Monday, February 5, 2007
WHY DOES LOVE FADE
WHY DOES LOVE FADE AFTER MARRIAGE?
By William Shao
IT IS true that “It seems much easier to fall into love than to stay in love.” The proliferation of loveless marriages is perhaps not surprising. Marriage is a complex human relationship, and many enter it with little preparation.
“We are required to demonstrate some proficiency when obtaining a driver’s license,” observes Dr Dalton Lyimo, “but marriage licenses can be had for a signature.”
Hence, while many marriages thrive and are truly happy, a number experience strain. Perhaps one or both spouses entered marriage with high expectations but lack the skills that are necessary for a long-term relationship.
“When people first become close,” explains Dr Goodluck Lema at Muhimbili Hospital, “they feel a tremendous sense of validation from each other.” They feel as if their partner were “the only other person on earth who sees things as they do. That feeling sometimes fades, and when it does, it can take a heavy toll on the marriage.”
Happily, many marriages do not come to that point. But let us briefly consider a few of the factors that in some cases have caused love to fade. The first factor is disillusionment.
In an interview with The African on Sunday, one respondent, Shamila Abdallah of Magomeni Mapipa, admitted that she did not know what kind of a marriage partner she was falling in love with. “This I not what I expected,” she says.
“When I married Jim,” says Rose, “I thought we’d be the local version of Sleeping Beauty and Prince Charming—all romance and tenderness and consideration for each other.” Yet, after a while, Rose’s “prince” didn’t seem so charming. “I ended up being terribly disappointed in him,” she says.
Many movies, books, and popular songs paint an unrealistic portrait of love. While courting, a man and a woman may feel that they are experiencing a dream come true; but after a few years of marriage, they conclude that truly they must have been dreaming. Anything less than a storybook romance might make a workable marriage seem like an utter failure.
Of course, some expectations in marriage are entirely proper. For example, it is appropriate to expect love, attention, and support from one’s mate. Yet, even these wishes may go unfulfilled. “I almost feel that I am not married,” says Ringia Meena, a young bride from Moshi, Kilimanjaro. “I feel lonely and neglected.”
The second factor is incompatibility. Marriage partners, more often than not, find themselves that they are not a match for their marriages, “We have nothing in common,” a father of two, with five years in marriage, told The African on Sunday.
“My husband and I are about 180 degrees apart on virtually everything,” says one woman who wishes to remain anonymous. “Not a day passes that I don’t bitterly regret my decision to marry him. We are just badly mismatched.”
Usually it does not take long for a married couple to discover that they are not as much alike as they seemed to be during courtship. “Marriage often showcases characteristics that the partners had managed to hide from themselves throughout their single lives,” writes John M. Gottman and Nan Silver in their book, ‘The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert.’
As a result, after marriage some couples may conclude that they are completely incompatible. “Despite some similarities in taste and personality, most people enter marriage with major differences in style, habits, and attitudes,” says Gary L. Thomas in his book, Sacred Marriage. Many couples do not know how to reconcile those differences.
Another factor is conflict. “We’re Always Arguing,” says young couple at Kimara Stop Over.
“We were amazed at how much we were fighting—yelling even, or worse, steaming around in silence for days,” says J., who wishes her name not mentioned, reflecting on the early days of her marriage.
In marriage, disagreements are inevitable. But how are they handled? “In a healthy marriage,” writes Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend in their book, Boundaries in Marriage, “husband and wife feel free to voice a complaint. But too often in the heat of anger complaints are expressed in a destructive fashion, as an attack on the spouse’s character.”
When this happens, conversation is a battleground where viewpoints are defended with grim determination and words are weapons instead of tools of communication.
Says one team of experts: “One of the most damaging things about arguments that are escalating out of control is that partners tend to say things that threaten the very lifeblood of their marriage.”
Apathy is yet another factor. “I’ve given up on trying making our marriage work,” confessed one woman after five years of marriage. “I know that it will never work now. So all I’m concerned about is our kids.”
It has been said that the true opposite of love is not hate but apathy. Indeed, indifference can be every bit as destructive to a marriage as hostility.
Sadly, though, some spouses become so accustomed to a loveless marriage that they give up all hope of any change. For example, one husband said that being married for 23 years resembled “being in a job you don’t like.” He added: “You do the best you can in the situation.”
Similarly, a wife named Sofia has given up hope for her husband of seven years. “I tried so many times,” she says, “and he always let me down. I ended up in a depression. I don’t want to go through that again. If I get my hopes up, I’ll only get hurt. I’d sooner expect nothing—I won’t enjoy things, but at least I won’t get depressed.”
The African on Sunday discovered that disillusionment, incompatibility, conflict, and apathy are just some of the factors that may contribute to a loveless marriage. Obviously, there are more.
In the question of money, one might imagine that budgeting would help unite a couple through the necessity of working together, pooling their resources for the basics of living, and enjoying the fruits of their labors. But here, too, what could bond a couple in a joint venture often serves to separate them.
There is also the parenthood. According to the book, The Act of Marriage, by Dr Tim LaHaye and Beverly LaHaye, “…67 percent of couples experience a significant drop in marital contentment after their first child is born, and there is eight times more conflict.” Why? “Partly it is because parents are tired and don’t have a lot of time for themselves.”
After this factor comes ‘deceit’. “Infidelity usually involves deceit, and deceit, pure and simple, is a betrayal of trust. With trust identified as a crucial component in all successful long-term marriages, is it any wonder that deceit can wreak havoc on a marital relationship?” queried Mr Frederick Njau of Kimara Temboni.
Sex is just another factor. “By the time people file for divorce, sexual deprivation of many years’ standing is shockingly common. In some cases the sexual relationship was never established, and in others, sex was mechanical, merely a vent for one partner’s physical needs,” says Sarah Fanuel, a clinical attendant at Muhimbili Hospital.
However worse the situation might be, some couples believe, wrongly, that the quality of their marriage cannot affect their children. According to Dr John Gottman, who has researched married couples for some 20 years in UK, the answer is yes.
“In two ten-year studies,” he says, “we found that babies of unhappy parents have higher heart rates during playful interactions and aren’t as able to soothe themselves.
“Over time, marital conflict leads to lower achievement in school, regardless of the children’s IQ.” In contrast, Dr. Gottman says, children of well-adjusted married couples “do better both scholastically and socially, because their parents have shown them how to treat other people with respect and handle emotional upsets.”