Have you ever heard the notion, popularized by anthropologist Franz Boas, that there are 50 Inuit words for ‘snow’? In my practice I like to say that there should be that many words for ‘love’. Lately, I’ve begun to think there should be that many words for ‘marriage’.
We live in an amazing time for marriage. It is now possible to get married in the United States, no matter what gender you are or whom you love. The recent growth of conversations about polyamory (yes, that means more than one person with whom to share amor) have led us to question all kinds of old notions about love and marriage. And now there is a book by a therapist I love, named Terrence Real, called The New Rules of Marriage.
I am often inspired to write book reviews on my blog so here I go again. Terry Real captured my heart with I Don’t Want To Talk About It in 2007. In it he talks about why so many men don’t talk about their feelings. The New Rules of Marriage expands his reach and makes this groundbreaking statement to women married to men. “Women, you are not crazy. It is OK to want more connection.” (I’m paraphrasing.) Whew! It’s really helping me make that point in my couples’ sessions. Thanks, Terry.
My mentors – beautifully married therapists Rita Resnick Ph.D. and Robert Resnick Ph.D. out of GATLA (Gestalt Associates Training Los Angeles) – taught me that human beings are always seeking both connection and separateness. I love helping couples manage that tension. But I think what I love most is telling people that marriage – if we want to do it for the extraordinarily long amount of time our culture seems to value – requires some serious work. Work!
It’s a piece of cake (albeit a tasteless piece of cake) to stay married without any emotional work – so long as you want to stay stuck in all the patterns you bring from your parents’ marriages and your own fears and anxieties.
To stay vitally married is an active process of learning about new tools, sharpening them and practicing their use. I do believe this. Even though there is obviously a conflict of interest here. Such notions will keep me in business helping couples define all their words for marriage. But having just finished a beautiful session a hour ago with a couple who are rebuilding their marriage after separation and infidelity, wow, what an amazing business it is.