--By Dr. James C. Dobson

         For every ten marriages occurring in America today, five will end in bitter conflict & divorce. That is tragic...but have you ever wondered what happens to the
other five? Do they sail blissfully into the sunset? Hardly! According to the clinical psychologist Neil Warren, all five will stay together for a lifetime, but in varying degrees of disharmony. He quoted the research of Dr. John Cuber whose findings were published in a book entitled "The Significant Americans". Cuber learned that some couples will remain married for the benefit of the children, while others will pass the years in relative apathy. Incredibly, only one or two out of ten will achieve what might be called "intimacy" in the relationship!
         By intimacy Dr. Warren is referring to the mystical bond of friendship, commitment & understanding that almost defies explanation. It occurs when a man & a woman, being separate & distinct individuals, are fused into a single unit which the Bible calls "one flesh". I'm convinced the human spirit craves this kind of unconditional love, & experiences something akin to "soul hunger" when it cannot be achieved.

Divorce Is Devastating!
         According to Dr. Nicholi, a psychiatrist at Harvard University Medical School & Massachusetts General Hospital, it is now known that emotional development in children is directly related to the presence of a warm, nurturing, sustained & continuous interaction with
both parents. Anything that interferes with the vital relationship with either parent can have lasting consequences for the child. One landmark study revealed that 90 percent of the children from divorced homes suffered from an acute sense of shock when the separation occurred, including profound grieving & irrational fears. Fifty percent reported feeling rejected & abandoned, & indeed, half the fathers never came to see their children three years after the divorce! One-third of the boys & girls feared abandonment by the remaining parent with an intensity that researchers described as "overwhelming". Most significantly, 37 percent of the children were even more unhappy & dissatisfied five years after the divorce than they had been at eighteen months. In other words, time did not heal their wounds.
         In summary, Dr. Nicholi said divorce brings such an intense loneliness to children that its pain is difficult to describe or even contemplate.
         We all know that divorce has become the fashionable way to deal with marital conflict in the past three decades. Books such as "Creative Divorce" have described it as the start of a brand new life that was in the "best interest" of the entire family. But that is patently untrue. Divorce is devastating, not just for the children but for their hurt & angry parents, too. Women pay a particularly high price, even when they are the ones who opted out of the relationship.
         Let me explain. There have always been irresponsible men who were unfaithful to their wives or abandoned their families. That is still going on & accounts for millions of broken homes today. But in my lifetime, marriages have begun to disintegrate for another reason. Women, encouraged by new freedoms & financial security, have shown a greater willingness to pull the plug. I have worked with many frustrated wives who seemed determined to obtain a divorce, not because their husbands were unfaithful or irresponsible, but because
romantic love was missing in their relationship. These women expressed great anger & deep resentment toward husbands who were either unwilling or unable to meet their wives' basic emotional needs.
         I would not minimise the distressing "soul hunger" that women so frequently describe, but I will say this: Divorce is not the answer to it! Those who seek that "solution" often jump from the frying pan into the fire!
         That is the point of the book entitled "Marriage: Grounds for Divorce", written by Monte Vanton. The author was divorced by his wife & seemed quite bitter about the experience. Yet his analysis of marital breakup is insightful & provocative. Following are excerpts that convey his thesis. See if you agree with his perspective, keeping in mind that Vanton did not write from a Christian viewpoint.

         The end of a marriage is like a little death, but to some married women, freedom looks like life after death. Young again, no one to tell her what to do, no more demands, criticisms. No more dinners to cook --no slavery! And, just outside, bright lights, gay conversation, light-hearted friends, flirtations & adventures. Palm Springs, Vegas, here I come!
         A free spirit again! Oh, what a wonderful world it will be! No more arguments, complaints, no more asking for money. I'll have my own for evermore! Do you know a good attorney?
         For the first few months, things do seem to improve. The cessation of hostilities is pleasant. Since the wife for years experienced an emotional tug-of-war in her mixed-up role as woman, wife & leader, the sudden severance brings temporary relief. But only temporary.
         What is the chief preoccupation of our newly arrived divorce? Career, children, home, travel, art, politics, friends. No, it's men! Where do these men come from? What are they like? What do they want? What have they been doing?
         Hope is wonderful, but fantasy can be catastrophic! Many women, divorced or married & contemplating divorce, are sure that somewhere outside there is a man who will have all the virtues of her husband & none of his vices. From this starting point, divorces start the great search.
         It is obvious that the husband must have had
some good points--hence the original marriage. The fact that the husband is a known quantity & the new man an unknown hazard, places him far ahead of the stranger. There is a good chance that another man may have similar & or even more pronounced defects, since he lives in the same culture with the same standards & values. Further, how can our gal judge clearly? How does she know she won't repeat the same mistake?
                  Her problem is further compounded. In her first marriage, she was trusting & open--now she is certain to be more cynical & guarded.
                  In the selection of a new mate, she must take into consideration the fact he may not want someone else's youngsters--can she be sure he will be good to them? And if indeed the new man is kind, there is always the chance the children may imperil their marital bliss by serving as a constant reminder they are not his own. Where can she find this marvellous dream man?

