A Low Conflict Marriage Is “Good Enough”

Historian Pamela Haag, who is author of “Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting the Rules,”  describes the ups and down that are normal to marriage.

“One minute, you love the stability and contentment. The next minute, you think it’s not the right marriage, and there are flaws in the marriage that are serious, even though there are also great things about the marriage,” says Ms. Haag. According to Ms. Haag, low conflict marriages (“one minute you can’t imagine staying, the next you can’t imagine leaving”) contribute to “the lion’s share to divorce court each year.”

Most psychologists categorize marriages as either high- or low-conflict and many suggest that low-conflict marriages are ones that, with effort, can be rehabilitated and made to work. These are marriages that Penn State Sociologist Paul Amoto calls “good enough.” On the other hand, Haag suggests, “Our expectations for marriage may be too low – such that single people feel, perhaps rightly, that there isn’t much that marriage would add to their lives.”

After the honeymoon period of marriage when the acids of daily living begin to accumulate, some couples find themselves disillusioned with what one writer calls “the semi-happiness” normal to marriage. “I’ve always argued that most marital problems are due to high expectations,” writes Cathy Meyer. “The problem I have with Haag is her belief that there is something wrong with feeling “semi-happy” in a marriage. Haag’s marriage is representative of most marriages, one day you are in, one day you are out. Marriage is like anything else in life, we can feel both good and bad about a situation according to our mood, our partner and any other number of things. Isn’t it time to grow up and realize that life nor marriage promises us happiness? All marriages are semi-happy, folks. There are ups and downs, times of great passion and times of boredom. All couples have problems, some less, some more that doesn’t mean they are semi-happy and should be running to a divorce attorney. It just means they are married and it pays to keep your expectations reasonable…not high or low but, reasonable.”

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