Because life is a series of edits

Marrying (or Divorcing?) for Love

In Humanity, Marriage on October 13, 2006 at 2:00 am

More interesting reading on marriage, this time from Counseling and Therapy for Couples (2nd edition) by Lynn L. Long and Mark E. Young. This textbook was written by two college professors on "couples" counseling, not "marriage" counseling, as "the old standby term, 'marriage counseling,' is fast fading from the therapist's lexicon because, today, many people who are in couples are not legally married." (xix)

So far, the best part about the book has been its comprehensive history, definitions of key terms, premises, problems, and methods and techniques that comprise theories of couples therapy. Those theories (as addressed in chapters two and three) are:

  • behavior therapy
  • object relations therapy and Bowen theory
  • structural and strategic therapy
  • solution-focused therapy
  • narrative therapy and emotionally-focused couples therapy

While more technical than some of my other reading assignments, this book has been a good read, especially as a primer of understanding a basic history of psychology that somehow I never took seriously in college (something about experiments with mice and rats and not knowing why any of this mattered to my then 19-year-old self).

However, with a little more of life under my belt (including almost ten years of marriage), if I ever got kicked out of my Masters of Divinity program for not quite "mastering divinity," I think I'd give some kind of counseling/psychology endeavor a try. In a word, it's fascinating.

More an observation than a hypothesis, this quote from Long and Young was interesting:

"Althought divorce was unusual in the United States in past generations, life expectancy for both sexes was shorter than it is today. ''Til death do us part' was not as big a commitment in early 1900s as it is today. As life expectancy increased and societal expectations shifted, a new mode of marriage emerged based on intimacy, companionship, and cooperation, rather than solely on duty and responsibility."

The authors go on to speak of how "equality and choice are central tenets of modern marriage; with the freedom of choice in mate selection, friendship, love, and passion emerged as powerful ingredients in couple formation." (9) In other words, the idea of "marrying for love" has, in the past 100 years, been the motivation for tying the nuptial knot, and "this change reflects a basic change in society over the century. The women's movement, economic stress, childbearing at a later age, and increased career opportunities have influenced people's choices about when and how to become a couple." (10)

None of this may seem particularly earth-shattering in terms of new thinking about marriage, but I would argue that the emphasis on love and and passion of the past 100 years has certainly informed evangelical Christianity's take on marriage. Granted, we (hopefully) stress the ideas of life-long commitment and loyalty to our spouse, but the "marrying for love" theme sure seems more prevalent in current books, online matching services, and marriage seminars and retreats.

Sadly, the result seems to be the infamously-equal divorce rate (now somewhere between 50% and 65%, depending on who you talk to/read) that we share with the rest of the world.

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  1. Friend, can we hire you to be a consultant here in Madison??? I’m currently meeting with a gal who’s in a “courtship” relationship…which from what I gather is more serious than just casual dating. I’m not sure they really know either, but anyway…they are so clinical about this thing. They keep talking about commitment, convictions, how they match up on issues of doctrine, etc. Honestly, it’s painful for me. I love them both, but I wish they loved each other a little more. There is this nagging feeling in my heart that’s asking…where is the love, where is the passion???? It seems strange to me to have to ask “Do you like him?” as they think about getting married. I recognize there is a place for love, passion, but where in terms of importance is it? Help!

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