Marriage Killers!
         Divorce merely substitutes a new set of miseries for the one left behind. Guard your relationship against erosion as though you were defending your very lives. Yes, you
can make it together. Not only can you survive, but you can keep your love alive if you give it priority in your system of values.
         It is true, of course, that the society in which we live actively works against marital stability. There are dangers on all sides, & we must defend ourselves with all our energies. In fact, I think it would be healthy at this point to name the great marriage killers.
Overcommitment & physical exhaustion. Beware of this danger. It is especially insidious for young couples who are trying to get started in a profession or in school. Do not try to go to college, work fulltime, have a baby, manage a toddler, fix up a house & start a business at the same time. It sounds ridiculous, but many young couples do just that & are then surprised when their marriage falls apart. Why wouldn't it? The only time they see each other is when they are worn out!
Excessive credit & conflict over how money will be spent. Pay cash for consumable items or don't buy. Don't spend more for a house or car than you can afford, leaving too few resources for dating, short trips, baby-sitters etc. Allocate your funds with the wisdom of Solomon.
Selfishness. There are two kinds of people in the World, the givers & the takers. A marriage between two givers can be a beautiful thing. Friction is the order of the day, however, for a giver & a taker. But two takers can claw each other to pieces within a period of six weeks. In short, selfishness will devastate a marriage every time.
Interference from in-laws. If either the husband or wife have not been fully emancipated from the parents, it is best not to live near them. Autonomy is difficult for some mothers (& fathers) to grant, & close proximity is built for trouble.
Unrealistic expectations. Some couples come into marriage anticipating rose-covered cottages, walks down primrose lanes & uninterrupted joy. Counselor Jean Lush believes, & I agree, that this romantic illusion is particularly characteristic of American women who expect more from their husbands than they are capable of delivering. The consequent disappointment is an emotional trap. Bring your expectations in line with reality.
Space invaders. This killer will be difficult to describe or understand in such a brief context, but I'll try. By space invaders, I am not referring to aliens from Mars. Rather, my concern is for those who violate the breathing room needed by partners, quickly suffocating them & destroying the attraction between them. Jealousy is one way this phenomenon manifests itself. Another is low self-esteem which leads the insecure spouse to trample the territory of the other. Love must be free & it must be confident.
Alcohol or drug abuse. These are killers, not only of marriages but of people. Avoid them like the plague.
Gambling & other addictions. It should be obvious to everyone that the human personality is flawed. It has a tendency to get hooked on destructive behaviours, especially early in life. During an introductory stage, people think they can play with enticements such as gambling & not get hurt. Indeed, many do walk away unaffected. For some, however, there is a weakness & a vulnerability that is unknown until too late. Then they become addicted to something that tears at the fabric of the family.--If you don't start down that pathway, you won't be left wishing you hadn't!
Sexual frustration, loneliness, low self-esteem & the greener grass of infidelity. A deadly combination!
Business failure. It does bad things to men, especially. Their agitation over financial reverses sometimes surfaces as anger within the family.
Business success. It is almost as risky to succeed wildly as it is to fail miserably in business. Solomon wrote, "Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread."--Prov.30:8. Edward Fitzgerald said it another way: "One of the saddest pages kept by the recording angel is the record of souls that have been damned by success." It's true. Those who profit handsomely sometimes become drunk with power & the lust for more! Wives & children are forgotten in the process.

Is There Life After Marriage?
         Some people choose not to marry because of their skepticism about long-term marriage itself. Even much of today's music reflects this pessimism. Consider the words of the popular song written by Carly Simon & Jacob Brackman, entitled, "That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be Done". The lyrics are devastating. They say, in effect, "It is impossible to achieve intimacy in marriage, & our life together will be lonely, meaningless & sterile. But if that's what you want...we'll marry." Read them for yourself:

My father sits at night with no lights on,
His cigarette glows in the dark.
I walk by, no remark.
I tiptoe past the master bedroom where
My mother reads her magazines.
I hear her call, "Sweet dreams",
But I forget how to dream.

