Are there others like us? My wife and I talk about how we could just spend all day together every day. We love to hang out and be together. We can even work well together. Even after almost 8 years of marriage and 3 kids.
Yet we hear other married couples say how they need that occasional breaks from each other. Or that they could NEVER work with their spouse. That they would drive each other crazy. For whatever reason, we aren’t like that, and we have trouble identifying with those who are.
So what’s the difference here? Are people just wired different? Do we have a different kind of relationship? I was very excited to see a new book arrived in my mailbox today – Refrigerator Rights: Creating Connections and Restoring Relationships, by Dr. Will Miller with Glenn Sparks, Ph.D. I’ve only read the forward so far but I know this is going to touch on something I’m very interested in: our culture’s current crisis of isolationism and decline of face to face relationships.
We are definitely relationally challenged in our modern world. I wonder how this shift is affecting our marriages. Check out this interesting article from one of the authors of Refrigerator Rights. You can find the original blog post by Dr. Glenn Sparks here.
In America, we’ve perpetuated the strong belief that if we could just find that one “perfect” person to be our life-long mate, all of our relational and emotional needs would be met and we’d live happily ever after. Since publishing Refrigerator Rights, Will Miller and I have cautioned against blind acceptance of this myth. We’ve warned that no single person is capable of meeting the totality of another’s relational and emotional needs. Human beings are wired for close connection to a whole range of relationship types: fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, brothers and sisters, aunts & uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc. Regardless of the closeness of the marriage bond, both partners still need close friends and family-type relationships to sustain them throughout life. In fact, we believe that marriages that are characterized by a rich network of “refrigerator rights” friends are actually much healthier, more vibrant, and likely to last.
But there is also a caution on the flip-side of this equation. As we point out in the book, for decades, America’s lifestyle has drifted into one of increasing isolation due to our high mobility–and an increasing tendency to surround ourselves with screens. Now, it seems, our trend toward isolation is also beginning to permeate into the marriage relationship itself. As Sue Shellenbarger notes in her recent column in the Wall Street Journal, a team of researchers at Penn State University has studied over 4,000 married people over the last 20-years. Shellenbarger states that, “They found that the likelihood of couples spending lots of time together visiting friends, pursuing recreational activities, dining or shopping together, or teaming up on projects around the house, fell 28%.” We think there’s little doubt that if we spend less and less time together, our marriages will be less healthy. If you’re married, you might want to take a personal inventory, note the trends over the past few years–and then plan to do something together with your partner. Doing something together–but also something with other people–might be a particularly wise investment of time. It will put you together with your partner and simultaneously permit you to cultivate friends and close connections with others.
Food for thought.
What about you? Do you need breaks from your spouse or are you inseparable? Do you regularly spend time with friends or spend most of your time alone?