The Secret To A Happy Marriage: Self-Expansion

A Tip To Start The Coupledom Off On The Right Foot in 2011: The sum of one partner part plus one partner part equals two partner parts: No! Not if you follow the research. In fact, as mentioned in previous posts, optimal bonding in The Coupledom should lead to a much greater, broader entity…the combined interests and acumen of two entities provides a greater shot at Coupledom happiness. Humans, it seems, want to grow and learn. Wow! Now this is good news for the New Year.

Research shows that the more self-expansion people experience from their partner, the more committed and satisfied they are in the relationship. AHA! Tara Parker Pope’s  column (see link) in the December 31st New York Times describes research findings indicating that humans have an intrinsic desire to be stimulated by the new, and relationships that are stretched by the interests of the other, lead to greater satisfaction in The Coupledom.

Feathers and The New York Times: Difference has always appealed to me. Yet, in that regard, I often find many other folk speak of “same” as a virtue. And so in The Coupledom both are useful. I prefer the word “similar” to same, less tightly wound. Similar values are good. Similar background, maybe yes, maybe no. Depends on how it is “used”. But difference plus curiosity can equal self-expansion. How affirming to find the research that backs up this view.

New York raised (actually Long Island) my choice of life partner was an Eagle Scout from Maine whose primary passion in our first years together was feathers, specifically feathered fowl, fancy pigeons. Though our professional lives are “similar”, the divergence in our interests ranged from my addiction to the New York Times and Classic fiction and his to pigeon shows and bird farms, where I could be found trekking through pigeon dung up to my whatevers. Other couples stretch their interests culturally, globally and in the fine details as well. The driving force is the willingness to experiment with the interests and energies of your partner. It is not essential that you have equal passions for feathers and the New York Times. That never happened. But boy what I learned and continue to learn about the world through the eyes of my spouse could fill volumes.  I leave him to speak for himself.

Humor and Empathy: A complaint raised frequently within these office walls is that husbands fall short in the sensitivity area and wives in humor. Though not always limited to gender, this observation has merit. In the self-expanding coupledom, couples are seen exchanging characteristics as well as interests. The humorless wife develops a more humor full perspective; the insensitive spouse suddenly finds himself listening and understanding feelings, even his own, with new clarity. The partner with the global view benefits from the other’s local/provincial appreciation of life in a small town. But only if he/she is willing to “go there”.

Boredom Is The Child of Rigidity: My New Year’s message is to stretch!. Stretch beyond your “comfort zone”, another of those constructs designed to rationalize fear of failure, or neutralize a kind of lazy view of life. In place of condemning one’s partner for their “weird interests” or silliness, shed the judgments and share the playtime. Stimulation can come in many forms, must be sorted out, and can be found right in our own homes. Try a little of his humor, a bit of her empathy, some of his home-made beer, some of her bath salts. Or ballroom dancing. Never want to leave the U.S. because you don’t speak a foreign language? Do it and watch how you expand your worlds. Can’t stand football? Try one game, wear a super warm coat and stop in at EMS to buy hand warmers. Moving through the circles of long lasting relationships, the ones that give off life and light imbue the characteristics and interests of both participants. They stoke the fires less of love, more a secondary benefit, than those of expanding mutual interest and growth.

Happy New Year to All The Coupledoms, of all genders, all backgrounds and all worlds!

©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2011

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6 Responses to “The Secret To A Happy Marriage: Self-Expansion”

  1. Karen Orzack-Moore

    Jill: This is right- on advice!! I appreciate your personal voice–made me chuckle and made me miss you.

    Reply
  2. Elise

    Spot on – read the original article and wondered if you would use it. It was already perfect – but you added on to it and it made even more sense. It’s a great concept and although I never identified it before I know we’ve both benefited from it.

    Reply

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