Magazine article Insight on the News

Retying the Marriage Knot: Marriage Is a Life Sentence of Hard Labor, but Then Again, What's a Ball and Chain For?

Magazine article Insight on the News

Retying the Marriage Knot: Marriage Is a Life Sentence of Hard Labor, but Then Again, What's a Ball and Chain For?

Article excerpt

Marriage is a life sentence of hard labor, but then again, what's a ball and chain for?

Cinderella and the prince, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Jasmine. The format has been drummed into us since childhood: Boy meets girl, overcomes some obstacles, they marry and live happily ever after. End of story.

But if we could peek past "ever after," would we find Cinderella nagging the prince to clean the palace? Or the Beast threatening to move out if Beauty's mother moves in? Or Aladdin and Jasmine in a funk because the magic has worn off that old carpet ride?

Most professional counselors agree that couples should be prepared to work through the rough spots of their marriages, but few couples have the tools to help them. "You absolutely do have to work at relationships," says Bernard Guerney, president of the National Institute of Relationship Enhancements. "There comes a point when the passions wane and reality sets in."

Despite depressing divorce statistics, there is much to be optimistic about on the marriage front says Diane Sollee, director of the Washington-based Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education. "I'm excited because here is a great approach that hasn't been widely tried yet," she says. "We have increasing divorce statistics because we have a whole country where everyone knows someone who went to therapy and still got divorced. People are bitter about therapy."

Marriage is not a disease, says Sollee, adding that the way to make a marriage last is to give partners the tools to work through problems in a positive way. "The difference between a healthy marriage and a troubled one is how they handle conflict," she says. Decades of research have shown that "couples who don't discuss things are the first to get divorced."

Mike and Harriet McManus are working to get couples talking openly and honestly. Their program, Marriage Savers, emphasizes a few simple points: Before marriage, couples need to remain chaste, learn communication skills and go through counseling that includes an in-depth survey to determine compatibility. To help them do this, Marriage Savers assigns them "mentor couples," most often a mature couple from their church who works with them during a four-month period and often remains in touch with the newlyweds. …

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