A Truly Happy Marriage

Published April 29, 1982. I was talking to a friend down at the store the other day, and she posed a question I could not answer. “Just how many people are happily married nowadays?” she asked.

Most of us are realistic enough to know that everyone who stays married is necessarily happy. One national study indicated that 80 percent of the married couples stated that, under the same circumstances, they would marry the same person again.

What concerned my friend and me, however, was a survey on the same topic reported in a local paper a few weeks ago. Over 1,300 Utah County residents responded to a volunteer telephone survey asking whether they would marry the same person again. The results? Only 64 percent said they would.

Whether or not the sample was truly representative is not known. But it does reflect similar findings of a study done in Ohio a few years ago.

John Cuber and Peggy Harroff interviewed nearly 500 married people and, from those discussions, derived the following classifications and percentages of their study: Vital Marriages (17 percent), Congenial Marriages (33 percent), Devitalized Marriages (33 percent) and Combative Marriages (17 percent).

The Vital Marriages were those where the marriage partners were truly of significance to each other. They liked being together, enjoyed each other’s company, and had much going for them in their relationship. People in Vital Marriages placed great emphasis on each other as individuals rather than the services they rendered to each other.

The Congenial Marriages were those in which the couples got along and had few differences or confrontations, but the vitality present in the Vital Marriages was missing. People in Congenial Marriages put great emphasis on maintaining a well-functioning home, so family members could participate in their many community, occupational, civic or church activities. In Congenial Marriages a marriage partner often became a means to an end so the events and “things” in life could be dealt with in an orderly fashion.

The Devitalized Marriages were those where a married couple once had something of significance, perhaps vitality, but somewhere along the way they lost it. The difference between Congenial and Devitalized Marriages was the Congenial Marriages never had any vitality, nor was it expected. Devitalized Marriages, on the other hand, once had it but were not able to retain it. Some devitalized couples explained “that’s just the way life is.”

The combative marriages were those in which frequent confrontations and arguments occurred. Such became the rule more than the exception. Constant verbal assaults, often lasting for months, occurred. And couples in Combative Marriages seemed to thrive on the one-upmanship that was required to keep the confrontations constant.

It should be noted that in all four categories of marriage the couples were still together and had no immediate intentions of divorce. Apparently, the couples preferred the type of relationship they had over divorce. Otherwise, they could have chosen separation as an option.

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