IF there is an institution that is under siege and threat the world over – it is undoubtedly the marriage institution.
Someone recently made reference to a research that was conducted in several countries including Zimbabwe to identify the causes of depression among women.
The study titled: Africa: Depression linked to gender stereotypes, violence revealed that in Zimbabwe out of the 172 women involved 65% reported anxiety.
The women interviewed complained of “thinking too much,” “deep sadness,” grief, fear, or having an insoluble problem, as some of the causes of their anxiety. Further analysis suggests that men are the leading source of the difficulties women undergo.
I have often received calls from married women who just want someone to talk to and who are just so miserable in their marriages.
They talk and I listen.
I did some research on how some people’s marriages last and I got a few answers. I don’t know if the answers are correct and I don’t even know if these remedies work but it’s food for thought.
The question plaguing many married Zimbabwean women is to stay (married) or to leave?
Well I don’t know the answer to that. In everything; personal choices should be made by individuals themselves because at the end of the day we must all be as responsible for our own misery as we are for our happiness.
In a research titled, “How Do Unhappy Marriages Get Happier?” researchers claimed that a study had revealed that two-thirds of unhappy marriages had become happy five years later.
The researchers also conducted focus group interviews with 55 formerly unhappy husbands and wives who had turned their marriages around.
They found that many currently happily married spouses have had extended periods of marital unhappiness, often for quite serious reasons, including alcoholism, infidelity, verbal abuse, emotional neglect, depression, illness, and work reversals.
Why did these marriages survive where other marriages did not? Spouses’ stories of how their marriages got happier fell into three broad headings: the marital endurance ethic, the marital work ethic, and the personal happiness ethic.
Marital Endurance Ethic... marriages got happier not because partners resolved problems, but because they stubbornly outlasted them.
With the passage of time, these spouses said, many sources of conflict and distress eased: financial problems, job reversals, depression, child problems, even infidelity.
I hazard to guess that this is the premise of the dictum most women have been taught regarding marriage. That it must be endured and not enjoyed.
Question: Can you outlast the problems you are facing? Are you prepared to give it another 5 years (just in case these researchers are actually on to something?).
Marital Work Ethic… spouses told stories of actively working to solve problems, change behavior, or improve communication. When the problem was solved, the marriage got happier.
Strategies for improving marriages mentioned by spouses ranged from arranging dates or other ways to spend more time together, enlisting the help and advice of relatives or in-laws, to consulting clergy or secular counselors, to threatening divorce and consulting divorce lawyers. (I daresay this strategy would work better if we didn’t live in the sort of society that blames the wife for everything).
Question: Since it takes two to tango, how do you mend a marriage when the other partner is having an affair? Moreover, how viable is this alternative when some men choose to have children outside the marriage? (The truth is illegitimate children make the process of salvaging the marriage even more complex, excruciating and distressing for the wife).
Personal Happiness Ethic… in this instance, the marriage problems did not seem to change that much. Instead married people in these accounts told stories of finding alternative ways to improve their own happiness and build a good and happy life despite a mediocre marriage.
I suppose that the upbringing of most women makes them pre-disposed to settle for mediocre marriages because in many instances, a woman’s worth is associated with her marital status. No one really cares about the quality of the marriage as long as the woman is married – that is really all that matters.
The guiding principle here being – just stick with it (the marriage) and learn to make do!
Question: Does it really matter how happy marriages are as long as families remain intact? If people can have mediocre marriages and thrive in other aspects of their personal life – should they not learn to be content? (The idea here is that one should not expect marriage to make them happy).
In the words of Frank Pittman; “Marriage isn’t supposed to make you happy — it’s supposed to make you married.”
Five years is a long time but I wonder if there are any couples who are unhappily married right now who, in 2016, could step forward and prove these ideas right.
What I find interesting in the dynamics of the marriage institution are powerful effects of marital commitment on marital happiness.
Perhaps it is true that a strong commitment to marriage as an institution, and a powerful reluctance to divorce, will not merely keep unhappily married people locked in misery together but could also help couples form happier bonds…. with time (5 years or so?).