The high divorce rates in First World nations have encouraged researchers, family counselors, and religious advocates to investigate the core foundations for the creation of a successful marriage. Starting in the 1960s, evolving social context ultimately shifted the rationale in why individuals choose to marry, and over time, divorce has come to be viewed as the preferred alternative to an unhappy marriage. One main fundamental principle to achieve marital success is to recognize women desire love, while men simultaneously need respect to feel fulfilled within the relationship. Emotional intelligence within a relationship and acknowledging various marital myths also contribute to the fundamental elements of marital success. Dissociating from marital myths and misconceptions is an essential part to understanding the true foundations for a happy and successful marriage. Appreciating and understanding how attachment styles affect marital relationships is also essential. These beliefs and attachment styles contribute to the marital bond and what each person expects from the marriage. Creating a foundation for marital success is a multifaceted and multidimensional process that requires both husband and wife to explore love, respect, effective communication, attachment styles, and willingness to address central causes of conflict.
Foundations for Marital Success
The high divorce rates in First World nations have compelled family researchers, counseling professionals, and religious advocates to question the foundations for true marital success. In the United States alone, the divorce rate fluctuates between 50% and 67% of all married couples (Gottman, 1993). This statistic speaks to the prevalence of divorce and the basic needs for married couples to understand and employ the tools needed for a successful marriage. Modern marriage has redefined why individuals choose to marry and choose to divorce. Fears of entering a marriage to only exit in divorce has troubled brides and grooms to the point where superstitious practices have become common practice prior to one's wedding day. Superstition and folklore aside, one of the key elements for marital success is accepting "Love isn't all you need." Although men and women both feel love, the expectations for love are different between the sexes within the context of marriage. The female priority is to feel loved, while the male priority is to feel respected (Eggerichs, 2004).
An additional construct describing a successful marriage has been coined as an "emotionally intelligent marriage." Put simply, an emotionally intelligent marriage is a dynamic in which negative thoughts about one's spouse are kept from overwhelming positive feelings (Gottman, & Silver, 1999). Being able to disassociate from myths and misconceptions about marriage and identify with core conflict issues also contribute to marital success. For example, personality problems and screaming matches do not ruin a marriage (Gottman, & Silver, 1999). Couples must also be able to engage in active listening to access positive means to solve problems. Once married, the husband and wife each bring their respective attachment styles and beliefs in to the relationship. These beliefs and attachment styles contribute to the marital bond and what each person expects from the marital relationship. Marriage represents a personal and complex connection with another individual that requires love, respect, emotional intelligence, and understanding of attachment as the foundations of marital success.
In the latter half of the 20th century, social roles between men and women started to evolve, and consequently marriage is held in a difference regard than it was a half century ago. Women entered the workforce, which afforded them means for financial independence. The financial independence of both men and women ultimately altered one major perceived benefit of marriage: security. Since the 1960s, adults are waiting longer to marry, are more likely to have children out of wedlock, less likely to disapprove of premarital or nonmarital sex, and are more likely to divorce (Taylor et al., 2007, p. 25). Despite this evidence, 9 out of 10 adults in the U.S. will eventually marry (Taylor et al., 2007, p. 25). The majority of adults will still marry, yet over half of these unions will end in divorce. Over recent decades, the younger marriage population is less likely to view marriage in an unbreakable, religious context, and instead considers marriage to be an expression of love and happiness (Taylor et al., 2007, p. 25-27). This change in standard has subsequently made divorce a preference over an unhappy marriage. Studies indicate that Americans believe mom-and-dad homes are the best environment in which to raise children, however, if married parents are very unhappy with one another, divorce is the best option, both for them and their children (Taylor et al., 2007). Divorce is again viewed as the preferred alternative.
Fears of having a failed and unhappy marriage have inspired a host of superstitions. Every culture has superstitions regarding marriage and the actual wedding day itself (Napolitano, 2010). Superstitions and folklore have developed over the centuries to bring the bride and groom good luck for marital success, and to also acknowledge "bad luck" as rationale for failed marriages. Superstitions have been so extensively practiced they have become ingrained as regular components of wedding traditions (Napolitano, 2010). For example, reasons why a bride wears white and a veil, why the groom carries the bride over the threshold, the bride's need to have something old, new, and borrowed, and why the bride and groom getaway vehicle is decorated with noisy items are all wedding practices taken from superstition (Napolitano, 2010). Other wedding superstitions include: it is good luck for a bride to dream of her wedding day; feed a cat out of an old shoe and the wedding day will be a happy one; it is unlucky for two people to marry who were born in the same month; pearls are symbols for tears, and for each pearl the bride wears, her husband will give her cause for crying (Napolitano, 2010). The hope and desire to have a successful marriage has been embedded into superstition. Men and women embarking on a marital journey practice wedding and marriage superstitions to sustain one of the oldest perceived foundations of marital success.
Although social context has changed in the last fifty years, the tenets of marriage have not. The nature of marriage is still favored as a lifetime commitment, rooted in religious sanctity that constitutes safety, trust, and companionship. Honoring the fundamental ideals of marriage requires two fundamental human practices: love and respect. Researchers and observers of marital success insist that "Love isn't all you need" (Eggerichs, 2004). If a successful marriage was solely a matter of love, the divorce rate would plummet; five out of ten marriages today are ending in divorce because love alone is not enough (Eggerichs, 2004). The problem with linking emotional expression, i.e. love, and marital success is men and women have different emotional needs within the relationship. Love is still vital, especially for the wife, but what is typically overlooked within a marriage is the husband's need for respect (Eggerichs, 2004). The wife has specific needs to feel loved, and the husband has specific needs to feel respected.
One of the critical foundations for marital success is the awareness of the wife's need for love and the husband's need for respect. Wives long to feel validated with love from their husbands, yet husbands are unable to provide this show of affection if they do not feel respected. A husband does not hold warm feelings of affection and love when he believes his wife has contempt for him as a human being (Eggerichs, 2004). The direct relationship between respect and love is centered in irony; the strongest need for a wife is to feel loved, and is ultimately undermined by disrespect. Love is widely understood as a key to marital success; it is the respect component that is often overlooked as a major component to a successful, fulfilling marriage. Love is only half the equation: wives are made to love, want to love, and expect love; husbands are made to be respected, want respect, and expect respect (Eggerichs, 2004). Recognizing the vitality of respect for the husband is the missing element is many unhappy marriages.
Eggerichs describes the irony as the Crazy Cycle, "without love from him, she reacts without respect; without respect from her, he reacts without love" (2004). The cycle continues as both husband and wife fail to recognize their spouse's needs and how to reciprocate those needs. While referring to personal experience as a marriage counselor, Eggerichs explains how wives often ask, "Does my husband love me as much as I love him?" If a husband does not act as loving or affectionate as the wife expects, the wife tends to doubt her husband's love. Wives want their husbands to become more sensitive and caring men, and in order to do this, wives often criticize their husbands to encourage them to be more loving (Eggerichs, 2004). This criticizing fuels the husbands belief he is being disrespected. Eggerichs continues by exploring the husband's perspective, and explains husbands rarely ask, "Does my wife love me as much as I love her?" A husband knows his wife…