In addition to the new column for LA Family Magazine, Marital Musings has gotten some great mentions recently and been asked to review a marriage book. Thank you for all of the support that has helped Marital Musings grow and reach new readers over the last three years!
The premise of "Change Your Life, Not Your Wife: Marriage-Saving Advice for Success-Driven People" is that high-achievers have qualities that make them successful by society's standards (power, prestige, wealth), but often unsuccessful in maintaining healthy intimate relationships. Although authors Tony Ferretti, PH.D. and Peter J. Weiss, M.D. do address this idea (particularly in Chapter 7), most of the book is applicable to anyone in a relationship, not just the "success-driven." The writing style is simple and straightforward and many relationship issues are illustrated through the use of fictional couples. One such couple, Steve and Mary, is woven throughout the book. Their story, while a bit stereotypical, provides insights into how marital problems can be rooted in childhood experiences as well as the pressure to make money and acquire material possessions.
The authors describe five key characteristics essential to a successful marriage:
Partnership of Equals
Marriage Is a Priority
Effective Communication and Conflict Resolution
Later in the book these marriage essentials are contrasted with what the authors call "relationship killers." These are personality issues (e.g. perfectionism and criticizing) that slowly but powerfully undermine the spirit of partnership and intimacy in marriage. Many of the book's lessons culminate in Chapter 8, "Creating Your Ideal Marriage." In this chapter Ferretti and Weiss give a detailed description of how couple's therapy works. This information could be valuable for couples considering counseling who are hesitant because they are unfamiliar or intimidated by the process.
Overall, I found "Change Your Life, Not Your Wife: Marriage-Saving Advice for Success-Driven People" very effective in reinforcing important aspects of marriage. I think the title does the book a disservice by creating the impression that the book was written specifically for hard-driving successful husbands when the principles discussed apply to a broad spectrum of married men and women.
In the wake of President Obama's support for same-sex marriage, opponents of gay marriage are mobilizing. The media has been filled with activists outlining the ways gay marriage is harmful to society. One particular danger cited is the negative impact same-sex marriage will have on "traditional" marriage. The problem with this argument is that marriage has been in trouble for years. A divorce rate that hovers near 50%, an increase in the choice of cohabitation over marriage, and the growing belief that marriage is obsolete are some of the factors that have had a tremendous impact on the institution. Common relationship issues such as money problems, failure to communicate, alcohol abuse and infidelity continue to tear apart marriages. Personally, I've struggled in my marriage, known others who have struggled, and have many friends and family members who have divorced. The reasons have never been remotely related to gay people or gay marriage.
As forces mobilized in states like California (over Prop 8) or recently in North Carolina, time, energy and millions of dollars were spent on anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives. Millions more will likely be spent in the upcoming months. Meanwhile, the heterosexual marriages these activists are alledgedly protecting continue to languish. Military marriages, for example, are facing unprecedented strain with multiple tours of duty and rampant PTSD. How many of those marriages could be helped if some of those anti-gay resources went to organizations that support military families such as Project Sanctuary, Coming Home Project or National Military Family Association?. Both military and civilian marriages could be helped by greater awareness of marriage education and counseling services and the opportunity to take advantage of such programs without undue financial hardship.
Instead of fighting against gay marriage, I wish more time and money was being spent to support the struggling institution of straight marriage.
After the spectacle of a wedding and short-lived marriage of Kim Kardashian, there was great speculation that this was a case of unholy matrimony. Many believe Kim orchestrated the marriage for publicity and money, both of which she received in great quantities. It furthered the opinion that marriage is just one more thing the Kardashians will exploit to grow their empire.
If you believe Khloe Kardashian, this is not true. Recently Khloe and her husband, professional basketball player Lamar Odom announced they have suspended their reality show Khloe & Lamar until his basketball career is back on track. As an NBA fan I am well aware of Odom's disappointing performance after being traded from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Dallas Mavericks. He was asked to step away from the Mavs mid-season amid speculation that the reality show was a distraction. At this time his NBA future is uncertain.
Kardashian has said that stopping the show will mean less pressure on the couple. She said, "I'm a modern girl, but you should put your husband first, I like to think divorce is not an option." While I would never expect to be in the role of Kardashian-defender, I do think this is the right move. Although one can question the initial decision to subject a marriage to all that a reality show brings, at least Kardashian and Odom seem to be taking the step that may have helped other couples who tried to mix marriage and reality TV with disastrous results.