Keeping your marriage healthy...with kids
One of my favorite theories looking at interpersonal relationships is psychologist Robert Sternberg’s triangular theory of love. He suggests that all relationships can be defined by the absence or presence of three main components, often depicted on a triangle.
The first component is intimacy. This encompasses feelings of closeness and connectedness. The second component is passion which encompasses the romance and physical attraction. The third component is commitment. This includes making goals together and involves the decision to stay together.
According to this theory, the ideal, consummate love has all three components. These relationships are not only the most joyful, they are the most likely to survive.
As a relationship evolves and develops, it is common for different aspects of the connection to be stronger or weaker. And once kids enter the relationship, it is very easy to lose some of the intensity of a consummate love relationship.
The magic and passion can easily turn into changing diapers, soccer games, and making sure everyone has eaten their broccoli before dessert.
Shifting gears from mom and dad to husband and wife has been a hot topic as researchers and couples alike try to figure out ways to make the relationship maintain its passion and intimacy across the life-span.
By focusing on all three components of a consummate love, a relationship can be strengthened.
• Intimacy: Fredrich Nietzsche said that “It is not lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” Talk is great but an intimate connection needs to be the foundation for your words. Sometimes giving what you want in the relationship is a great way to get it back. If you feel your intimacy is lacking and you want to be closer, take the first step. Leave your partner a love note or be the first to initiate a special date night.
• Passion: Whether it is little sleep from having a baby or dealing with emotional teenagers, passion can often be placed on the back burner. Research suggests that happy couples set aside time to reconnect through passion and make romance a priority. A strong, physical connection has been shown to help strengthen the overall emotional connection. I once heard it said that passion in a relationship can be viewed as going to the gym. Even if you don’t feel like it at first, it is worth the effort in the end.
• Commitment: Children are a motivating factor in staying together. The trick is remembering relationship happiness is a choice each partner must make every day. As Mignon McLaughlin states, “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”
Melissa Behunin is a professor of psychology and family studies at Arizona Western College. She can be reached at 344-7556 or email@example.com.