| Joseph Hickey
[Success of Intimate relationships]|
Relationships between humans are the most amazing and complex bonds amongst all living species. The verities of the types of relationships humans can have are limitless. Most people balance a multitude of different relationships simultaneously. Humans balance plutonic, romantic, and many other forms of family relationships in their everyday lives. Maintaining a multitude of relationships can be one of the most rewarding and stressful experiences in a human’s life. Romantic relationships are no exception; people go to great lengths to preserve such a connection. What makes the most optimal starting point to a successful relationship? What makes a romantic relationship both enduring and satisfying? There are a multitude of factors that play a part in the answers to these questions, and many different points of view.
There are many important factors when people meet to perpetuate a successful relationship. As stated by Myers, proximity is the most common way people meet one another and begin a relationship (Myers, 2011). People are often more likely to be attracted to those that frequent the same places, work within the same company, attend school, share socioeconomic status, and with which an education level is shared. Simply being near one another will increase the feelings towards one another; this is known as the mere-exposure effect or familiarity principle. Just meeting someone and being within proximity does not mean that two people will have a strong and satisfying romantic relationship with one another. A person’s personal history is a contributor to not only their own personal wellbeing but the likelihood that a romantic relationship will last. If a person grew up in a situation where their parents divorced, then they are twice as likely to divorce; if both participants in the relationship have divorced parents, then they are three times as likely to divorce themselves (Wolfinger, 2005). Age at the time of getting married is a key factor in whether a relationship will be successful or not. According to Wolfinger, half of all teenage marriages end in five years. He speculates that with the lack of age comes a lack of wisdom; this is possibly a subjective point of view.
Creating the ideal way to start a loving and satisfying relationship is a grandiose thought. While there is no realistic fool proof way to start such a companionship, there are ways to increase the likelihood that it will be successful. According Clair Dush (2009) of Ohio State University, the first and most important factor is that each partner should have realistic expectations when they begin a new relationship. This protects the health of a relationship because it prevents its participants from becoming disappointed if their significant other is not everything that they anticipated. Having the ability to effectively communicate ones emotions can be invaluable in any form of relationship. Effective communication is a learned behavior from the parental units, thus the importance of a strong family background (Wolfinger, 2005). Myers states that healthy loving attachments should all have mutual understanding, value and enjoyment of one another, and giving/receiving support (Myers, 2011). If a person did not experience these positive elements in their parental relationships they are less likely to have the ability to put forth these skills in their romantic relationships. According to Sigmund Freud (1920), and later refined by John Bowlby (1969), humans were born preprogrammed to bond with one very significant person; and that is the primary caregiver, most often a mother. The emotional attachment that grew between a child and their caregiver was the first interactive relationship of life. The bonding experienced determined how one would relate to other people throughout life; it established the foundation for all verbal and nonverbal communication in any future relationship.
Sustaining a satisfying romantic relationship is no easy task. While difficult to track statistics on romantic relationships, the United States does track numbers for marriage. According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC) in 2010, the rate of marriage is 6.8% per 1000 people of the total population, with a divorce rate of 3.6%, which excludes divorce rate data for California, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, and Minnesota as well as marriage and divorce rates for Louisiana. In 2010, the divorce rate in the US was just below 50%. These statistics of divorce rates have remained relatively stable, and the number of marriages per capita has decreased since the year 2000. The divorce rate increases for each marriage that a person has beyond the first (CDC, 2012). If marriage success rate is sitting at 50%, then romantic relationships in general would be close to that number. Looking at the statistics optimistically, it is possible to ask the questions to explore what makes a successful, long lasting, fulfilling romantic relationships.
