Now more than ever, the divine institution of marriage is under threat. There are many issues, notwithstanding the gay and lesbian lobby. But this article is focused on present and ever-relevant concerns found within Sternberg’s triangular theory of love: the interaction of intimacy, passion, and commitment.
When we think of infidelity, we think of the sexual variety—overt physical affairs. But many marriages are plagued by mistrust due to unspoken covert issues and fears. Sometimes the threat of infidelity can be almost as damaging as its actual occurrence. If there are issues of jealousy or infidelity, which come down to trust and integrity respectively, blessed is the couple that meets the issues head on, who forge a new way toward intimacy based in trust and accountability.
2. Distance Without Passion
Distance is a key issue in today’s world. Due to the ease and convenience of travel, there is more remote work than ever before. Distance, by itself, is not the problem. Distance without passion within the relationship is more the problem. Indeed, distance can actually increase passion, and can therefore be very good, if the couple is committed and have come up with creative and mutually agreeable workarounds. Distance within the relationship needs to work for both partners, not just one. It needs to serve the entire family structure.
Co-dependence or enmeshment will destroy the quality in a marriage quicker than almost anything. Where one is fearfully dependent, the other is a constant hero ‘delivering’ this fearfully dependent partner. There are many marriages like this that endure partners’ lifetimes, but there is no real joy between them. Partners are negatively linked. The chemistry is amiss, or it is so indivisible, love has fused into something contemptible.
4. Incompatible Goals
A big threat to both intimacy and commitment is incompatible goals between the couple. Compatibility of goals was presumably a key component of drawing them together in the first place. Where there is incompatibility of goals there is a blunt call for compromise. Ideally, both partners, if they remain committed to one another, will compromise sufficiently to the other’s satisfaction.
5. Flagging Commitment
This is the threat of all threats. When the desire of commitment wanes in one or both partners in marriage, the relationship has a bearing full-head for the rocks.
Issues of thought precede decisions. But feelings, if certain thoughts aren’t contested, influence our decisions. We need to rein in the extravagance of our feelings, for if we don’t watch our feelings they will reign over our thoughts and our attitudes will be impacted negatively and possibly irrevocably. Commitment is a decision, pure and simple.
If we were once in love, and there is no safety threat within the marriage, there is no reason to bail on commitment. And those that do bail on commitment inevitably regret it.
Five great protections for marriage: 1) ensure protections against infidelity; 2) retain passion, especially where distance is a factor; 3) keep a sensible independence; 4) ensure compatible goals; and, 5) work on commitment.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.