I was fueling at a gas station in Wisconsin when something caught my attention from the periphery. It may be that my clinical training as a marriage and family therapist leads to an above-average critical nature, but I find it endearing to a certain extent that drive thru wedding chapels exist. In retrospect, endearing may not be the correct term but it nonetheless illustrates what William Doherty (2001) refers to as a consumerist attitude towards marriage. I would suggest that the terms marriage and relationship are interchangeable to a certain extent, especially as cohabitation is increasingly becoming the norm. While I would also like to differentiate between marriage and relationship, in that the former would be considered more permanent, recent divorce statistics report a rate of 3.6% per 1,000 individuals. This may not seem alarming at first glance but when framed into the context that the marriage rates are 6.8% per 1,000 individuals (CDC, 2013), the rate of failure for marriages in 2012 was roughly 53%. The associated collateral damage of divorce such as children and financial obligations are some of the numerous factors that are not recognized.
That being said, it is important to recognize and fully understand the consequences of marriage and divorce. It may not be financially feasible to see a therapist or counselor on a weekly basis in order to understand how the past manifests in the present, but there is a simple exercise that can provide insight into ones role in intimate relationships. While in a comfortable space, create enough columns for one’s childhood caretakers and recent partners, listing their positive and negative qualities. This may not answers to deeper questions, but typically partners will align with one or both of the caretakers as theories on attachment note that partners are attracted to another based on similarities. This is counterintuitive to popular belief but individuals are ultimately drawn to routine – e.g. favorite movies, favorite dishes, favorite brands.
In conclusion, remember that “[t]he meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances[.] If there is any reaction, both are transformed” (Jung, C.G., n.d.)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Marriage and divorce.
Jung, C.G. (n.d.)
Doherty, W. J. Take back your marriage: Sticking together in a world that pulls us apart. New York, NY: Guilford Press.