The modern marriage decoded
Social psychologist Eli Finkel recently published a book called The All-or-Nothing Marriage, focusing on the shifts in expectations we’ve had for our romantic partners over the last century.
He notes that the main change has been that we’ve added, on top of the expectation that we’re going to love and cherish our spouse, the expectation that our spouse will help us grow, help us become a better and more authentic version of ourselves. This expectation germinated in the 1960s with the rise of humanistic psychology, priming the ideal that we should be "true to ourselves" in the life we lead.
The research indicates that Americans today have raised their expectations of marriage, and in SOME instances, can in fact achieve an unprecedentedly high level of marital quality — but only if they are able to invest a great deal of time and energy in their partnership. If they are not able to do so, their marriage will likely fall short of these new expectations, and the union will likely be torn asunder.
So, what we can conclude is, if you have the time and resources to nurture your relationship, the psychological and physiological benefits of this type of partnership abound. However, if you don't, the high demands and expectations can be debilitating. Research shows that couples who had “time alone with each other, talking, or sharing an activity” at least once per week were 3.5 times more likely to be very happy in their marriage than spouses who did so less frequently.
Modern life asks of us to be in a zillion places at once, and this has been deleterious to the marriage. We are spending more time at work, socializing with friends and colleagues, exercising and caring for our children, than we are spending on nurturing the lifeblood of the partnership.
Now, this isn't "bad," however if we take the tenet: "what we nurture grows," it is no wonder that divorce rates have increased at the same time as the number of ways we have been asked to split our time has skyrocketed.
What is there to be done if we want to feel like we are growing as individuals and have a healthy, vital (read: not drained) partnership?
Couples can choose to invest more time and energy in their marriage. But if time and energy are not available, we must adjust expectations by focusing on cultivating an affectionate bond without trying to facilitate each other’s self-actualization.
This is what the above sounds like when communicated; I love Finkel's language in describing a union where we "go all in:"
The question isn’t, “Are you asking too much?” The question is, “Are you asking the appropriate amount, in light of the nature of the relationship right now?”
The idea of “going all-in” is, “Hell yes. I want to ask my spouse to help make me feel loved and give me an opportunity to love somebody else and also [be] somebody who’s going to help me grow into an ideal, authentic version of myself. And I’m going do the same for him or her. I recognize that that is a massive ask, and because I recognize that that’s a massive ask I’m going to make sure that we have sufficient time together. That when we’re together we’re paying sufficient attention to each other, that the time that we’re investing in the relationship is well-spent.”