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How Love Grows and Dies

How Love Grows and Dies

By J. Bailey Molineux, Ph.D.

If divorce were a disease, we would be in the midst of an epidemic.

In any given year, there are half as many divorces in Montana as marriages while the national yearly divorce rate is about forty percent. In addition, there are probably many couples who are unhappily married but stay together for a variety of reasons - for the sake of the children, fear of loneliness and the unknown, economic insecurity and fear of failure - so it would seem that the odds of finding marital happiness are not exactly favorable. People should realize this before they marry so that they are aware that successful marriages don't just happen without effort.

Love begins when two people spend time together, learn and accept more about each other, and share more fun and pleasure with each other. It grows to the extent that they reward each other or fulfill each other's needs. The more pleasure and satisfaction each partner gives to the other, the stronger becomes the bond between them.

Since it involves the sharing of many rewarding and pleasurable experiences, love takes time to develop. Infatuation is simply a strong sexual attraction that should not be mistaken for love. It can become love but not without time and mutual need fulfillment.

Love dies when two people cease to reward each other or to meet each other's needs, when they give each other no pleasure or more pain than pleasure. Several factors account for this diminution of love.

First and probably most important, people's needs change. If the marital partners are unable to change to meet each other's changing needs, or are unaware of such changes, the marriage may be headed for trouble.

For example, the sexual needs are probably strongest at the beginning of the marriage but become less important with the passage of the years. Later in the marriage, the need to be economically secure, or to have a smoothly functioning household, or simply to be prized as a unique human being might become stronger, so that a good lover at the start of the marriage may not be a good spouse later on.

Second, marriage involves responsibilities and problems. What starts out in the court­ship and honeymoon stage as a relationship involving only pleasurable, positive experiences eventually becomes encumbered with negative experiences. There are always bills to be paid, differences to be settled, children to be cared for, and chores to be done. If the negative experiences come to outweigh the positive, love will be threatened.

Third, marital behavior becomes routine, automatic, and predictable. Spouses fit into certain roles and routines and have trouble breaking away from them. These roles and routines are necessary for the successful functioning of the family but if too rigid can make the relationship stale and cheerless. As a consequence, the partners lose the ability to have spontaneous "fun" with each other.

Love need not die as it appears to do so often in American marriages. It can be preserved, nurtured, and strengthened but not without dedication, flexibility, clear communication, and lots of hard works.


About the Author: J. Bailey Molineux, a psychologist with Adult and Child Counseling, has incorporated many of his articles in a book, Loving Isn't Easy, Isbn 1587410419, sold through bookstores everywhere or available directly from Selfhelpbooks.com. Copyright 2002, J. Bailey Molineux and Selfhelpbooks.com, all rights reserved. This article may be reprinted but must include authors copyright and website hyperlinks.

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