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Marriage and divorce: they’re not supposed to go hand in hand, but these days they seem to. We frequently hear expressions such as “we have fallen madly in love,” “I’m head over heels in love with him/her,” “I’m smitten” or other equally endearing phrases. These comments, at the time they are made, are for the most part made in all sincerity. Why then do approximately 50 percent of these relationships end in divorce, and usually acrimony, between the former lovers?
In most courtships it is generally the case that one party is the more aggressive of the two. Traditionally, it has been the male of the species who assumes the role of the hunter and the female the object of the hunt. That has changed dramatically, however, during the past two or three decades and today it is not uncommon to see these traditional roles reversed. But whether one is the pursuer or the pursued is not necessarily a measure of the level of intensity of the feelings one might have for the other. The courtship process, as we all know, is really a game wherein both parties usually attempt to impress the other through both words and actions and may not reflect the true feelings of one person for another.
To the best of my knowledge, there is no scientific method by which we can quantitatively measure the intensity of one person’s feeling toward another. We can make bold proclamations, indulge in extreme generosity and even engage in bizarre behaviour in an attempt to display how much we love someone but there appears to be no way to accurately determine whether John loves Mary more than Mary loves John. Our inability to accurately measure the intensity of one’s love for another person may well be a significant factor in determining whether a marriage succeeds or fails. In other words, if the difference in the levels of intensity between two people is significantly large, it could well be the catalyst for marital dysfunction and, by extension, divorce.
Medical technology has achieved some remarkable results and perhaps someday someone will invent a device that enables us to measure feelings of love on a scale of say one to ten. Over time and by tracking the divorce rates of those who were tested before “tying the knot” we might find the following.
If and when such a device is invented and a long term statistical record established, it would obviously be prudent for prospective marriage partners to take the “intensity level test” along with their blood tests.
But what can one do in the meantime to improve their chances of marital success until the invention of this miraculous device occurs? Probably not a great deal except to employ some logic and good old common sense such as the following.
Lastly, is there anything one can do to determine whether or not they are truly “in love”? Tomes and poems have addressed this thorny issue but the answer remains elusive at best. But here is one test you can apply easily. Ask yourself this simple question; do I love him/her to the extent that I am more concerned about his/her well-being than I am my own? If you can honestly answer that question in the affirmative then you are probably truly in love. If your prospective partner feels the same, so much the better. If, however, your answer is negative or even ambivalent, then you would be well advised to move ahead very slowly or maybe even start your quest for a mate over again. A suggestion I received some years ago from an acquaintance whose successful marriage had recently passed the quarter century mark was the following. In your everyday dealings, treat your spouse with the same level of courtesy and respect as you would a person you had met for the first time.
As an aside, I’m reminded of a sociology professor I had while an undergraduate at the University of British Columbia. I specifically recall a lecture he gave on the role of rituals in modern society. He pointed out that we often have a ritual performed shortly after we are born (christening), bar mitzvahs at puberty for boys of the Jewish faith, elaborate (and costly) rituals when we marry, when we graduate, join certain organizations (Masons) and lastly, when we die. Certainly these are all important events in people’s lives. But isn’t divorce at least as important as some of the life altering events referred to above? “Why then, Professor Neagle asked, do we not have an elaborate ritual celebrating the end of a marriage?” None of his students had an answer and many years later I am still pondering the question. Maybe some entrepreneur will grab the idea and start a whole new industry.
Extreme cynics sometimes attempt to explain relationship breakdowns by citing the expression “familiarity breeds contempt.” Personally, I don’t subscribe fully to this notion but I do recall another quote from Professor Neagle. (no man is a hero to his valet)
This article takes a look at Relationships, love, marriage and Divorce. Mature respect for each other could be the possible answer to a successful marriage but there is no scientific method by which we can quantitatively measure the intensity of one person’s feeling toward another.
Barry W. Mayhew provides marketing services to small companies and individual entrepreneurs and is located in Victoria, B.C., Canada
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