Tag Archives: U-shaped curve

The Secret to Long Marriage

Author and psychologist Maggie Scarf, who has herself been married 55 years, interviewed 75 couples between 50 and 75 years old to learn about marriage in the later years. The result is a book called September Songs: The Good News About Marriage in the Later Years. She expected lots of complaints about how tough life and marriage was in these longer marriages. What she found was that most marriages showed a U-shaped trajectory over time.

In the beginning of these marriages was a blissful peak, which was followed by a challenging time with the stress of career building and child rearing. Many of you are currently in this challenging time. In fact, this is frequently when marriages fall apart or become extremely worn out. “Every marriage has a downside, a time when you looked across the room and thought …what is it with this person?” Scarf said. But there is a longer view to keep in mind.

What Scarf found was that couples who got through the tough patches gained more time together and “refound” one another, including the fun and intimacy they once had. They actually regained that peak point, making the other side of the U. Scarf calls these happier older years the “bonus years” which include a longer, healthier, happier life.

The secret of a long marriage may be that couples who stay together can envision this up side while they are enduring stressful times. In fact, I just interviewed an amazing military family that has endured an Iraq deployment and many years of infertility. Now that they have a house full of young children (whom they struggled and longed for), they have little time for one another. However, they like to focus on the joy amidst the current chaos, and the peace they will eventually enjoy together when their children are a little older. In short, they can see to the other side.

Where are you in the “U”? How do you envision your future together?

*Originally published at Marriage Gems in April 2009.

Photo courtesty of Stockvault.net by James Sigle

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Children Can Bring a Couple Closer Together

I’ve had several comments regarding the Marriage/Babies Won’t Fix Relationship Problems post that led me to clarify my thoughts on how children may affect a relationship. My earlier point stated that if you have a rocky relationship, a baby will not magically repair the relationship. It’s important to point out that children do not “cause” relationship problems. Stress coming from many different directions (demanding jobs, frequent travel, conflict with parents) can simply magnify the cracks in your relationship.

But children don’t necessarily cause stress or strife, particularly in strong marriages in which children are desired. On the contrary, it’s my feeling that a strong relationship can be made stronger when children enter the family. The year after the firstborn isn’t always difficult (although research shows it is a challenge for many couples). My own experience after my first child was born was quite the opposite. My husband and I experienced a real “high” for at least a month following his birth, and a closeness following that–based on our new shared role as parents and our intense love for our child. Children are a blessing, not a bother. But they do require a realistic look at your lives to determine how they will be properly cared for and how you will simultaneously manage your other responsibilities.

The first year after my second child was born was very stressful for my husband and for me, because unlike our first, our second child very rarely slept through the night until she was two and a half. She required more energy during the day as well, something we were lacking due to sleepless nights. Essentially, we felt like we were competing to have our basic needs met, and we didn’t have close family members to rely on for backup. We hadn’t really anticipated feeling this way since our first baby was so easy. But after we got through it, it also made us feel like a unified team. We love both of our children equally and feel extremely fortunate to have them in our lives. The love we feel for them and they feel for us is priceless. The laughter and joy they add to our home can’t be measured.

Still, we struggle with making time for the two of us, and as they are now school-aged, with not making our family life all about their activities. More tips on that topic to come! Also read: How Does the Arrival of Children Affect the Quality of the Marriage?

One of the keys to getting past a rough period in a marriage is being able to see to the other side of the dip in satisfaction you may be experiencing. Researchers refer to the dip as a U-shaped curve, with the lower portion sometimes passing through career-building and childrearing. If you missed this post, read Author’s Secret to a Long-Lasting Marriage, which explains the common trajectory of marriage and the good news for couples who make it to the other side of the U.

For those of you who are parents, was that first year after your children were born stressful or joyful? Was it worthwhile? For couples who do not yet have children, do you fear what they might do to your relationship? Do you fear not having time for yourself, your hobbies or job? Do you hear parents talking negatively about their parental responsibilities?

Photo Credit: ©PhotoXpress.com

Author Shares Secret to Long Marriage

Author and psychologist Maggie Scarf, who has herself been married 55 years, interviewed 75 couples between 50 and 75 years old to learn about marriage in the later years. The result is a book called “September Songs: The Good News About Marriage in the Later Years.” She expected lots of complaints about how tough life and marriage was in these longer marriages. What she found was that most marriages showed a U-shaped trajectory over time.

In the beginning of these marriages was a blissful peak, which was followed by a challenging time with the stress of career building and child rearing. Many of you are currently in this challenging time. In fact, this is frequently when marriages fall apart or become extremely worn out. “Every marriage has a downside, a time when you looked across the room and thought …what is it with this person?” Scarf said. But there is a longer view to keep in mind.

What Scarf found was that couples who got through the tough patches gained more time together and “refound” one another, including the fun and intimacy they once had. They actually regained that peak point, making the other side of the U. Scarf calls these happier older years the “bonus years” which include a longer, healthier, happier life.

The secret of a long marriage may be that couples who stay together can envision this up side while they are enduring stressful times. In fact, I just interviewed an amazing military family that has endured an Iraq deployment and many years of infertility. Now that they have a house full of young children (whom they struggled and longed for), they have little time for one another. However, they like to focus on the joy amidst the current chaos, and the peace they will eventually enjoy together when their children are a little older. In short, they can see to the other side.

Where are you in the “U”? How do you envision your future together?