Say what you will about pop phenom Lady Gaga, the woman can write a catchy tune. More than a week ago, I heard one of her songs at a neighborhood sushi restaurant and I’m still finding myself singing Bad Romance.
An excellent (if very long) article in the Washington Post recently was headlined:
The Marriage Myth: Why do so many couples divorce? Maybe they just don’t know how to be married
At its core, it’s a movement that would ask of every divorcee: What if the truth was that you didn’t marry the wrong person?
What if you just didn’t know how to be married?
The article talks about marriage workshops, including those offered by the military, that try to teach people the skills of a healthy, successful marriage.
Instead of treating marriage like the idea presented in Disney movies or old-school musical theater, where you simply meet the right person and live happily ever after, these marriage advocates believe there are important skills that anyone can learn. That “happily ever after” doesn’t just happen, and we are not necessarily born with the knowledge of how to do it.
A few years later, in 1989, she sat at a conference listening to Gottman talk about the results of a decades-long study of couples at his “Love Lab” in Seattle. Gottman found that all couples — those who are happily married into their rocking-chair years and those who divorce before they hit their fifth anniversary — disagree more or less the same amount. He found that they all argue about the same subjects — money, kids, time and sex chief among them — and that for the average couple, 69 percent of those disagreements will be irreconcilable. A morning bird and a night owl won’t ever fully eliminate their differences; nor will a spendthrift and a penny pincher. What distinguished satisfied couples from the miserable ones, he found, was how creatively and constructively they managed those differences.
Hearing this, Sollee concluded that she and her fellow counselors had been “telling the public all the wrong stuff.”
If every couple has about the same number of disagreements, people who leave a marriage because of irreconcilable differences are likely to find themselves arguing just as much in their next marriage. The wallpaper might be different and the specifics may vary, but the frustrations will feel awfully familiar.
What Markman, Gottman and the others were finding undermined the basic principle driving romantic relationships in America: “That it’s about finding the right person. That if you find your soulmate, everything will be fine,” Sollee says. “That’s the big myth.”
It’s important to choose a spouse wisely, these scientists would say, but it’s equally important to be skilled in the convoluted art of conducting a marriage.
The big idea I took away is that learning how to argue productively — and how to accept that you simply won’t ever resolve some arguments — is essential in a happy marriage.
About 70 percent of arguments are irreconcilable, even in marriages that make it? To me that speaks to the importance of tolerance and finding middle ground, rather than continuing to scream at each other hoping to convince your mate that you’re right and he’s wrong.
This goes back to one of the lessons I learned in our marriage: that not every argument needs to get resolved.
Have you ever been in a bad romance because of you? What did you learn that might make you a better mate now or in the future?