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Marriage and Divorce
Interview One: Olivia/College Student
When Olivia speaks of her own relationship, she does exhibit some of the traits common to young people when selecting a mate, meaning that she admitted to being attracted to her boyfriend initially based on his smile, and height, also citing his sense of humor as something which drew her towards him.
Olivia demonstrates some practical notions of marriage, along with some that are still incredibly youthful, which appear to whitewash some of the nuances and intricacies of marriage. For example, Olivia does explain that she thinks a couple should be together for at least three years before marriage to really test their compatibility with one another. Olivia also explains that marriage is something where both parties should openly discuss the details of it -- such as when the marriage will occur and where the couple will live. She also seems to view marriage as ideally manifesting as a form of close companionship (companionate marriage). However, there is a danger that she sees marriage in far too idyllic terms. By citing a story about the rosy memories of her 92-year-old recalling the memories of her 68-year marriage as an example of what marriage means to her, it seems as though she can only anticipate the positive parts of marriage. "My grandmother told us that Poppy was not only her perfect match, but her best friend. Their relationship was so successful because they thrived on communication, trust, and most of all love." This anecdote, while warm and cheerful, might indicate that her grandparents had a great partnership, but it doesn't mean that Olivia understands that conflict management is a part of marriage. Communication, trust, and love are vital elements of a proper, lasting union, but a lot of couples have these elements and they still can't make it through all of life's hurdles.
Olivia's answer didn't indicate the work that she understood marriage to require. Olivia seemed to think that once one found one's perfect match everything would fall into place, but that's not necessarily true. Olivia's answer still demonstrates too much of "fairy tale" influence. "My grandparents believed that they were meant to be together forever, and never once thought about being with anybody else. When I grow up, I hope to find someone to share that type of relationship with." This answer does not take into account the fact that her grandparents were from a completely different generation, who wouldn't consider being with anyone else, because they were socially conditioned not to. Generally, the people who are most honest and most realistic about marriage are the ones who admit that it's often very difficult and sometimes you want to get out of it.
Olivia's thoughts on divorce are also both accurate yet naive. For example, she accurately illuminates how divorce is sometimes the healthiest option for some couples. Olivia's remark, "When two people are unhappy with each other, divorce makes sense" is actually one of the wisest and yet most naive comments of all. Divorces usually happen for a range of intricate and nuanced reasons, and yet, one could argue that fundamentally, one can simplify them all down to the fact that couples are no longer happy with one another. However, there are lots of couples who make it through some of the unhappiest times and pull through even stronger than before. Olivia seems to have a very simplified view of divorce and it appears as though a great deal of her perspective is simply limited by her youth, which is understandable, as well as the fact that her family has not known a great deal of struggle with their relationships. For example, it appears as though no one in her immediate family has ever suffered from divorce, which could give Olivia the perspective that marriage is about finding the right person and then everything will still work out okay. For many couples, they may have found the right person but they still need to figure out how to be with that person through tough times and work through conflict -- and Olivia's perspective doesn't seem to account for such occurrences.
Thus, Olivia's opinion reflects the innocence of youth and general inexperience. She doesn't treat divorce with any sense of taboo, which people from previous generations might. However, her thoughts indicate that she will need some more life experience to see what it takes for a real relationship to work or to end.
Interview Two: Philo Bene
Philo Bene is my mother's best friend and is someone I have known my entire life. She's an incredibly strong woman who has survived a lot in life, including breast cancer and she has been extremely successful in life. It was certain that her thoughts and opinions on this matter would be very illuminating.
Not surprisingly, her age and her life experience were immediately revealed in the things that she listed as being important in a partner. For example, she listed traits that signaled a strong sense of character was important to her such as honesty and trustworthiness, respect, consideration, among others.
Philo also appears to believe in the importance of a companionate union. For example, she explains that getting married for the right purpose is important and that she views that purpose as having someone to "share your dreams, your fears, your friendship, your romance, and your life with. Best friends, best lovers, someone you can trust with your heart." This is a description which is very revelatory of the pillars of a companionate marriage where the utmost importance is placed on the bond between the husband and wife.
Philo's answers on divorce are also revelatory for an adult of her age and her life experience. Philo answers regarding divorce are extremely specific. "Divorce makes sense when there is domestic violence, abuse, verbal abuse, or living a duplicitous life/lifestyle apart from the spouse." This fundamentally nails nearly every situation when a divorce is necessary.
While Philo makes some interesting points about "divorce culture," namely she doesn't believe in it, her remarks could be argued to be a tad heavy-handed. For instance she argues that the propensity of divorce in American culture today has not impacted her relationship. Even though that argument is fair enough, it might be somewhat over-simplistic. No relationship exists in a vacuum, isolated from the rest of the world. If half of all the married couples that one knows are ending up divorced, then that could invariably have an impact on one's relationship, particularly if a couple is going through tough times.
Philo's perspective on conflict, conflict resolution and communication believe the importance revolves around having an open mind, an open perspective, and the ability to really listen. Philo describes listening as "to listen to what someone is saying with an open mind rather than an interpretation of what someone is saying -- not to react, but to take time to process and think before speaking, and communicate." Philo explains that in a relationship, there is no right or wrong, but just two different people from different backgrounds that have different viewpoints that need to be respected.
Philo also meditates on the experience of divorce for children saying, that on the one hand, children need to be told that what occurs between a man and a woman has no direct impact on how much they love their child which is a fair and accurate appraisal. However, what Philo describes in more dysfunctional households is how parents use the child as a pawn in their own fights. "I have seen way too many times parents using their children as a wedge or saying negative things about the "other" spouse to the child -- this is not fair to the child. We all have ONE mother and ONE father -- and it is for no one to say negative things to that child if they have marital issues -- it is between that man and woman -- the child is there to love and respect as a human." Philo cites this as a common phenomenon with children of divorce.
Interview Three: Liz, mother
Liz has been divorced and is currently remarried. When she reflects on her first husband, she recalls a strong, powerful man, with a great deal of charisma who commanded attention and had no care for what others said about him. He was very generous and completed tasks quickly; he was thrilling in comparison to the conservative, Spanish-Catholic home that I was raised in with my single mother. I always felt safe with him, and I truly felt that he would never let anyone hurt me.
Their decision to get married was as the result of a whirlwind romance; as Liz explains, "Jeff wanted to have a family and so just a couple of months after meeting I got pregnant. This was not an accident. Jeff wanted a child. I was 27 and Jeff was 41. We had a daughter and got married. In that order." Given all of this deep…[continue]
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