey-dovey tenderness and dirty, honest sex. It's as if your best friend suddenly turned into someone you could not only fuck but be fucked by. And then talk about it; or eat, or smoke or sleep; with not the slightest consequence.

And, after a few hours, have to do it ("it" meaning play, talk, laugh, have sex, conspire) all over again; because both are convinced it hasn't been truly done before. Though each time is as true as the last.

Marriage is about getting a kick out of being bored; because you keep forgetting you are. Or not?

posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:14 PM on October 18, 2002

I tend to agree with Nietzsche that marriage is a long conversation, literally and metaphorically, and that when you marry, make sure it is with someone you converse well with because in the end, that is all you have.

"When marrying, one should ask oneself this question: Do you believe that you will be able to converse well with this woman into your old age? Everything else in marriage is transitory, but the most time during the association belongs to conversation."
posted by rowell at 3:14 PM on October 18, 2002

Being able to cook doesn't hurt either. The wife should also be able to cook as well.
posted by konolia at 3:17 PM on October 18, 2002

Being able to cook doesn't hurt either. The wife should also be able to cook as well.

I hope that was a joke.
posted by SoftRain at 3:32 PM on October 18, 2002

"The reason I think my marriage has survived (seventeen years on October 26th) "

My parents will celebrate their 28th on the same day. My inlaws 32nd anniversary is October 23rd, our fourth is October 24th.

I know we haven't been married that long, but, my husband is my best friend. That, to me, is the main thing that helps a marriage to last.

We have had a grand total of three fights in six years. If we have a problem with something, we sit down and talk things out.
posted by SuzySmith at 3:42 PM on October 18, 2002

Two words: Johnny Lingo.

Heh, how many cows?
posted by Plunge at 3:42 PM on October 18, 2002

I don't find that marriage is a necessary aspect of a long term relationship. I've been with my mate for (whoa) coming up on 9 years and I'm pretty sure I don't want or need to get married. It's not so much that I don't like marriage (my parents have been happily married for a long long time), it's just that I don't like the stigma associated with it. That a majority of little girls grow up thinking about what kind of wedding dress they'll have just bugs me. I don't want to stick my (as yet hypothetical) daughter with that. Further, I'm don't like that my friends, family, and strangers are always asking us when we're getting hitched. It's none of your business.
posted by maniactown at 3:52 PM on October 18, 2002

Eight cows would never fix some girls. But we're talking about marriage material here, aren't we?
posted by kileregreen at 3:55 PM on October 18, 2002

kilergreen - why are you obsessed with that site? You've posted it on two different threads today!
posted by pejamo at 4:26 PM on October 18, 2002

kilergreen - why are you obsessed with that site? You've posted it on two different threads today!

This makes it three. Enough is enough.
posted by DakotaPaul at 4:33 PM on October 18, 2002

I've been married for 22 years (and unlike Miguel, to the same woman). Friendship is definitely the key, in my opinion, along with similar beliefs on finances and religion. Compatibility and an even temperament are also important. And like oissubke says, it's going to take some sacrifices...preferably the blood of rams or goats.

Most of the couples I see divorcing are people who fought like cats and dogs before they got married, and never talked in any depth about things like money, children, or home ownership. Folks, if you don't get along before the wedding, you're sure as hell not going to get along afterwards. If your prospective partner has a serious character flaw that drives you nuts, it's going to be ten times worse once you've tied the knot.
posted by MrBaliHai at 4:37 PM on October 18, 2002

Yeah, the cook thing was a joke. But my husband is actually a pretty good cook when he feels like it. Not so good at cleaning up afterwards, but it's usually worth it.
posted by konolia at 4:38 PM on October 18, 2002

MiguelCardoso, I disagree. I think that downgrading the importance of sex is important. It's rare that a couple stays really sexually active the longer they're together. However, I know that as a woman (and all my married women friends agree) we experience so much guilt when we start having and desiring less sex. Both members frequently over-analyze WHY they're not having as much sex, instead of just enjoying it when they do and getting as much as they want. Women frequently feel they have to have sex and do it just because of the guilt that comes from not doing it. That's not good.

Yes, sex is important. But I think that there is too much importance put on the frequency of it. I think the importance should be on intimacy, not just sex.

I think the assumption of longevity of marriage is critical. During some hard times this last year, it's the fact that I said "in good times and bad" in my vows that made me put my nose to the grindstone and pull through with my marriage in tact. I will not give up on it.

My friend once told me this story: they had been married 5 years. They went through a REALLY BAD spell of about 1 1/2 years where she really couldn't stand her husband. But because she was married, she didn't feel that it was okay to give up and leave. That would be too easy. And after 1 1/2 years, they pulled through and are happier than ever. She told me that if they hadn't been married, she wouldn't have lasted 6 months. See,the assumption of permanence...
posted by aacheson at 4:47 PM on October 18, 2002

We were best friends. Getting married was just the icing on the cake (10 years as of July 18/02). I love you stinkypie.
posted by filifera at 5:12 PM on October 18, 2002

I do think that some people absorbed from who-knows-where that marriage is a place where the participants drop all concerns for politeness, respect, privacy -- in other words, that it's an emotional blowout with no mutual duties. That's a problem. It still pays to be respectful, to not say everything that leaps into your mind, to consider how your mate feels and remain as consistently positive as possible without being precious.