But you say it's time we moved in together
And raise a family of our own, you & me.
Well, that's the way I've always heard it
         should be.
You want to marry, we'll marry.

My friends from college,
They're all married now.
They have their houses & their lawns,
They have their silent noons,
Tearful nights, angry dawns.
Their children hate them for the things
         they're not,
They hate them for what they are,
And yet they drink, they laugh.
Close the wound, hide the scar.

But you say it's time we moved in together
And raise a family of our own, you & me.
Well, that's the way I've always heard it
         should be.
You want to marry, we'll marry.

You say that we can keep our love alive,
Babe, all I know is what I see.
The couples cling & claw
And drown in love's debris.
You say we'll soar like two birds
         through the clouds,
But soon you'll cage me on your shelf.
I'll never learn to be just me first
         by myself.

Well, okay, it's time we moved in together
And raise a family of our own, you & me.
Well, that's the way I've always heard it
         should be.
You want to marry me, we'll marry.
We'll marry.

         How strongly I disagree with the message in this sad song! It's
not true that good marriages can no longer be forged--that husbands & wives are destined to hurt & reject one another. The family was God's idea & He does not make mistakes. He observed the loneliness that plagued Adam in the Garden of Eden & said, "It is not good." That's why He gave him a woman to share his thoughts & feel his touch.

"Love Covers a Multitude of Sins"
         Someone wrote:
Life can't give me joy & peace;
         it's up to me to will it.
Life just gives me time & space,
         it's up to me to fill it.
         Can you accept the fact that your husband will never be able to meet all of your needs & aspirations? Seldom does one human being satisfy every longing & hope in the breast of another. Obviously, this coin has two sides. You can't be his perfect woman, either. He is no more equipped to resolve your entire package of emotional needs than you are to become his sexual dream machine every twenty-four hours. Both partners have to settle for human foibles & faults & irritability & fatigue. A good marriage is not one where perfection reigns. It is a relationship where a healthy perspective overlooks a multitude of "unresolvables".

Can a Mate be Everything?
         I am especially concerned about the mother of small children who chooses to stay at home as a fulltime homemaker. If she looks to her husband as a provider of all adult conversation & the satisfier of every emotional need, their marriage can quickly run aground. He will return home from work somewhat depleted & in need of "tranquility". Instead, he finds a woman who is continually starved for attention & support. When she sees in his eyes that he has nothing left to give, that is the beginning of sorrows. She either becomes depressed or angry (or both) & he has no idea how he can help her.
         What can be done, then? A woman with a normal range of emotional needs cannot simply ignore them. They scream for fulfillment. Consequently, I have long recommended that women in this situation seek to supplement what their husbands can give by cultivating meaningful female relationships. Having girl friends with whom they can talk heart to heart, study the Scriptures & share childcare techniques can be vital. Without this additional support, loneliness & lack of self-esteem can accumulate & begin to choke the marriage to death.
         This solution to feminine company seems so obvious that one might ask why it is even worthwhile to suggest it. Unfortunately, it is not so easy to implement. A woman must often search for companionship today. We've witnessed a breakdown in relationships between women in recent years. A hundred years ago, wives & mothers did not have to seek female friendship. It was programmed into the culture. Women canned food together, washed clothes at the creek together & cooperated in church work together. When babies were born, the new mother was visited by aunts, sisters, neighbours & church women who came to help her diaper, feed & care for the child. There was an automatic support system that surrounded women & made life easier.
         To the young wives who are reading these words, I urge you to invest some time in your female friends--even though you are busy. Resist the temptation to pull into the walls of your home & wait for your husband to be all things to you. Remember that you are surrounded by many other women with similar feelings. Find them. Care for them. Give to them. And in the process, your own self-esteem will rise. Then your marriage will flourish. It sounds simplistic, but that's the way we are made. We are designed to love God & to love one another. Deprivation of either function can be devastating.

