How Strong Is Your Marriage? A Checklist

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About Jennifer Gunsaullus

Jennifer Gunsaullus, PhD, is a sociologist, compassionate feminist, and sex-positive video host and sex educator. She speaks on merging sexuality and mindfulness, and challenges people to think about sexuality outside the box. Join in on her conversations on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and the Den website at http://www.drjennsden.com.

Comments

  1. FlyingKal says:

    Just a thought:
    Are women more unhappy about their relationships than men are (manifesting itself in initiating more divorces, etc)?
    Or are men just less frequent in expressing their dissatisfaction (out of “fear” for the cold shoulder)?

    Are men even expected to be happy in a relationship?

    • My feeling is it’s closer to the second question you posed – that men don’t express their dissatisfaction as often, or perhaps as well, as women do. Whether it’s fear of the cold shoulder or a simple “good enough is good enough” attitude, that’s hard for me as a woman to judge.

      What I can say is that I’ve encountered plenty of men who seem to adopt and profess an attitude of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” when it comes to much of their life, while I’ve encountered plenty of women who seem to have an endless list of things to ‘fix,’ and when those things are fixed, they seek new flaws that need to be addressed.

      So, generally speaking, men are “fixers” and women are “fixated.” (Obviously tons of exceptions here.) And one could probably write a book on why that is.

      My hunch? Women-focused media, from rag mags to serious feminist discussions, has brought so much attention to our ‘issues’ that we’re prompted to constantly examine our lives and hold them up against some set of standards – be they traditional standards or media standards or feminist standards – and see how we’re performing, and if things are not 100% where we think they should be, then we’re dissatisfied. Which we either bottle up and try to make do because we’re convinced *we are the problem*, or find a way to express (which can mean criticism or depression or nagging or heart-to-heart communication).

      But that’s just a hunch, I have no data or evidence to back it up, simply my observations.

      • wellokaythen says:

        I think your hunches are right. Women seem to be much more analytical about their relationships than men, assessing the state of their relationship, and assessing their own happiness, on a much more frequent basis. That’s a good thing, but go too far and it’s a bad thing.

        I keep thinking about all those magazines and websites geared towards women where women can test their relationship. There are enough out there that a woman could spend all day every day taking those quizzes. The bad news is that “if it bleeds, it leads,” so these evaluations tend to bring up the negatives instead of the positives.

        It also reminds me of credit scores. If you check your credit rating too often, it actually hurts your credit rating.

        As a gross generalization, I think women tend to overanalyze their relationships and men tend to underanalyze.

        • wellokaythen says:

          P.S. Maybe a better analogy. There’s that old story about the farmer who pulls up his crops every morning to see how well they’re growing. They don’t grow so well when he does that.

        • FlyingKal says:

          KKZ and Wellokaythen,
          Thanks for the replies, both of you.I think you’re both onto soomething with the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and the “not pulling up the crop to check it” analogies.

          In my experience, there’s also seem to be a certain attitude that whenever a long-term relationship is broken, the social circle will more often assign the blame and responsibility on the man for the failure. If he’s the one to break up, you get to hear that “How could he do this to her, he wasn’t good enough for her anyway.”. While if she breaks up it’s “What did he do to her to make her do this? He must have hit her or cheated on her, and I bet he was just a waste of time, space and effort in bed anyway!”

  2. I wonder if women have higher expectations. And more emotional options outside of marriage (like friends they can share feelings with). And less power in the marriage – they get their way less often. All making them more likely to separate from their partners.

  3. JJ Vincent says:

    These are good things to consider for any relationship…married or not.

  4. These are all great comments and I appreciate your thoughtful questions and responses! I think a lot of your hunches are probably part of the big picture: the fears men have of sharing concerns, a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude, media depictions directed towards women that maintain dissatisfaction, and more emotional options for women outside marriage. Speaking to that last point, sociological research finds that marriage has health benefits for men (mental, emotional, social, physical) but it’s not comparable for women. I also have a different perspective, that is just a theory on my side, that negative emotions seems to weigh more heavily on women. They hit deeper and stay longer. This is something I see in my practice, where men think their female partners are just being difficult and holding onto the past that they’ve let go of, but their female partner’s are still deeply impacted by the hurt. And perhaps this is connected to why women have higher rates of depression and anxiety. Just a theory.

    • FlyingKal says:

      Hi Dr. Gunsaullus,

      I also have a different perspective, that is just a theory on my side, that negative emotions seems to weigh more heavily on women. They hit deeper and stay longer.

      This made me think…
      Do you think it’s possible that, even if women have more emotional options outside of marriage, they also in general have higher expectations than men have, to have their emotional needs met within the marriage?
      And that could be part of the reason why negative emotions seems to weigh more heavily on women?

      I mean, I’m a man, past 40 years old, and I’ve been in a couple of relationships. And I’ve come to realize, by experience, that I can’t really expect to have (most of?) my emotional needs met within a relationship. And I have also experienced that bringing it up as an issue with my partner is making it even less likely to have them met.

      • Hi, FlyingKal~
        You bring up an interesting point, which makes me think about how marriage has changed in the past 100-150 years. We’ve been taught to believe that our marriage partner should complete us, meet all our emotional and physical needs, and feel passionate for us forever. These romantic notions set most folks up for disappointment and resentment. Perhaps this speaks to your point, FlyingKal.

        • Hi Dr. Gunsaullus, and thanks for your answer.

          I don’t know, but personally I think that the expectations of a relationship should be more about complementing than completing each other, and I think that most people realize this as well. (There was an article about that here on GMP not that long ago.)

          As I said, I have certainly not expected to have all my needs, emotional or physical, met in a relationship.
          But is it wrong to expect to have any of them met?
          And would you agree if I say that women in general have higher expectations on a relationship regarding their emotional needs, but are also more likely to have more of them met?

  5. Dr. G,

    Great article, thanks! Having come through the near death of my 18 year marriage, I can say that the items on your checklist are very important to stay plugged in to. It does seem a little strange, though, to sit down every week with score card and discuss whether your feeling of emotional intimacy (for example) is a 6 or a 7. I agree talking about these things is important, if you are clueless about how your partner feels in these areas, like I was, you are setting yourself up for divorce. I’m just not sure a checklist is a way to truly connect. But maybe it is a good start, or even just for an individual to know what to be tuned in to.

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