By Don Shar, NCC
In our time, successful marriages have the potential to have stronger emotional bonds and personal growth than marriages in past eras. In times past, emotional bonds and personal growth had little to do with the reason men and woman desired marriage, or how they judged its success. Over the past 200 years, marriage in the United States has changed from an institution which met the needs of society, to one meeting the needs of the couple and their children, and now to an expectation of meeting the psychological needs of each spouse. At the same time, these successful marriages are more difficult to create, and we often fall short of this potential.
You’ve probably heard of Maslow’s hierarchy which describes levels of needs, from lowest to highest: physiological (air, food, sleep), safety, belonging and love, esteem, and self-actualization.
In this hierarchy:
Lower needs tend to have priority over higher needs.
Higher needs tend to require more self-insight and require cognitive effort over a long period of time.
Fulfillment of higher needs results in richness of life.
In a paper titled The Suffocation of Marriage: Climbing Mount Maslow without Enough Oxygen, the authors (Finkel et al.) describe marital expectations as a mountain with lower elevations (basic marriage expectations of food and safety, etc.) being scaled with minimal personal insight and growth. Higher elevations, related to meeting more personal needs, require progressively more “oxygen” or this insight and growth.
Just as the pursuit of Maslow’s higher needs frequently requires substantial insight into the self, looking to the marriage to meet higher needs frequently requires that each spouse have substantial insight into their partner. This level of insight typically requires investing considerable vulnerability, communication and responsiveness over a sustained period of time. While Americans increasingly ask their marriage to help them fulfill ever higher needs, they have, on average, reduced their investment of time and psychological resources in their marriage. This is particularly so for couples with children.
Marital quality is well correlated with personal well-being and marriage has greater potential today than ever before. Meeting higher altitude needs through marriage can help people achieve high levels of relationship well-being, happiness, and personal fulfillment.
If you would like to boost your marriage “oxygen” to climb “Mount Maslow”, here are some suggestions:
Check out Anchorpoint’s other blog articles on marriage.
There are many books available, including the classic “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, and a personal favorite “Love & Respect” by Emerson Eggerich.
Internet search “marriage conversation starters.”
Have daily devotions and prayer with your spouse.
Schedule an appointment for you and your spouse with one of our counselors.
God bless you on your marriage journey.
If you are interested in learning healthy ways to resolve conflict and connect as a couple, marriage counseling is available. Call Anchorpoint at 412-366-1300 to schedule an appointment with a confidential and compassionate therapist.