"Dear Ann Landers..."
         Men & women differ significantly in their sexual appetites, & those differences should be comprehended by both the husband & wife. For a man, intercourse is much more physiological than it is for a woman. This means that he is more easily stimulated visually & typically becomes excited more quickly than she. Within moments, the idea of sexual relations can enter his mind, & four or five minutes later the act might be finished & he is asleep again.--While she lies awake resenting him & regretting the brief episode. One woman even told me that her sex life with her husband reminded her of an old silent movie...not a word was exchanged between them. The movie might well be titled, "Romancing the Stone".
         There has been ample evidence of this difference between the sexes, both scientific & pragmatic. Ann Landers was contacted a few years ago, for example, by a female reader who posed this challenge:

Dear Ann Landers,
         Often I have been tempted to write to you & express another viewpoint when letters appeared that I did not agree with. The motivation was never strong enough--until now.
         I cannot resist until I respond to the man who said his anxiety over not being able to complete the sex act with the woman he loves was driving him crazy because he knew she must feel deprived & unfulfilled.
         For him I have one word, hogwash. It's his ego talking. That man is totally ignorant of the workings of the female mind & heart. If you were to ask 100 women how they feel about sexual intercourse, 98 would say, "Just hold me close & be tender. Forget about the act."
         If you don't believe it, why not take a poll? Your readership is phenomenal & people tell you things they would never tell anyone else. How about it, Ann? Will you ask them?
         Longtime Faithful in Oregon

Ann replied:
Dear Faithful,
         You're on! I am asking the women in my reading audience to send a postcard or letter with a reply to the question: Would you be content to be held & treated tenderly & forget about "the act"? Reply YES or NO & please add one line, "I am over (or under) 40 years of age." No signature is necessary.

         A few months later, Ann published this follow-up comment in her column:
         Well, dear readers, to date I have received more than 90,000 responses & they are still pouring in. The mail room looks like a disaster area. We have put on extra help. The employees are working double shifts & weekends, yet the mailbags seem to multiply like rabbits. Since I have been writing this column the only time the response was heavier was when I asked my readers to clip the column, sign it & send it to President Reagan. That column was about nuclear war.
         Mercifully, the vast majority of respondents sent postcards, but a surprising number of women felt compelled to write letters. Some went on for three & four pages, explaining why they felt as they did.
         Was I surprised at the outcome of the poll? Yes--but not very. I could have guessed the way it would go. But I never dreamed that more than 90,000 women would be moved to express themselves on this highly intimate subject. Nor would I have predicted the percentages or the passion with which so many women described their sex lives.
         The greatest revelation to me at least, is what the poll says about men as lovers. Clearly, there is trouble in paradise.

         The next day she released the results of the poll. These were her findings:
         More than 90,000 women cast their ballots. Seventy-two percent said yes, they would be content to be held close & treated tenderly & forget about the act. Of those 72 percent who said yes, 40 percent were under 40 years old. That was the most surprising aspect of the survey.
         Many women who voted no said they needed the sexual climax to relieve physical tension. Almost as many said they wanted the ultimate in gratification--that anything less would make them feel exploited & used.
Here are some specific replies:

         I am under 40 & would be delighted to settle for tender words & warm caresses. The rest of it is a bore & can be exhausting. I am sure the sex act was designed strictly for the pleasure of males.--Columbus, Ohio.
         I am 55 & vote yes. The best part is the cuddling & caressing & the tender words that come with caring.--Kansas City, Missouri
         Yes, yes, a million times yes. I would love to be spoken to tenderly. It would be enough. My boyfriend never says a word. If I say anything, he says, "Be quiet. You're spoiling things."--Washington, D.C.

         Would you have believed that 72 percent of the women who responded care only about loving closeness & tenderness? I would, after having surveyed more than 10,000 women in polls of my own. It boils down to this:
Women often give sex to get intimacy & men give intimacy to get sex. Believe me, that difference has enormous implications. A man can enjoy a quick romp in bed, even if he & his wife have argued & bickered all evening. In some ways it is even more exciting for him to "conquer" this woman who has engaged him in verbal battle. For her, sex under those circumstances makes her feel "used" by her husband, almost like a prostitute. This difference in orientation has set off a million fiery-tempered confrontations between husbands & wives who didn't really understand why the other was frustrated. Because women are more romantically inclined, the man who wants an exciting sexual relationship with his wife should focus on the other 23-1/2 hours in the day. He should compliment her, bring her flowers & tell her that he cares. These are the ingredients of genuine passion. Author Kevin Leman has gone a step further. He said the greatest of all aphrodisiacs for married couples is for a man to take out the garbage for his wife. I agree.
         To make the most of the physical dimension of marriage, a man must pursue his wife's mind as well as her body. They cannot be separated. Turning the coin over, the woman should make herself as attractive to her husband as possible. Forget the curlers, cold cream & flannel pajamas. He is a creature of vision & she is a lover of touch. By a little unselfish forethought, each can learn to excite the other. The differences between them is what makes the game interesting.