Marriage Therapy

Goals of marriage


Why do people get married? Between 2008 and 2009 over two thousand Irish couples were surveyed and asked to name five reasons why they were planning to marry. Most could come up with only a few answers. The majority responded that they wanted to show commitment; that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together; or that they wished to start a family. However, a worrying number of couples responded that family pressure had played a role; that they felt marriage was expected by society; or that because they had been together for so long, marriage was simply the next logical step. Wishing to spend the rest of your lives together and have a family are valid reasons for marriage. However, in the developed world it is quite possible to do this without getting married. Yet people still choose to marry. In some countries, there may be financial and legal benefits to being married, and to raising children in a union recognized by the state, but very few couples mentioned these practicalities, and they rarely prompt people to get married. Despite the fact that marriage is a big decision and should be a positive step in a couple’s relationship when questioned further, most couples were unable to say how getting married would benefit their relationship. What are the benefits or goals of marriage? Family and relationship therapists believe that marriage has three major goals: the creation of a family; happiness; and the personal growth of the individuals involved. The vast majority of couples marry with the intention of having children, so starting a family is the most obvious goal. However, there is a great difference between having children and the creation of a loving family, which is much harder to achieve. It demands time, skill, and lots and lots of patience. Therapists suggest that a good rule of thumb is to strive to become the parent you would like your partner to be and to develop within yourself the qualities, that you value in your partner or valued in your parents. Therapists believe that most people get married in the hope that this will increase their store of personal happiness. A good marriage can and will increase happiness, but even the best marriage can help only so much. If you are a naturally pessimistic person or regularly suffer from low moods, marriage is very unlikely to change you. However, spending time with those who cherish, value, and care about you creates positive sentiments, and you feel happier as a result. Marriage does not form a barrier to the stresses and strains of life, but a good relationship can make them easier to bear. Our closest companions are often the ones who bear the brunt of our bad moods and complaints; because of this, it is important to spend enough time together where you act in a loving manner towards each other. This is called ‘positive sentiment override’. Without enough positive sentiment, the setbacks of life and the struggles and difficulties of marriage can overwhelm you. Lack of positive sentiment makes a relationship unstable; a husband or wife in this situation is likely to question the relationship and conclude that the marriage is not contributing to his or her personal happiness. Marriage affords an opportunity for personal growth. Therapists believe that this is one of marriage’s most important goals. When prompted, most of the couples interviewed said they believed that marriage would help them to grow and develop – in that it would help them to become more mature and responsible adults. However, very few of us think through the implications of how this might work. When we are single or living alone, we do what we like. If we choose to spend our free time watching sport, cleaning the house, playing computer games, shopping, drinking with our friends or working, there is no one to stop us – we please ourselves. Marriage helps us grow because it holds up a mirror to our shortcomings. While we might well have disliked things about ourselves as single people, most of the criticism directed at us was self-criticism. When we marry or live with a partner, it is a lot harder to hide from our flaws – there is always somebody willing to tell us. When people get married there is a period of adjustment. Quite often people behave in ways their partners dislike, but without meaning to hurt or annoy them. Very few of us can withstand constant criticism – even if we are genuinely in the wrong and have behaved in a selfish, immature or inconsiderate way. Most people take criticism to heart and we begin to see ourselves based on the complaints of our loved ones. This spurs on some to make improvements; others get defensive and decide that their partners are unreasonable or impossible to please. One of the smartest things a couple can do is to have regular discussions about their relationship. You could decide to do this every three or six months. During this ‘state of the nation’, a couple discusses how the relationship has changed and developed over the last period, what positive adjustments both parties have made, and where improvement is still needed. Positive feedback is just as important as problems and complaints. Positive feedback reinforces our goodwill to grow and develop as people and makes us more willing to tackle problems. A frank and honest discussion about the marriage also offers a chance for both people to reflect on the relationship, reaffirm why they are together, discuss what they hope to achieve as a couple, and reignite the meaning behind their marriage.

Goals Of Marriage

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