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Is Marriage Obsolete -- or Evolving?

The old reasons for marrying, by and large, no longer apply. What looks like a current marriage crisis is the result of a widespread lack of understanding for how to create a satisfying 21st century marriage.
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Some people think marriage is obsolete.

Sally says she and her friends are all cynical about marriage. She and all her friends are divorced, some more than once.

Margaret, 30, says that she, her boyfriend, and their baby live together. She has no intention of marrying "because everyone I know who married has divorced."

Many Haven't Seen a Good Marriage

Natalie's parents divorced when she was 13. Her teen years were filled with comments from her mother like, "I gave him the best years of my life." As an adult, Natalie dated but backed away from anyone who wanted a serious relationship. After years of therapy and also having sought out happily married couples as role models for success, Natalie learned how to choose a compatible partner for an enduring relationship.

She also learned how to use positive communication skills daily to keep their marriage mutually fulfilling. She and her husband recently celebrated their 25th anniversary.

I believe in marriage. I think that we are experiencing a temporary blip in the big, long term picture of marriage that will pass in time -- after we gain wisdom about what it takes to create a successful 21st century marriage. The new kind of marriage we crave is one that supports the emotional and spiritual wellbeing and growth of both partners, as well as meeting material and physical needs.

New Expectations for Marriage Often Unconscious

The old reasons for marrying, by and large, no longer apply. What looks like a current marriage crisis is the result of a widespread lack of understanding for how to create a satisfying 21st century marriage.

Most people lack clarity about what needs they hope to satisfy by marrying. Whether or not we know this, we now want a relationship that fulfills us emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically. When these needs are not met, we tend to blame our spouse. Some blame the institution of marriage, saying it is obsolete.

The vast majority of us can create lasting, loving marriages. We just need to learn how.

An easy way is to hold a weekly marriage meeting, using this simple four-part agenda: Appreciation, Chores, Planning Good Times, and Problems and Challenges.

Marriage meetings are gentle, loosely structured, conversations that follow guidelines. They generally last about 30 minutes The meeting is a tool for addressing various details of our lives that need attention, yet are easy to ignore.

Some people say they think scheduling a marriage meeting is unromantic. Actually, the meetings foster more romance and intimacy. Opting for spontaneity has pitfalls. One partner might want to talk when the other is watching TV, reading, or texting. A spouse who brings up a sensitive matter when the other's mind is elsewhere might feel like he or she has entered a minefield.

Also, it's easy to forget to express appreciation or to plan dates and other enjoyable, restorative activities. Chores can pile up or get mishandled. By holding marriage meetings, spouses reconnect, feel valued by each other, plan dates, and communicate constructively about their concerns every week.

Staying Connected

You've probably heard people explain their failed marriage by saying, "We just grew apart." Couples do not grow apart; they drift from each other because they stop communicating authentically and constructively. Marriage meetings provide a weekly wake-up call for staying connected emotionally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually.

Soon after our honeymoon, over twenty-seven years ago, my husband and I took a class for couples that included a brief mention of the idea of holding a weekly marriage meeting. We've been holding meetings ever since then. I don't know how we would have stayed happily married without them.

No More Grudge Holding

Because the meetings help us reconnect and clear up misunderstandings promptly, we don't accumulate grudges -- which is in itself enough of a reason to hold marriage meetings. I give them major credit for our lasting happiness together.,

Marriage meetings cover all the important aspects of the relationship. Any two people who live under the same roof can benefit from holding similar meetings. For couples, marriage meetings foster romance, intimacy, teamwork, and smoother resolution of issues.

Marriage is far from obsolete. It's evolving--and that's a good thing!