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Read previous columns by Marita Littauer

Order your copy of Love Extravagantly: Making the Modern Marriage Work

 
Author's Note:

How to Make the Most of This Column

This column is as unique and modern as the marriages we hope to help. Rather than outline a specific success formula for every marriage to follow, we recognize the premise that each marriage is unique—there is no longer an average American family. While all marriages are different, many do face similar problems and difficulties. In the following weeks you will find a collection of real life scenarios found in the modern marriage—which we are calling “The Issue.” These scenarios have been reviewed by thousands of couples worldwide. Those who have faced something similar in their marriages have offered their insights as to how they got through the situation and found their own equilibrium. These insights are presented with their first names only. In most cases the names given are their real names, however, some have asked that their personal identity be protected.

Additionally, therapists and other experts have given their professional advice on each presenting problem based on their professional experience and what they have seen work with others in similar situations. To make their contributions easier to identify, the “experts” will be identified by the use of their last name along with their counsel.

As a person with the burden for the modern marriage, a writer and a noted Personality expert, I am bringing the problems, the peer insight and the professional advice together, and adding the input on the Personality complications. While his fingers seldom touched the keyboard, my husband, Chuck Noon, a licensed marriage and family therapist in two states has added his opinion—mostly through our dinner conversation.

Where direct quotes are used from either the peers or the “professional” contributors, their comments are placed in italics to make it easier for you to identify their insights.

The combined advice is under the heading of “The Insights.”

In the weeks to come, this column will present a prescription for some of the problems that those of us who do not fit the Ozzie-and-Harriett model face. Rather than trying to fit your marriage into a mold, you will learn to find the specific equilibrium that is right for the characteristics that are on your scale.

 
RELATIONSHIPS

The Modern Marriage: One Size Does Not Fit All

By Marita Littauer with Chuck Noon, MA, LPCC
Guest Columnist

CBN.com -- My marriage has some specific characteristics that make it different from many of my friends. Yet, it also has traits that I find are like so many other marriages today. My marriage, and probably yours, in no way resembles what was modeled in my youth as the ideal marriage. When I was growing up, television showed us that all marriages fit a certain mold: first marriage for both spouses. Husband goes off to work everyday and is the sole breadwinner. His job is secure and he works for the same company all his life. He is the leader, the disciplinarian (remember, “Wait ‘til your father gets home”) and the decision-maker in the family. Wife stays home and takes care of the children and her husband. She is sweet, gracious, and agreeable to whatever her husband suggests. I call this family the “Ozzie-and-Harriett model” named for the perfect television family of the sixties. My friend Kim says, “I remember watching my parents’ ‘Ozzie-and-Harriet’ marriage, and while I respected them, I did not want to follow in my mother’s footsteps! There are still some of these families around—just not in my circles!

Those of us who do not fit the Ozzie-and-Harriett model have what I call a “modern marriage.” It might include a marriage where both spouses work and are income producing. They may work outside the home or have a home-based business, but they both produce income—perhaps the woman makes more than her husband does or he works for her. It might include a marriage where it is a second or third marriage for one or both spouses. There may be ex-spouse problems or stepchildren that factor into the marriage. It might include a marriage where the couple has chosen to be childless. Due to career changes or a need to care for an aging parent, spouses may have to live a commuter marriage for a period of time. Since the traditional family album includes a docile and submissive wife and a strong, spiritual leader for the husband, the modern marriage could be something as subtle as the wife having the stronger personality. Because each marriage is unique, these are just a sampling of the situations that may be found within the modern marriage.

Being an author, I am exposed to many, many books. Books are my world. As I review Christian books on marriage, I find that the vast majority of them assume that marriages are still the Ozzie-and-Harriett model. As I look at my marriage and those of my friends, I find that this model is rare in most of today’s world. Recent research shows that the percentage of American households made up of married couples with children dropped from 45 percent in the early 1970’s to just 26 percent in 1998. For many of us, the principles and ideals outlined in the many excellent books available on marriage do not apply to our situations. One I read had a list of things a woman could do to show her husband that she loves him and visa versa. Item number 95 says to send him cards at his place of work and item number 96 suggests that she stuff his suitcase with love notes when he travels. Yet, his list doesn’t suggest the same. What if she is the one who travels, as in my case?

If, like me, you have read some of these books and felt frustrated because they seem so out of touch with the reality of your household, this column is for you. Since there are many wonderful books out there that address the basics of a traditional marriage, I have chosen to address those of us who feel left out—the more than 50% of us who do not have the Ozzie-and-Harriett model. Here we will look at a wide cross section of unique marriage situations—those problems that many of our parents didn’t have to face—and help you find the equilibrium that is right for your particular set of circumstances.

I have what I call a modern marriage, but because of what had been modeled for me as a child, when I entered into it I had traditional expectations. The two did not meet. I had to make adjustments in my expectations in what I thought my marriage would be. But, there was no guide for me as to how to make my modern marriage work. Many of us base our views of what a marriage should be on an unrealistic image. When counseling couples, my husband Chuck asks them to paint a word picture of their childhood model of marriage. He asks them to use an analogy of a television show, a fairy tale or storybook that reflects their view of marriage. The response is often something like Father Knows Best, Ozzie-and-Harriet, Leave it to Beaver or Cinderella. Next he asks them, “Is that what you expect from your current marriage? Is that what you want from your marriage today?” After a pause in which the lights go on, the couple usually realizes that they have unconsciously had a “happily-ever-after” expectation of their real life marriage, resulting in fighting and disagreements. Once the couple is able to acknowledge that their expectations are unrealistic—and often not even really what they want today, they can accept where they are and build from there.

As you read the scenarios in the following weeks, you will see that you are not alone. You will see that other couples have problems too. But, most importantly, you will see that when you care enough to apply the principle of Love Extravagantly—loving as Christ did; not to get but to give, most of the problems you face can be solved.

If this is the first installment of this column you have read, we encourage you to click here to read previous articles.


Marita LittauerMarita Littauer is the author of 13 books and is President of CLASServices Inc. She can be reached through www.classervices.com.

Chuck Noon is a licensed professional counselor specializing in marriage. Chuck is married to Marita Littauer.  For more information visit: www.chucknoon.com

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