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Marriage Needn't Turn Sour

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(LAST IN A SERIES) Figures on the divorce rate c a n be alarming. In 1971, 976-couples were divorced in Washtenaw C o u n t y . Last year's total was 110 more than in 1970. And while the divorce rate increases, fewer persons choose to marry. According to the County Clerk's office, 2,576 marriage licenses were issued in 1971 in Washtenaw County. In 1970, the figure was 2,602. Divorces increasing. Marriages declining. One seldom hears about happy rnarriages - about the two-thirds which do not break up. A good marriage isn't the kind of thing mrst persons boast about. The Rev. Charles Irving of St. Mary's Student Chapel says he occasionally sees an extremely happy or ideal marriage. "Each of the partners is full of wonder aboat each other. They're curious and always seeking to enrich themselves. They're flexible." The priest says the greatest gift happily married persons give to each other is the freedom to let the person grow to fulfill his or her potential. "They don't shaekle each other with feelings of jealousy, possessiveness or demands for exclusive attention," Irving says. Marriage traditionally has been the baidc unit of society, but one wonders about the prognosis for this institution and just how many ideal marriages exist. Donald T. Halier, a certified marriage counselor for Washtenaw County Circuit Court, says, "I think the pair-bond is here to stay. In all species the pair bond is going to stay in spite of what we try to do to it." Haller, who counsels persons who have filed for divorce, admits there are many more pressures on marriages than in I previous generations. , "The increasing incidence of divorce is a disease of our culture - a contagious disease whose stigma is replaced by prestige and status in some circles," Haller asserts. The Rev. Gordon Jones, rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, says like other institutions, marriage is suffering I strain. "This is true of the schools, I church and government. If marriage is I tho basic unit, its going to suffer more I strain than any other institution." Jones says the institution of marriage I and family as was known previously I may be breaking down because some I presuppositions to marriage have I peared. Couples, as a rule, no longer I have homogeneous experiences within I the same community prior to marriage. I Jones says with higher mobility, couples I also lose community support which was I more common when parents, I ents and other relatives stayed within I one community. With loss of community support, he I says, the individuals become more I pendent on one another "than they have I any right to be." ...,-J Irvingsays tor a successful marriage, the engaged persons need to be independent and able to "make it on their own." If two dependent persons marry, he says, they multiply their dependence rather than give each other strength. Jones says, "the ideal marriage is one which recognizes that you're never really married except in the technical sense. You're always in the process of being married. Marriage for these persons continúes to be an adventure. Life is a series of repeated surprises by the other person." Jones adds that within successful marriages, the persons know how to deal with conflict. They learn to resolve differences. Contrary to the romance magazines and "Love Story," Jones says "The last reason to get married is because you love somebody." Beeause love is an emotion, Jones says, it can varíllate. "No one can predict emotions. As long as a false view of romance is used for the basis of marriage, that marriage will end up on the rocks." According to Jones, love that lasts involves a commitment. "The only love that will last is what I will do to be true even though I may not feel it is true," he says. "Love is a matter of commitment of volition rather than emotions. Two-thirds to three-quarters of persons who have married are still saying this," Jones adds. Halier agrees, saying, "It's a commitment that lasts longer than the first argument. It is the acceptance of the other person no matter what. It is saying 'I love you beeause you are you . . even with your bad breath and weird pimples.' " To insure more happy marriages, HalIer suggests that pre-marital counseling be available for parents of the couple getting married to help them and the children adjust to a new life style. Haller believes more weddings on Sunday mornings as part of church services would reinforce the ritual of marriage He also suggests periodic checkups for ■ a minister or marriage counselorB t Irving says although many Wples I don't want to spend time in premarital I counseling, he believes it is important. I "As the situation gets worse, I believe I the church is going to demand more I pi'eparation, examination before I riage," Irving says. Irving says although it is not a Church I position, he has heard speculation that I the Catholic Church might not consider 1 marrying persons under 21 years of age. I The persons could get married in a civil I ceremony and then come back after I .eral years to be married in the Church, I Irving says. Jones notes that many persons who I are having trouble within their I 'riages don't admit the problem until it is I too late. "For people to seek out help I suggests that they are a failure. It's not I a failure to have trouble. It's only a I ure to wait," he says. The clergymen and marriage I lor suggest consulting with family I cies such as Child and Family Services I or Catholic Social Service, pastors or I marriage counselors when persons I lieve something is wrong. Haller says, "Finding a counselor is I ' such a personal thing. If one person I doesn't meet the needs of the couple, I they should try another." Irving suggests a couple facing I ficulties consult with a happily married I couple who is articúlate, thoughtful and I intelligent. (One such couple is the John Luthers I - not their real name - who have been I married 23 years. From outsiders' point I of view and Mrs. Luther's own, she and I her husband have built a happy I riage.) Mrs. Luther says, "The best thing we I have is communication. This sometimes I means arguing and fighting but each is I willing to evalúate his prejudices." Although she doesn't think ideal I riages exist, Mrs. Luther adds, "If the I persons are able to identify and imagine I the others sorrows and joys, then the I couple is capable of the most ideal." Mrs. Luther says through marriage, I persons learn their own faults and hopeI fully "smooth off the rough edges." If I I you marry someone you admire and I I speet, you become co-creators with God. I I A lot can be learned from a husband or I I wife. You can see your own stubbornness, I I blindness or selfishness. A mate gets to I I know these things and tells you in a I I more gentle way than someone else I I might. For most persons, marriage can I I be a good way of learning about I self 1