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Monday, November 29, 2021  

Dating: He loves me,…he will change Marriage: He said he loves me, why hasn’t he changedPublished 1/12/2004

Anyone who reads the paper or watches the news is aware that Oklahoma has a serious divorce problem; second highest in the nation. There have been many reasons given for this enormous blemish on our state, i.e., high numbers of teen and young marriages, lack of premarital counseling and a lack of commitment.

While the above reasons are valid, they alone cannot be the major focus. The deeper issue lies within the individuals, themselves. Premarital counseling cannot fix the couple if the individuals are broken. How can a decision to marry and make a lifetime commitment be made by someone without a true sense of self; a well defined framework of beliefs, values and goals? If insecurity, fearfulness, impulsivity, boredom or "all my friends were doing it" guide such a life changing decision then it is a guarantee that just around the corner will be some major problems.

Dating is a very interesting phenomenon. Two people meeting in a variety of situations, exchanging information and spending increased time with one another. A time for honest communication, mutual sharing of life experiences and establishing boundaries. This part sounds good, but to understand the high divorce statistics; honest communication, mutual sharing and setting boundaries need to be addressed.

Communication should be about honesty. It is amazing how the value of honesty has taken second place to lies, deceit and pretending. People have openly shared in the counseling process that they lie to their partner about things that would "hurt their feelings" or "get them in trouble." In many relationships this becomes the foundation for their communication. If honest communication is not occurring during dating how will it be valued in marriage? Bill is an example of this situation.

Bill, a 34 year old single male came to counseling to talk about his depression and increased alcohol consumption. He was an attractive, educated man who had a job that he absolutely hated, but one that paid very well. He was lonely and increasingly anxious for a relationship. His main social contact was meeting women in bars and clubs. He was forthright with his age, education and income but lied to every woman about where he worked. He stated, "How can I tell them what I really do, a monkey could do my job." He was embarrassed because he felt his job was beneath his abilities. He started every encounter with a lie.

Communication can become tricky if we don’t say what we mean, mean what we say or hear what is actually said. Dating is the time when we communicate our thoughts, beliefs and values about many different issues, i.e., money, religion and career goals. The value of money is an ambiguous issue for many couples, either because it wasn’t discussed or not honestly discussed. People often have opposing views on spending and saving money that fail to surface until after the "I Do’s."

How well do you think you listen? Do you really hear what is said or what you want to hear? We could all benefit from fine tuning our listening skills. It is interesting to listen to couples talk to each other and then have them repeat back what their partner said. Some amazing statements are often made and not at all what the person said.

How often do you get to talk? If you notice that the other person dominates the conversation by talking about themselves and rarely or if ever asks about you-run or walk briskly out of the room.

Something else of interest in the dating/marriage dance are the number of people who marry a person that does not meet their expectations and plan for that person to change after marriage. Don and Susan are examples.

Don and Susan, both in their late 20’s, presented for marital counseling due to mutual loss of interest in their 13 year marriage. Susan said she was frustrated with Don for his lack of interest in social activities and his need to cling to her at parties. Don stated that Susan knew he did not enjoy going to parties but insisted that he "try to loosen up." As we continued talking Susan indicated that this had been a big problem while they were dating but she thought Don would change after they married. They had frequent arguments about their differences before they married but neither thought it was a big enough issue not to marry.

It is difficult to set boundaries with another person if we do not feel comfortable to set limits, to verbalize what we will and will not tolerate and to accept nothing less. There is a huge difference in wanting and needing to be married. Marriage may not be in everyone’s best interest. Marriage does not guarantee happiness or provide the relief from loneliness that many people are seeking.

It is my belief that the divorce rate will decrease as people commit to doing their individual homework and develop a healthy sense of self before they make the decision to marry. We educate ourselves in many different professions and trades. We go to class, read books and take tests. By contrast how many of us prepared as well for our marriage licenses?

Before committing to marriage, commit to learning how to be comfortable in your own skin, have a self first and then decide if marriage is for you.

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