"Love is a china shop; marriage is the bull."
A U.S. national survey (National Fatherhood Initiative, 2005 found that the most common reason for divorce was lack of commitment" (73%). Other significant factors included too much arguing (56%), infidelity (55%), marrying too young (46%), unrealistic expectations (45%), lack of equality in the relationship (44%), and lack of premarital preparation (41%).
Another smaller survey offered the following reasons: cheating (57%), lack of communication (49%), constant arguing (45%), lack of intimacy (42%), money (41%), and getting married too soon (41%) were the highlights.
In the throws of my research, I looked at dozens of studies on the reasons for divorce. I found tremendous overlap around critical issues of "too much" arguing and "lack of" commitment, money, communication, intimacy, and fidelity. A girlfriend still reeling from the betrayal of divorce described her ideal future guy: he should be 'loyal, trusting, honest, vulnerable, caring, humble, and walks in integrity." Hmm.
In all due deference to the very bright, beautiful, and unique lady, her answer sounds like a "word salad" to me. I plan to demonstrate that your romantic partner needs to possess radically different traits to survive. My forthcoming book, "Thinking for Tomorrow: The Art of Audacity," offers a unique lens on future life challenges.
For example, I believe we are generally off-course, sailing in the wrong direction while buried knee-deep in our daily grind. We are moving away from, not toward, our goals and aspirations. And we are failing to course correct, which eventually creates a crisis, drama, and an unrecoverable situation. But because the deviation from our chosen path is so subtle and minuscule, we fail to notice. Think of death by a thousand papercuts.
Consider gaining weight. Does it happen overnight? Nope. How about working out to lose weight and gain muscle? Do you notice a difference after one workout? Nope. If you look back in your memories, all the essential facets of life change or migrate at a glacier's pace. School. Relationships. Health. Aging. Any sensation of suddenness is just the "straw breaking the camel's back."
Let's climb Mount Everest as an analogy to your forever relationship or marriage that started in your 20s and find a metric to keep you and yours on course. Use the graphic above for reference. Mount Everest is a mountain on the crest of the Great Himalayas on the border between Nepal and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Reaching an elevation of 29,032 feet (8,849 meters), Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world and a worthy example of life challenges.
Using the graphic above, you will find "Base camp" and four other camps marked in red as stops on your way to the Everest summit. The summit will represent 30 years of marital bliss and the opportunity to relish the epic views. (Everest top of the world view the east below)
Before base camp, you're braving the treacherous waters of dating. Kissing way too many frogs hunting for a prince or princess.
Base camp (Altitude 17,500 feet – 4-8 weeks) is your wedding—the end of dating. You're with the right person, your forever person. Most spend a silly amount of money celebrating base camp. With 12,000 feet yet to climb, did spending big on an event with housing, kids, and retirement unfunded make sense? Money is listed as one of the prime reasons for divorce. Hmm? Already off-course.
Camp 1 (19,900 feet) marks your intense career-building phase, which will last the entire climb.
Camp 2 (21,300 feet) is your first home purchase. Your 30-year mortgage lasts the entire climb. The situation looks slightly dicey to me, with a ladder stretched across a crevasse, probably precisely how that first mortgage felt.
Camp 3 (26,000 feet) brings your first of several children into your family. The climb is getting seriously steep. Your time is at a premium, and the stakes are impossibly high for you and your family. You and your climbing partner are tethered to each other forever through your children.
Camp 4 ( 27,000 feet) represents your kids becoming teenagers. College costs loom large. Retirement is approaching, but Everest's summit is in your sites.
Tethered to your climbing partner, do my friend's most valued traits of "loyal, trusting, honest, vulnerable, caring, humble, and walks in integrity" matter most? Instead, let me suggest that your climbing partner should be:
1. absolutely passionate about you and the climb.
2. a savant at planning and adapting plans for life's uncertainties.
3. and be a paragon of perseverance.
Those traits will keep your partner in your relationship. They will not see the grass as greener when life gets messy, stressful, ugly, or demanding because it will.
Stress is a normal part of life. At times, it serves a valuable purpose. Stress can motivate you to get that promotion at work or run the last mile of a marathon. But if you don't get a handle on your stress and it becomes long-term, it can seriously interfere with your job, family life, and health. More than half of Americans say they fight with friends and loved ones because of stress, and more than 70% say they experience real physical and emotional symptoms.
When you are in a stressful situation, your body launches a physical response. Your nervous system springs into action, releasing hormones that prepare you to either fight or take off. It's called the "fight or flight" response, and it's why, when you're in a stressful situation, you may notice that your heartbeat speeds up, your breathing gets faster, your muscles tense, and you start to sweat. Remember the reasons for divorce above – "too much" arguing and "lack of" commitment, money, communication, intimacy, and fidelity.
Do you want a quick and dirty metric to measure your relationship that ties communication, arguing, intimacy, and infidelity together?
Sexual intimacy is vital in any relationship, and not just for the sensual pleasure of it all.
"Closeness and connection is a human need," explains Dr. Sanam Hafeez, an NYC-based licensed clinical psychologist. "When in a long-term relationship, it's important to reconnect through sex. The brain chemicals released during sex further enhance bonding."
Sorry guys, but sex doesn't always have to be limited to intercourse. Physical intimacy — including cuddling, oral and manual stimulation, and sharing of sexual fantasies — contribute to this bonding. I hear the ladies section cheering.
Having regular sex with your partner is a good thing. "Frequently being intimate with your partner allows for bonding and connection," says Debra Laino, DHS, a board-certified relationship therapist and sex educator. "This is really important in relationships. It allows each person to feel desired and cared for." Once or more a week is recommended.
Studies show that having sex can lower your stress levels and improve sleep, relieve tension in your relationship, and give you and your partner a greater willingness to discuss your sexual desires, fantasies, and expectations. Also, we need to remember that sex is a form of communication. When intimate, you can tell your partner that you see, hear, and value them. Relationships struggle when this form of communication breaks down.
Finally, having sex leads to sexual satisfaction. Pleasure begets more pleasure. One orgasm can lead to more. And according to researchers, sex's afterglow lasts up to two days. Not bad.
"The best views come from the hardest climbs."
Take stock of climbing Everest as a worthy relationship example. Find yourself on the mountain. Your partner needs to be passionate about you and the climb, not just you. Planning and perseverance will give you and yours a shot at the summit.
Until next time. Travel safe.