The Difficulties of Loving

  • Every marriage starts with working out separating from each person's family of origin. There is so much we just assume about life and relationships. Having some psychological understanding of these forces can free us to connect with our partners in a more open and authentic way.
  • The next stage is the struggle with needs for autonomy and togetherness, and with it, the need to balance our domestic life and our need for individual growth as part of the relationship.
  • The third task is struggling with the decision of whether to be or not to be parents. Either road taken can lead to a fulfilling and satisfying life. The task is how the couple works out this important life decision.
  • All relationships have crises, deaths, illnesses and, job losses, and how you work through these is the fourth task.
  • Making a safe place for conflict is the fifth task. Having trust that you can argue with your partner and that both you and the relationship will survive is important in creating this place.
  • Exploring the sexuality of marriage is the sixth task. As a family therapist, I often see couples who come into therapy struggling with this. It seems sexuality often opens discussions to many of the other "tasks" the relationship is working on.
  • Sharing laughter and keeping individual and common interests alive is the seventh task. Finding life stimulating and having a sense of humor is a vital ingredient for longevity in a marriage.
  • The eighth task is providing emotional nurturing. This comes with really feeling that your partner "sees" you. Do you and your partner feel an empathetic connection; being understood for how you feel, free of judgments and criticism.
  • Their ninth and final task is how to provide for a "double vision." This double vision shows us how we see where we started in a relationship and our life now. It also shows us how much can evolve over time in the living a life time with someone.

These "tasks" don't occur in a linear fashion but overlap and recur to be worked on again over the course of time. Wallerstein and Blakeslee have created a terrific map to view marriage where traveling through the countryside of marriage can be a great adventure. Take time with your partner to reflect on how much your relationship has given each of you. Although the "tasks" of marriage are difficult, having committed yourself to loving another person is truly the most noble of all our human endeavors.

For Further self-reflection and discussion:
  1. What "stages" that Wallerstein and Blakeslee describe are you "working through?"
  2. Why is loving another person so difficult?
  3. How do you feel about the way your parents expressed their caring for and "loving" each other in their marriage?

About the author: Bruce Linton, Ph.D. is founder and director of the Fathers' Forum programs for expectant and new fathers. He is a former contributing editor to "Full-Time-Dads" magazines, and columnist for Parents' News in San Francisco, California. He is the author of Finding Time for Fatherhood (Berkeley Hills Books, 2000). Bruce is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and received his doctorate for his research on men's development as fathers.

Copyright © Bruce Linton. Permission to republish granted to, LLC.