Dr. Blaine J. Fowers, a psychologist who specializes in marital and family therapy research and training, is associate professor in the Counseling Psychology Program at the University of Miami. He believes that it is time to move beyond the myth of marital happiness based on good communication, emotional gratification, and intimacy. This larger-than-life ideal leads to today's high divorce rate. It is nearly impossible for couples to live up to this myth fostered by the media, the therapeutic community, and the general public.
Fowers offers a far more realistic and personally enriching ideal: "The best marriages are partnerships in which spouses are devoted to creating a shared life that is larger than the emotional payoff of the marriage. A couple creates a strong marriage by embracing a set of ideals and goals toward which the partners strive together." By shifting the emphasis from emotional satisfaction to partnership, husbands and wives can create meaningful ties to others and work together to create a better world.
Dr. Fowers believes that couples must cultivate four traits or virtues in order to bring this vision to life: friendship, which deepens and expands the relationship of intimacy; loyalty, which solidifies the commitment that is necessary to sustain the marriage in spite of difficulties; generosity, which heals the wounds and helps each tolerate the other's foibles; and justice, which paves a way to share the burdens and blessings of the relationship.
"Marriage" concludes the author, "offers one of the best opportunities we have to develop character. Its importance and centrality make it a crucible where our mettle is continually tested and refined. . . . Marriage is one of the most intense and enduring settings for us to become the best people we can be." Dr. Fowers has forged a viable and substantive alternative to the inadequate present-day myth of marital happiness. Those who cultivate this partnership model will reap the benefits.