MARCH 28, 2010
Couples, gay and straight, are often living together before they have any kind of commitment ceremony. People want to make the right choice in mate selection, or they may want to see if they can stand to live with the person they love. Obviously for gay couples residing in states that do not recognize gay marriage, there is a problem of equity and legal status provided for straight couples that tends to discourage gays from making a date at the church. For straight couples who do have the legal right to wed, there is a tendency to proceed slowly because they fear divorce. With divorce rates hovering around the 50% mark, it’s enough to scare anybody away from commitment! And yet, the human being is wired to form deep and close bonds with others, and choose people to spend our lives with; hoping for the best. Attaching to somone we love, is one of the strongest bonds on earth. This is why when doing couples therapy, I consider most couples, gay or straight, to be essentially “married” long before they have an official commitment ceremony.
But what most people fail to realize is that marriage/ partnership is not about finding a place of safety or that special someone who can finally makes us happy. Marriage does not lead to divorce; the real culprit is the refusal of one or both parties to grow through the process. Personal contentment, spiritual/emotional grounding and joy are not the kind of gifts we can give each other. Finding ways to live in a positive state of mind only comes from choices made deep inside our self. We can choose to see the glass half full vs. half empty; Choose to do things that please us vs. instead of placing ourselves in bad situations; Choose to speak our minds in the presence of our loved ones vs building up quiet resentments. This is why David Schnarch, a nationally prominent marital therapist often says “Marriage is a people growing machine.” It may well produce the biggest changes in a person’s life.
But change is seldom easy. We don’t usually change unless we have to. We would rather not face personal challenges, choosing rather to avoid, or run away from things that scare us; and but when we begin to realize that many times we are running from ourselves, we really have to stop and figure things out. In the people growing machine of marriage, we have the opportunities to grow through our personal terrors. We have the ability to face our crazy feeling emotional gridlocks and come out triumphant. (Or, we can “Get outta Dodge,” only to realize that our less than best selves arrived in our new destination ahead of us!)
Research indicates that couples who nearly split up but stay together are glad they stayed together ten years later because things actually did get better. Perhaps marriage provides the most fertile ground for personal and marital therapy! I encourage you to stick with the process. Don’t abandon your efforts prematurely. We construct ourselves through the choices we make, and when we choose to grow through relational challenges, we become the artists of our own “El doce vita”…the good life.