Why people don’t trust marriage

By Hanalei Vierra, Ph.D. and M’Lissa Trent, Ph.D.

Hanalei Vierra, Ph.D. (Dr. He) and M’Lissa Trent, Ph.D. (Dr. She)

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2010 the number of married couples in American households has dropped below half for the first time ever. We offer our thoughts here as to why trust in the institution of marriage has diminished in the 21st century as well as some of the causes of the negative filter that marriage is currently being viewed through.

1) No matter how you slice it, marriage is expensive. The ring, the ceremony, the life and health insurance, the house, the kids, the retirement fund, the college fund, your daughter’s wedding, etc….all of it can cause pit-of-your-stomach anxiety. People will always be affected by a sputtering economy and make decisions based on their immediate survival needs, much less try to figure out how to best approach and create a sound financial future for a marriage. Do you need that huge ring, big wedding, or Ivy League school tuition when you are already squeaking by trying to pay your monthly rent? While we believe that love — if an option — can always trump the practicalities of money, that doesn’t mean that many, many marriages haven’t crashed and burned as a result of financial hardship.

2) Women and men have different roles now when it comes to finances. Women are better able to support themselves and their children these days on their own if they need to. So, not as many women are willing to stick around in an unhealthy marriage as they were when there were fewer career opportunities available. For men who want a more traditional role in marriage as the breadwinner while their wives raise the children at home, it is a challenge to find a woman who has not advanced her thinking regarding the changing roles for women. This can be very discouraging for men who are challenged to change their mindset about conventional social norms.

3) Men are much more leery of getting into a financially binding agreement due to the fear of divorce and the loss of half of their life assets. The word “prenup” has become a very commonplace term in our relationship lexicon today. It has also created a pre-marital battleground for couples that exposes pre-existing mistrust and forces them to wrestle with suspicion and uncertainty about each other at a time when they normally are trying to celebrate the joy of their love. This fear has hijacked many well-intended engagements from making it to the altar.

4) In a “me” society, there is an overwhelming lack of commitment to a “we.” This is the age of choices, and for many people, the freedom to make those choices is very alluring. For some, commitment seems analogous to imprisonment and lack of choice. The first part of falling in love and finding a “soul mate” fulfills the fantasy aspect of marriage, and the “me” in all of us gets a big charge from this. But once the hard work of a relationship becomes necessary, the feeling of confinement can recur unless one is able to remember the bigger picture of what can be learned in a long term committed relationship. Now that people are living well into their eighties, the idea of living with and sleeping with the same person for sixty years is not quite as appealing, especially when the differences that were acceptable at first inevitably start to feel threatening and unacceptable. Unless there is some effort on the couple’s part to learn relationship skills of how to overcome those differences and become more of a “we”, the self-preservation imperative of the “me” takes over, and the “we” connection is damaged.

5) Pathology is accepted less in a marriage. Alcohol/drug abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, infidelity, etc. are all bright blinking lights on the marital radar screen and less tolerated these days than in previous generations. None of these dysfunctions should be tolerated in a marriage, but the reason they always were was to keep the denial in place that served the co-dependent concept of what marriage used to be. While there is less tolerance today for these marriage-busters, quite often this translates for many people as a lack of tolerance for marriage itself.

6) Men and women are confused about what the value and meaning of marriage is, as well as what their roles in marriage are supposed to be. The divorce rate in and of itself is scaring people off. We are in a transition period of what a healthy, mature, long term marriage looks like, sounds like, walks and talks like. The survival-mode, co-dependent model of marriage taught to us by our parents no longer suits a new generation of men and women who want the quality of a married life to be something better than what they grew up around. Many people come from broken homes and don’t want to repeat what they witnessed and experienced through the trauma of divorce, so they reject the idea all together as a safeguard.

7) Many people still get married at a young age when there is a lack of emotional maturity. Statistics find that the most successful marriages these days are the ones where both partners are educated, started careers on their own, had time to be on their own, and married at a later age. This profile creates a possibility for a much more realistic and mature approach to marriage, but it also points out how the deck is stacked against young people who venture into the marital poker game of life. And when you come right down to it, isn’t the lack of maturity really the underlying cause for all the above marital bugaboos? Not to oversimplify the intent of this article, but it seems that a good stiff dose of emotional maturity really is what makes marriage something that feels do-able and valuable–at least it does to us.

Hanalei Vierra, Ph.D. (Dr. He) and M’Lissa Trent, Ph.D. (Dr. She) are a married couple who have worked together for over 14 years coaching troubled relationships to clearer communication, deeper intimacy, and healthier partnership. See their web site at www.sandiegotherapists.com/conjoint.html For more information on Relationship Advice for Men, go to www.HowToKeepHer.com on the web, where you will also be able to purchase Dr. He and Dr. She’s new eBook entitled “Making Relationships Work”. Please email any questions to: DrHanalei@aol.com.

Related posts:

  1. Dr. He Said, She said: Codependency vs. true love — how to tell them apart
  2. DR. HE SAID, DR. SHE SAID: Girlfriend uncertain about taking the plunge
  3. DR. HE SAID, DR. SHE SAID: Time for New Year’s relationships resolutions
  4. REVIEW: ‘I Do, I DO’ There’s nothing like a happy marriage
  5. DR. HE SAID, DR. SHE SAID: Coping with financial stress on a relationship

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Posted by Staff on Jun 16, 2011. Filed under Columns, Dr. He Said, She Said, Editorial Columns. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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