Sunday, May 25, 2014

Life Beyond the Sunset: Thinking Beyond the Passion for Long-term Success

You wrap your arms around the taut, six-pack abs of Prince Charming, holding on as you ride his silver-maned horse off into the sunset. It’s a nice vision, particularly after the unexpected end to your marriage and the disturbing reality of being tossed into the modern dating pool. But the reality is that you have to get off the horse sometime.

There’s a castle to run, townspeople to deal with and gold coins to win. Even in fantasy, there’s reality. With another chance at lifelong happiness, it’s important to remember that the honeymoon phase always ends, and you need to look for a partner who you can love, support and cherish as you happily grow old together. Love and passion are critical, but they aren't the only ingredients required.

I recently found a link to’s “Singles In America,” a study that promised to tell us what 5,300 unattached American men and women thought about various topics, including love, sex, dating etiquette and money. While the details are scant—I couldn’t find the actual survey respondent breakdown, questions or detailed answers—the company has highlighted some high-level details. Of particular interest to me, as a recent divorcee, was how the respondents felt about long-term love and marriage:
Only 14% want to marry for financial security—something women were obliged to do for thousands of years. Instead, 86% of singles say they primarily want to wed to “have a committed partner to share my life with.” Even those who don’t want to marry say their main reason is that they “don’t think you need a marriage to prove you love someone.” The significance of marriage may be declining; but love is in.

Unfortunately, it's impossible to limit the results to age and marital status ( said that the respondents were "unmarried men and women from Alabama to Wyoming, city slickers to suburbanites, of every ethnicity and religion, from 18-70+ in age"), so I couldn't pull out the details for 30-50 year old divorced women, a group that defines most of us at Sunny Splitsville. That said, the general consensus—that love, not pragmatism—ruled the dating scene today has interesting implications for the long-term success of relationships.

While people are looking for love now over other factors such as financial security because they can, and this pursuit is accepted in society, the reality is that 50% of marriages are doomed to fail. Non-love issues ruin many couples. For example, according to research last year conducted by Kansas State University,  the No. 1 reason for divorce in America is money related. Says Sonya Britt:
Results revealed it didn't matter how much you made or how much you were worth. Arguments about money are the top predictor for divorce because it happens at all levels.

While it's no fun to be Debbie Downer, we need to understand and accept some realities if we hope to be successful in marriage 2.0. Couples therapist Nancy Hyatt explains that when you do develop a connection with someone, an unconscious element draws the two of you together. Chemicals are released in the brain that function much like a drug that make you feel "lovesick" for that person. Hence, the honeymoon phase. This can last anywhere from a few weeks to close to two years. When these chemicals eventually wear off, as they will for all of us, then the real work begins.

Love is certainly vital to any healthy relationship, but it's obvious that it is important to look at your partner to see if you complement one another on many other levels besides your googly-eyed looks and bedroom gymnastics. For example, you should determine if you have similar goals and priorities, and, most importantly, if you look forward to seeing that person grow, change and thrive in the future.

Getting off Prince Charming's horse and embracing the new day with your partner should and can be just as exciting, perhaps in different ways, than the initial journey. Good luck!


  1. I will remember not to fight over money!!!!!

  2. "Looking forward to seeing a person grow, change and thrive in the future."
    I think this quote is paramount to the conversation of how we can co-create a relationship built to last. We need more partners who are willing to support one another through changes and growth—even play a pivotal role in doing so. Well said Esther!