WHAT’S GOT TO DO WITH IT?

Sunday Mail - Body and Soul - - FRONT PAGE -

The me­dian age for di­vorce in Aus­tralia has been ris­ing steadily for two decades and is now 41.3 years for women and 44.2 for men. In 2006, a third of divorces oc­curred in mar­riages of 20 years or more at a stage in life when many would feel the real hard work of rais­ing kids, es­tab­lish­ing ca­reers and pay­ing off mort­gages could be be­hind them.

So why are th­ese long re­la­tion­ships bust­ing open just when they can see the light of good times ahead? The Re­la­tion­ship In­sti­tute at UCLA in the US says it boils down to the level of com­mit­ment to the re­la­tion­ship that cou­ples take into the mar­riage at the start. Re­searchers fol­lowed 172 new­ly­weds for 11 years and found that the mar­riages that went the dis­tance – 78.5 per cent – were made up of cou­ples who were will­ing to “make sac­ri­fices” for the sake of the mar­riage.

The re­searchers said the cou­ples with suc­cess­ful re­la­tion­ships were com­mit­ted not only to each other shiny feel­ing of be­ing in love. So what are two of the main in­gre­di­ents in the recipe for ever­last­ing to­geth­er­ness?

The an­swer is com­mit­ment and space, ac­cord­ing to two stud­ies. Th­ese at­tributes may not be ro­man­tic or earth-mov­ing, but ex­perts say that mixed with gen­er­ous dol­lops of re­spect, car­ing and af­fec­tion, they can help your re­la­tion­ship shuf­fle hap­pily into the twi­light years. but to the over­ar­ch­ing re­la­tion­ship, and were de­ter­mined to pro­tect it.

Re­la­tion­ship ed­u­ca­tor and coun­sel­lor Denise Re­ichen­bach, of Re­la­tion­ships Aus­tralia, uses an anal­ogy in which the re­la­tion­ship is the roof of a build­ing and the cou­ple are in­di­vid­ual pil­lars work­ing as a team to keep the roof from cav­ing in.

She agrees that while love is im­por­tant – and be­ing in love is likely what got the whole thing started in the first place – a suc­cess­ful re­la­tion­ship that lasts for decades re­quires a com­mon­sense ap­proach and an ini­tial deep and real com­mit­ment to mak­ing it work in good times and bad.

“The re­la­tion­ship is the higher shared goal,” Re­ichen­bach says. “With cou­ples mak­ing a com­mit­ment to do­ing what they have to do to keep it strong. It’s about putting the re­la­tion­ship first and fac­ing the un­avoid­able re­al­ity that it can’t al­ways be smooth sail­ing and good times.”

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