An oft-quoted statistic states that half of all marriages these days end in divorce, a number that would have been unheard of fifty years ago. Of course, it isn’t accurate. Although not all states submit statistics on divorce rates, those that do tend to track at an average of 1 in 3 marriages that now end in divorce. And in truth, the divorce rate has declined slightly in the last decade. But the larger question here is why more people are getting divorced now than in our parents or grandparents generation. Is it due to changing moral, social, or religious values? Or is it just harder to be married these days? In truth, it’s probably the former. Making a marriage work has always been tougher than people realize at the outset. And if you’re having trouble in your own marriage, perhaps it’s time you checked out a little audio book that ironically promotes silence.
ScreamFree Marriage: Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer, by Hal Edward Runkel (with Jenny Runkel), serves as a follow up to the instructive ScreamFree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool; and it is equally informative. In the opening of this audio book, Runkel takes a chance by encouraging listeners to stop for a moment and consider that regardless of the circumstances that caused them to look for some marital advice, he might not provide what they’re seeking. He cautions that his advice will go against everything they have probably been taught about marriage, most importantly that it requires participants to be selfless. His strategy, it seems, is for each party to focus on themselves, become more selfish, in order to be a better partner. And this is just the beginning.
The trouble, according to Runkel, centers on a loss of self that often occurs during marriage. In our attempts to force intimacy and compatibility, we create relationships that are superficial and ultimately lead to emotional conflict, or “screaming”, within ourselves, leaving both parties unhappy and fashioning a recipe for disaster in a marriage. But if we take the time to focus inward first, to be honest and open about our true selves, then we have the chance to really get to know one another in a deep and intimate way, as well as interact in a calm, cool manner that is conducive to ongoing relations.
All married couples will eventually face conflict, and how they deal with it will determine the course of their relationship. But you don’t need a masters in conflict resolution to ensure a successful lifelong union. You just need to realize that caring for your relationship requires you to first care for yourself (a concept that Runkel refers to as “intimate independence”) and that even arguments can help to strengthen a marriage if they don’t devolve into outright screaming matches (or cold silences in which both parties just scream in their heads). If this sounds like a revelation to those who have turned to other marital advice books with few positive results, then you should definitely pick up this eye-opening audio book and give it a listen. At the very least it will offer a fresh perspective on the possibilities of married life.