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Is Marriage Sustainable Anymore by Tara Parker-Pope & thereisonly1you
The following abbreviation of an article entitled "Sustainable Love: The Happy Marriage is the "Me" Marriage"" by Tara Parker-Pope in The New York Times was submitted to us by CLM Member "thereisonly1you" for our readers consideration and edification.  Thereisonly1you has edited the article for clarity and brevity, and has provided an insightful foward of his own.  We hope you enjoy it and we thank thereisonly1you for the contribution.

Forward by thereisonly1you:

As the world becomes a smaller place, every society’s attitude towards the long term sanctity of marriage is changing, and individuals all over the world are now approaching marriage with different values to that of their parents.
But no matter the changing times, before entering into marriage, we all believe our commitment to the other person will be ‘forever’.  However, in the reality of this modern world, ‘forever’ is becoming shorter and shorter.  Why?  What are we doing wrong?  What are we missing?  What are we losing?  What has changed?  What can we do in this modern world to sustain our ‘life-long’ promise? 
Latest research has shown that if you experience personal development and growth in your marriage, then you have a greater chance of maintaining a long and happy marriage.

Article (abbreviated) by Tara Parker-Pope

A lasting marriage is not always a sign of a happy marriage.  There are many miserable couples who have stayed together for children, religion, family, or other practical (and perhaps impractical) reasons.
For many couples, it is just not enough to stay together.  They want a relationship that is meaningful and satisfying.  In short, they want a sustainably happy marriage.
For centuries, marriage was viewed as an economic and social institution, and the emotional and intellectual needs of the spouses were secondary to the survival of the marriage itself.  But in modern relationships, people are looking for a partnership, and they want partners who make their lives more interesting.  Research shows that the more personal development people experience from their partner, the more committed and satisfied they are in the relationship.
Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., a professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey says, “If you’re seeking self-growth and obtain it from your partner, then that puts your partner in a pretty important position. And being able to help your partner’s personal development would be pretty pleasing to yourself.”
The concept explains why people are delighted when dates treat them to new experiences, like a weekend away.  But personal development isn’t just about exotic experiences.  Individuals experience personal growth through their partners in big and small ways.  It happens when they introduce new friends, or casually talk about a new restaurant or a fascinating story in the news.
The effect of personal development is particularly pronounced when people first fall in love. In research at the University of California at Santa Cruz, 325 undergraduate students were given questionnaires five times over 10 weeks.  They were asked, “Who are you today?” and given three minutes to describe themselves.  They were also asked about recent experiences, including whether they had fallen in love.
After students reported falling in love, they used more varied words in their self-descriptions. The new relationships had literally broadened the way they looked at themselves.
“When people fall in love, you suddenly have social roles and identities you didn’t have before, and it’s very exhilarating,” explains Dr. Aron, who co-authored the research.
Over time, the personal gains from lasting relationships are often subtle.  Having a partner who is funny or creative adds something new to someone who isn’t.  A partner who is an active community volunteer creates new social opportunities for a spouse who spends long hours at work.
Additional research suggests that spouses eventually adopt the traits of the other — and become slower to distinguish differences between them, or slower to remember which skills belong to which spouse.
In experiments by Dr. Aron, participants rated themselves and their partners on a variety of traits, like “ambitious” or “artistic.”  A week later, the participants returned to the lab and were shown the list of traits and asked to indicate which ones described them.
People responded the quickest to traits that were true of both them and their partner. When the trait described only one person, the answer came more slowly.  The experiments suggested that when individuals were particularly close to someone, they found it harder to distinguish differences between them and their spouses.
It’s not that these couples lost themselves in the marriage; instead, they grew in it. Activities, traits and behaviours that had not been part of their identity before the relationship, were now an essential part of how they experienced and viewed life.
All of this can be highly predictive for a couple’s long-term happiness.  One scale designed by Dr. Aron and his colleagues depicts seven pairs of circles.  The first set is side by side.  With each new set, the circles begin to overlap until they are nearly on top of one another.  Couples choose the set of circles that best represents their relationship.
In a 2009 report in the journal Psychological Science, people bored in their marriages were more likely to choose the more separate circles.  Partners involved in novel and interesting experiences together were more likely to pick one of the overlapping circles and less likely to report boredom.  
“People have a fundamental motivation to improve the self and add to who they are as a person,” Dr. Lewandowski says.  “If your partner is helping you become a better person, you become happier and more satisfied in the relationship.”

From: Original         Author: Tara Parker-Pope & thereisonly1you         Time: 1/9/2011 5:16:22 PM

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