There are many things that are essential to maintaining something as complex as a romantic relationship. A major key component to a successful relationship would be individuality. That sounds counter intuitive when dealing with relationships, but if a person does not have a sense of self then the identity of the relationship may lack. While using an existential approach of psychotherapy and working with the individuality vs. mutuality paradox, many couples often need to focus on differentiation prior to developing towards mutual interdependence (Bader & Pearson, 1998). Differentiation plays a pivotal role in Bader and Pearson's developmental stages of couple's relationships, based on Margaret Mahler's childhood stages of development. The sequential stages of each relational development are: symbiosis, differentiation, practice, rapprochement, and mutual interdependence (Bader & Pearson, 1998). More importantly, the couple's developmental stages all rely on the existential notion of living as a part and apart from the intimate relationship. Symbiosis is at the enmeshed end of the spectrum, and differentiation is at the individualized extreme. Practice and rapprochement can be interpreted as the attempts to master and integrate the two (Bader & Pearson, 1998). If two people are to live, love, and grow together, they must know how to coexist as individuals who can discern their own wants and needs from their partner's and do it with mutual respect. According to Bader and Pearson, a healthy person would have an innate ability to know his/her own needs, which helps build a stronger and intimate relationship. Another important aspect is the expectations each participant has of the other. Dr John Gray (1992) author of Men Are from Mars Women Are from Venus stated “We mistakenly assume that if our partners love us they will react and behave in certain ways-the ways we react and behave when we love someone” (p.10). Each participant in an intimate relationship has the anticipation of what their partner does, or how they should feel and think the way they do. The disappointment couples experience is based on misunderstanding and misperception. Most people choose a partner hoping for a source of affection, love, support, and a best friend. Most participants in a romantic relationship do not get all that was hoped for or anticipated. Sadly most people don't have the skills or ability to work out disappointments that occur. These disappointments, both big and little, ultimately determine the future course of the relationship. Both partners must have reasonable expectations of one another because if those expectations are not met, disappointment is sure to follow (Cory, 2008). The likely hood that the relationship will flourish increases as each participant begins to have their realistic expectations met. This concept is something that is often obtained as a child and returns to Bowlby’s attachment theory and the importance of a human’s first relationships. Learning to have the capacity to cope with unmet expectations is essential to both an individual’s well being and the relationship as a whole. Trust is a valuable asset in every relationship, but in an intimate relationship it holds the most weight. It is the cornerstone that shapes an individual’s ability to engage in a happy relationship. Trust provides the comfort in a relationship where two people can learn to count on one another. People develop the ability to trust in relationships based on experiences they have had throughout their lifespan, beginning in infancy (Bowlby, 1969). Trust is something that needs to be developed and nurtured in any relationship. Couples must come to an understanding that both of them will play a role in creating a trusting relationship, and the building blocks are in an individual’s past. Reliability and trust are important because they meet each person’s need to have someone they can safely count on. As couples grow together, each participant takes on specific roles and responsibilities in the relationship or family. Trust between couples is built by investing time in each other (Gray, 1992). Individuals relax when time spent together is respectful and honoring, maximized and fulfilling, and rewarding even when challenging (Cory, 2008). Consequently, trust matters as a tool to help construct a healthy, happy, and fulfilling relationship. Interpersonal relationships are a challenge that people will continue to struggle with for generations to come. There are several important factors that can attribute to a successful intimate relationship including trust, expectations, individuality, and self awareness. Most experts agree that possessing these traits or abilities as well as positive attachment will create a better outcome to ones intimate relationships. Most of the expert’s studies and experiences strongly rely on heterosexual couples; homosexual couples would need all these factors and more. The paradox of a successful relationship relies on an individual, the self awareness, and the desire to have a successful intimate relationship. The bottom line is that all relationships require work and desire to make it successful; sadly, American culture requires instant gratification, and a fulfilling intimate relationship at its hart takes time.
Bader, E., & Pearson, P. (1988). In quest of the mythical mate: A developmental approach to diagnosis and treatment in couples therapy. (pp. 3, 42-43). Florence, KY: Brunner/Mazel Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss. (2nd ed., pp. 18, 26-27, 33). New York: Basic Books. CDC. (2012, January). Center of disease control . Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/marriage_divorce_tables.htm Corey, G. (2008). Theory and practice of group counseling. (Seventh ed., pp. 233-234, 377-378). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole Pub Co. Freud, S. (1920). Collected works of Sigmund Freud . (p. 194). New York, NY: Biblio Bazaar. Gray , J. (1992). Men are from mars, women are from venus. (p. 10). New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers. Myers, D. (2012). Social psychology. (11 ed., pp. 397-401). New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Wolfinger , N. (2005). Understanding the divorce cycle: The children of divorce in their own marriages. (pp. 8-10). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.