If things are right, that's not a hard task; it's relaxing to trust that you won't be treated to an in-the-raw display of aggression, backbiting or scratching at the deep emotional core (which was my parents' manner, ugh) but instead receive a constancy of respect. Very important. You should care more about kindness than anything else.

And also -- most of the "problems" that failing couples take Very Seriously are in fact funny. Treat them as such and you'll do fine.
posted by argybarg at 6:27 PM on October 18, 2002

Sixteen (or is it seventeen this year?) years with the same partner. Who is my best friend, and has been the only lover I've ever known.

Patience, communication, forgiveness, great sex, common interests, divergent interests, common friends, unshared friends, absolute trust, laughter, snuggles.

If marriage is a conversation, then it's important to not share every experience together, so that there's something to talk about that's new and unique.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:46 PM on October 18, 2002

Married 10 years and I recently realized the thing I can do to make everybody happy is sacrifice things I want (go out for a drink with the guys, play Quake, etc.) to focus on things the household needs (hose down the kids, fold the laundry, cooking, lawn, etc.)

Perhaps that sounds over-simplistic. All I can say is the last year or so I've been able to do it more, and this has been far and away the best year of our married lives, even with the stress of caring for three little ones.

Also: learning to cook at least five dishes your wife adores is an extremely worthwhile use of your time.
posted by sacre_bleu at 6:59 PM on October 18, 2002

My one spin with marriage has convinced me that, for me, the whole thing is rather worthless.

I do my own cleaning, prefer cooking for myself, vastly enjoy drinks with the mates on a whim, and its really lovely to have the entire bed to oneself when I feel like it, and to just spend the evening alone with a novel or video game if I don't feel like seeing people. Maintaining one's privacy is also marvelous.

Solitude is a marvelous thing.
posted by pandaharma at 9:46 PM on October 18, 2002

"Everything else in marriage is transitory, but the most time during the association belongs to conversation."

Well, that was certainly before TV and Internet.

My 3rd. marriage of 20 years owes its success, in the final analysis, to our insurmountable difference that keeps everything new, fresh, unexpected; a constant and never ending search for the mystery of the other.

My other marriages had too much accomodation and compromise until we lost our selves and our integrity; there was nothing left to have a relationship with.
posted by semmi at 10:07 PM on October 18, 2002

I'm a lifelong bachelor now and into the foreseeable future. I have issues with monogamy. I've had difficulties being faithful with the majority of the women I've dated.

So my last relationship, which was the closest I got to marrying, was an "open" one. Sex could be shared with others by mutual consent.

And in the future that is a particular characteristic that I will include in my "requirements". Number one, there are many women out there for whom monogamy is a challenge as well, number two, this removes a huge possible future fight issue from the table, and three, she just might like girls and who am I to stand in the way of that? I feel like a mutual understanding of my feelings on this issue and a mate who genuinely feels the same way will ultimately increase my chances of duplicating the longevity of my parent's marriage (some 40 years and counting).
posted by vito90 at 10:59 PM on October 18, 2002

Marriage must continually vanquish the monster that devours everything, the monster of habit. --Balzac
posted by rushmc at 11:07 PM on October 18, 2002

It's rare that a couple stays really sexually active the longer they're together.

28 years here, and we're just the same as ever.

I think the friendship thing is the most important. Nietzsche was dead right.
posted by emf at 2:06 AM on October 19, 2002

I'm no expert, but children change the equation quite drastically.

I will get back to you all in about 28 years!
posted by hama7 at 6:31 AM on October 19, 2002

I'm no expert either, hama, but my gut sense is that children intensify the equation (multiply it? factor it?). Whatever you were as a couple before children, their presence will rebound and re-echo that. If you weren't living your lives right to begin with, children might show you that.
posted by argybarg at 12:13 PM on October 19, 2002

This may sound ridiculous; pathetic even - but I've learnt a lot from this thread. What amazes me, being a Latin, is how honest and intelligently sacrificing you people are, being unencumbered by any macho or feminist showing off.

Aacheson: the story of that friend of yours who went through 18 months of not standing her husband and is now happier than ever put paid to a lifetime's theories.

My philosophy up till now was (and I'm not saying I'll change; just that I'm a bit more ashamed) the moment anything even begins to go wrong, you run.

Perhaps that's why I've had three happy marriages - but probably haven't yet had a real marriage.

Give me time! And thanks people!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:28 PM on October 19, 2002

the thing I can do to make everybody happy is sacrifice things I want
Recently, Mrs. Closet and I have been doing more of those things, and it really works... a happy marriage is easier if it involves two happy people; it was an important step for us to realise that we can (in fact, need to) have separate lives as well (I hate shopping, she hates football - soccer for those in the US; we're not afraid to be stereotypes) as well as separate social circles (in addition to what we share).
learning to cook at least five dishes your wife adores is an extremely worthwhile use of your time.
Learn early; it helps you to GET a wife in the first place...
posted by monkey closet at 1:07 AM on October 21, 2002

« Older Hubbert's Peak: the impending oil shortage   |   The male species has it easy. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments