How To Keep Your Mate
Marriages are made in heaven—but it takes more than starry hopes to make them last. Here’s down-to-earth advice from an expert
CLIFFORD R. ADAMS,
Marriage Counsellor, Penn State College
WHEN two people marry they agree to love and cherish, to protect and care for each other, until death do them part. It is a legal and ethical contract, usually sanctioned by the church, and no reservations and exceptions are permissible. If more couples accepted the binding nature of the vows they take and the obligations they assume, they would make more efforts to hold their mates.
Family instability is one of our more serious postwar problems. If nothing were involved but the separation of married couples, the situation still would be frightening. But the broken home, with its aftermath of insecurity, is a major cause of adult and juvenile delinquency. Statistics show that divorced people (and their children) commit more crimes, have shorter lives, become more mentally disturbed, and have many more other unpleasant things happen to them than people living in secure, happy homes.
Rates of separation and divorce are rising to recordbreaking heights. Divorce figures have trebled in Canada in the last 10 years. Unless the trend changes, one marriage in every two in North America will go on the rocks within the next 25 years. It might be a good idea to seek out the reasons.
Keeping a marriage together is just as much a problem for a husband as for a wife. Maybe it is a bigger problem, since on this continent approximately three wives seek divorces for every husband doing so. Not only that, but most tests of marriage happiness show that husbands are slightly happier than wives.
However, now as never before, wives should intensify their efforts to hold their husbands. It is estimated from current statistics that only four girls in five will be able to find men to marry. Many of the girls denied marriage are going to he consciously or unconsciously serious rivals for other women’s husbands. Out of these myriad triangular situations will come much unhappiness and misery.
One important difficulty is a direct result of the war. Many men in or just out of military service are unmarried. Because they have had to postpone marriage, they will not be normally flexible in adjusting themselves to marriage now. Some are psychoneurotic and beset by occupational uncertainty. Others will rush into hasty marriages which they will
repent in leisure. And then, of course, there are those husbands and wives who are trying to re-establish their homes after being separated because of the war. Some marriages will fail because they were hurriedly contracted during wartime.
Many engaged and married couples find that war has changed them. They almost feel that they are strangers. Unless they have patience, and are really sincere in trying to adjust to each other, unhappiness and separation are sure to follow.
Marriage is a contract, and too few couples understand that holding one’s mate is an inherent part of that contract. First step in accomplishing this, material needs must be satisfied. A husband must have good food, tastily prepared, served on time. His clothes must be kept pressed, his shirts clean, his socks darned. His clothes must have no missing buttons and be kept where he can find them. When he is tired his wife should see that he can rest, and encourage him to get sufficient sleep.
A husband should be just as attentive to his wife’s needs. She should have sufficient household money, should be helped with the heavier home work. She should have clothing suitable to your income and some allowance for personal needs. When she feels badly she should be relieved of as many cares as possible and shown special consideration.
BOTH of you should satisfy each other’s need for love and affection. Do not hoard your love as though it were nearly gone. You should be proud of your love and show it in many little affectionate words and actions. Because women are more sentimental than men, wives are particularly grateful when their husbands tell them of their love. It helps their feeling of security.
Some form of insecurity or serious frustration is always basic to marriage failure. It may be money troubles, or the triangle, or failure of one or both spouses to “grow up” emotionally.
There is the fundamental need for each of you to feel secure. When one is jealous or suspicious, when
one feels inferior and mistreated, there is no security. Don’t do things that upset or humiliate your partner, such as spending money foolishly, being discourteous in public, drinking too much, lying, quarrelling too loudly. Whether at home or abroad you and your mate must not do things that shame or hurt each other.
Satisfy your mate’s need for self-esteem by asking for suggestions and advice, and then follow them whenever practicable. You encourage trust by giving trust. Praise your mate before others and make favorable comparisons. Your compliments should be genuine, and given because of your appreciation and love.
One of the best techniques for influencing your mate is the use of suggestion. One husband I know is very fond of spaghetti. Because Continued on page 30
How to Keep Your Mote
Continued from page 20
he likes a great deal of garlic in it, he prefers it on Saturday night. About Monday he tells his wife how good her last serving was. .Wednesday or Thursday he tells her how he is looking forward to the next spaghetti. When he arrives home Saturday he tells her how good it is, brags to the neighbors about the way she cooks it. And because his wife is proud of his appreciation, he gets really good spaghetti, too!
We learn to like those things for which we are praised or rewarded, and to dislike those things for which we are criticized or punished. Similarly, you become conditioned to like and to love the person who rewards you and meets your needs, or to fall out of love and even dislike one who no longer satisfies your needs or who punishes you. If you love your mate devotedly and deeply, you do so because that mate does much to please and satisfy you and little to annoy or dissatisfy you. This principle Is so powerful that a wife may continue to love a mate who beats her when he is drunk, providing he pleases and rewards her in other ways to a greater degree than he distresses her.
To be most effective, the reward must come just as soon as possible after it is merited. Avoid giving rewards before they are earned; instead give them immediately afterward. If your spouse remembers your birthday, show your appreciation at the moment, not later. Reward the behavior that you like, ignore that which displeases you.
Another major principle is to keep tensions released. When you are hungry you are tense. When you eat the tension disappears. Many a wife has had her request granted by waiting to make it until her husband has enjoyed a good dinner. To ask a favor of him when he is tired and hungry is to court a refusal. Some of the tensions
of life cannot be directly satisfied at the moment, but many of our psychological tensions can be lessened or released indirectly.
Tensions, such as those caused by discouragement, fatigue, disappointment, and hurt feelings, are greatly relieved by talking things over. This mutual psychotherapy goes far in holding husband and wife together.
When problems arise it is important that they be recognized and something done about them. Ignoring a problem or becoming angry about it does anything but hold mates together. Study the problem, find out the facts. Which facts (and feelings) are important and which aren’t? Are there several ways to solve the problem? Talk them over and try to pick the one that both feel best fits the facts. Then put it into action. If it doesn’t work tackle the problem again. Keep at it until you find a way out.
Common Interests Needed
Plan to spend at least four evenings a week together. One couple I know have very little companionship. He has his business, she has her social activities. Their failure to share each other has caused them to miss one of the most enjoyable values of marriage. Neither is happy.
Your mate must be treated as an equal if both of you are to be happy. Don’t keep things to yourself. Even if what you are listening to isn’t very interesting, comment on it or make a suggestion if one occurs to you. Try not to criticize; be sympathetic. Whatever you do, don’t reveal a confidence your mate gives you, for should it come back home it may cause serious trouble.
Having common goals is essential if a true partnership is to result. They should be goals that both of you believe in and will work hard to gain. They maybe a home of your own, a new car,s or a college education for the children. Whatever they are they must be tangible—so you can work as a team to
achieve them. Progress toward them must be measurable. If it is a savings account, set an amount that you can put by within a period of six months, and then make regular deposits toward it. Watching its growth makes it easier to save. Don’t be selfish, however. Each of you is a unique personality and is entitled to have your own field of interest.
You may be asking too much from marriage and from your mate. One wife I know feels cheated because she turned down a rich man’s proposal, and now regrets that her husband’s salary isn’t very large. She !i?ad expected him to become wealthy quickly, and he hasn’t. Another wife wishes her husband made love to her like movie stars do on the screen. You must be sensible about marriage and, before you decide that your spouse is responsible, be sure that you are doing everything you can to make it a success.
To hold your mate you must be willing to compromise. The wise person gives in on the little things, goes halfway in meeting big ones. One couple consulted me about violent quarrels they had about money. The husband always took the position that his wife was extravagant; she always argued that he was stingy. Neither had made any real effort to bridge the gulf. His income was adequate, but the disagreements were about the ways it was handled. Actually he was thrifty, not stingy. Her failure to keep accounts of where the money went was part of the problem. Although not extravagant she skimped on food, spent too much on furniture. When a budgetary plan was set up that provided her a reasonable personal allowance and permitted her a five-dollar leeway in arriving at a balance, the quarrels ceased.
Some couples do have money troubles because one is a spendthrift. The other should then assume the responsibility of managing the money. Uneven or irregular income may create a problem. The best solution when Continued on page 32
Continued from page 30 that is the case is for the family to build up a sinking fund when income is above average. Other couples buy too much on the installment plan, or get themselves into the clutches of a loan shark. Buying by installments is 10 to 20% more expensive than paying cash. Except in the purchase of a home, installment purchases are rarely justified, unless it is clearly evident that the article will more than save its extra cost and can be paid for in six months.
Few young couples with incomes under $200 a month can afford an automobile unless it is essential in making a living. Upkeep and depreciation will be close to a dollar a day, and that is too much if it is one eighth of income.
Any couple who lets outgo exceed income, except in real emergencies, is playing with fire. Try to save 10% of your income, open an account with your bank. When faced with a financial problem talk it over with your banker. This is particularly important before you buy a home, obligate yourself for insurance, or borrow money. His advice may keep you from doing something foolish. If you save regularly and pay your bills promptly, the bank will usually find a way for you to get money when you really need it.
Should Have Babies
Every couple should plan a family. About one fourth of marriages are childless, and it is of interest that the divorce rate of childless couples is several times greater than that of those with children. Of the childless couples, one half are selfish and do not want to be bothered with children. This selfishness is usually carried into all of the marriage relationships. Friction cannot help but occur. Other couples, who want children but can’t have them, often wait too long before seeking medical assistance. Don’t wait more than two years or it may be too late. Children can add much to marriage— if they don’t become another focus for parents’ quarrels. They should provide companionship, give both father and mother another interest to draw them together.
In-laws frequently pull marriages apart. Most couples find it easier to get along with male relatives than with female relatives. Even then the going may be tough, especially during the first years of marriage. It is better for a couple to have in-laws live with them than for them to live with the in-laws. If there is any way to maintain your home independently of your relatives, make almost any sacrifice to do so.
The first few years of marriage are the golden years and are the ones that set the quality of the marriage. More than a third of all divorces occur during the first five years of marriage, and more than half of them before the tenth year. Even though the first years may not be happy, many couples who persevere find much happiness
after the early difficulties are over.
Seven men in every eight marry girls three years younger than they are, and this is not good. Aside from the fact that wives usually live five or six years longer than their husbands, research has shown us that some of our happiest marriages are the ones where the people are the same age, or the wife is two or three years older. Biologically, the chances for parenthood and balanced sexual capacity and adjustment are much greater when the husband is younger than his wife.
Although lack of sexual satisfaction may not wreck a marriage, mutually agreeable adjustment does much to hold a marriage together. Usually six months to a year may be required to work out satisfying relationships. If success has not then been achieved, the couple should first see their family physician and follow that up, if necessary, by consulting a competent psychologist or psychiatrist. The records of many marriage counselors show that most unhappy couples have a sexual problem as one of their symptoms of trouble.
Sometimes one member of a marriage has not grown up emotionally. An ungovernable temper, pouting spells, extremely sensitive feelings, great need for attention, taking things too personally, fits of crying, and nervousness may indicate emotional immaturity and a neurotic personality. When this is the case the other must be firm, but sympathetic and considerate. Common interests should be developed, sufficient rest and recreation encouraged, and everything done to build an atmosphere of security. Unless improvement occurs, competent professional advice should be sought.
Wife Sacrifices More
A wife plays a more important role in making a happy marriage and sacrifices more by marrying than does a husband. A man keeps his job and his name and usually retains control of the purse. If a husband would only realize how dependent upon him his wife is, he would not neglect her. His job is an outlet for him, but his wife must find her whole life through his love and their home. When wives come to feel that they are little more than housekeepers, their husbands are usually at fault.
Too many couples confess marital bankruptcy before they have really analyzed their difficulties. Divorce and remarriage may guarantee them no more happiness than changing jobs guarantees economic security. Some of the unhappiest people I know are divorced or separated. Before you decide to part, be sure you are not jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. You loved your mate once and can keep that love alive if you show the consideration for one another you did during courtship, Never let yourself forget that it is easier to catch a mate than to keep one.