Are your expectations killing your marriage?
Finkel claims that persistent high divorce rates and low levels of marital satisfaction are a direct result of couples being unable to meet the psychological expectations of their partners. While overall demands on marriages have not changed much over time, he said, the nature of the demands has shifted and they require more time and effort to satisfy.
“In the past, you married someone who helped you meet your basic needs, but over time, love increasingly conquered marriage. Now people are looking to their spouses to help them discover who they are, and to achieve the best version of themselves,” Finkel said.
Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Chicago, Finkel said that most couples struggle because the change in demands calls for more investment in marriage in an age when many people have less time on their hands.
“People used to marry for basic things like food and shelter. In the 1800s, you didn’t have to have profound insight into your partner’s core essence to tend to the chickens or build a sound physical structure against the snow,” Finkel said. “Back then, the idea of marrying for love was ludicrous.”
“In 2014, you are really hoping that your partner can help you on a voyage of discovery and personal growth, but your partner cannot do that unless he or she really knows who you are, and really understands your core essence. That requires a much greater investment of time and psychological resources,” he said.
A blissful minority are in marriages that fulfil these deeper demands, and those marriages are better than the best marriages of yesteryear, Finkel claims. But the average marriage falls short because the time and effort required were impossible for most to meet.
Just for the record, this researcher is highly controversial and has yet to really find a lot of supporters for it. Sometimes, the most accurate theories start out that way though…
It’s an idea worth listening to. Obviously, no one would advocate going back to a utilitarian type marriage — but, has the pendulum swung a bit too far in the other direction?
Or, perhaps, are we just too impatient expecting in a few years what really takes a few decades?