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My Married Life: Is Your Marriage Good Enough?

“Is your marriage good enough?” So asks writer Ginger Tobias in a recent article for O, The Oprah Magazine. According to the article, most couples who divorce are walking away from relationships that could be salvaged.

Is it just me -- or are all of you getting a little sick of the phrase “good enough” in reference to relationships? Relationships are works in progress. They are, by their very nature, about potential. No one walks into marriage with any sort of expertise (okay, maybe Larry King -- but experience does not appear to have improved his batting average). Marriage is a fragile thing, but it becomes less fragile when you stop saying things like, “I don’t know if it’s going to work out,” and start embracing the idea that obviously there’s work to be done.

Here’s an excerpt so you can see what I’m talking about: “Paul Amato, PhD, professor of sociology, demography, and family studies at Penn State, conducted a 20-year study on 2,000 subjects who started off married, and says 55 to 60 percent of divorcing couples discard unions with real potential.”

I mean, what marriage doesn’t require work? Sure, there are degrees -- and I accept that certain situations are hopeless and irreconcilable. But for a while I’ve been suspicious that the current divorce rate is indicative of a lack of willingness on the part of couples to work on their problems. ’Cause here’s the secret: Working on one’s marital problems really means working on oneself. It may be a problem in the marriage, but it's because the individuals have problems that need to be addressed; people’s characters can change but only after the behavior changes.

That’s where the work comes in. Relationships are an arena where all of a person’s fears, shortcomings, baggage, traumas, and unresolved issues are paraded around. And while, sure, someone might keep his or her behavior in check in every other environment (socially, professionally, etc.), they’ll let it all hang out in the context of their marriage.

Let’s be honest, it probably wasn’t like that at the beginning. Eventually, every couple is going to run into trouble. The question then becomes whether to bail out or dig in.

Thoughts?

-- Jack

See More: Ask a Guy , Couple Issues , Love & Sex