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In this lesson, we’ll take a brief look at factors that interact with marriage and adulthood as well as how these factors eventually influence old age. We’ll also look at old age bachelorhood as well as reasons for successful marriages.

Marriage

I have friends who occupy almost every form of marriage there is: unmarried and single, dating, engaged, newly married, married for a long time, and divorced. I’ve seen some marriages I expected to fail hold out and some marriages I expected to last crumble in less than two years. So let’s explore some of the issues here and what keeps people married.

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Marriage is a legal binding between two intimate people. I’m purposefully going to skip over the whole man-woman and gay marriage debate because that’s probably for another lesson. Through adulthood we must balance ourselves and the relationship. Several pathways of research look into normative vs. crisis development of relationships.Normative vs.

crisis basically puts everything into a dichotomy. Real life usually isn’t so clear-cut, but for demonstration purposes it makes it easy to understand. For example, prior to marriage, people must establish an identity, and if this is done successfully with continuous updates, then the marriage would be considered a success. If one fails to keep updating their identity, there is the threat of the dreaded midlife crisis, or an identity questioning, often characterized by emotional turmoil and a desire for change.Erikson, a researcher known for his stage theory, states that during adulthood years and marriage, each person must grapple with generativity vs. stagnation. Generativity is part of the normative development and deals with establishing and/or guiding the next generation as well as passing on ideas and values.

Here, the marriage produces children or influences the next generation in some meaningful way. My aunt and uncle never had kids but manage charities for animals and will some day pass this onto the next generation – not their own kids but someone else’s.Some things that help or hinder the generativity aspect include economics and division of labor. Low-income people are at a disadvantage when it comes to generativity because they don’t have access or the ability to spend time and money how they want. Also, the division of labor is important, especially with kids, as one person raising a kid is extremely difficult. Stagnation is part of the crisis and deals with negative outcomes and projects, self-indulgence, and inactivity.

Here, the individuals in the marriage fail to live up to their potential and basically decay.If people successfully manage their adult years and get out of it with an intact marriage, there is good news in old age. Marriage happiness follows a U-shaped curve. Marriage is really good in the beginning, with people being happy. But kids sort of aren’t very fun. They take up a lot of your time and are a lot of work.

This typically results in a decline in marriage happiness. But, as the kids become more independent and move out, the happiness comes back, meaning that the marriage satisfaction can actually return to a pre-child level after the children have been kicked out. In my own humble opinion, it may even be better now that in old age you are likely to be more financially stable and have a better understanding of who you’re married to, having had to weather the worst of times.

Elderly Bachelorhood

Let’s take a quick detour on our road of marriage to speak about adults who don’t get married. Sometimes people don’t ever get married, and this may actually be a boost to people in old age. According to Gubrium in a 1975 study, older individuals who never married possess coping strategies to ensure avoidance of loneliness and may fare better than widowed or divorced individuals due to not having to deal with bereavement. Gubrium described the bereavement process for elderly as ‘desolation.’ That’s a pretty strong word to use. Is bachelorhood for everyone? No, but just because someone doesn’t marry doesn’t mean they can’t have a rich, full life.

Satisfaction & Longevity

What is with people and their opinions on marriage and dating? I try and do a little research on what are the key factors to a successful to marriage and I get an avalanche of opinion, pseudoscientific garbage, and anecdotal stories of how it worked for them so it must work for you. It’s enough to drive a person crazy.WebMD, a source I didn’t think would have good information on marriage, actually had a very interesting idea. Prior generations were far more dependent on each other for work. Going back just a few generations we saw that men were the primary breadwinners while women managed the house. Before that there were the farms and the interdependence was even higher since working on a farm meant you needed the labor.

But nowadays there isn’t a high need for the other person. Someone can get by living on their own now by being single or divorced. So the ideas of marriage satisfaction and happiness have become a crucial part of the current and likely future generations’ marriages. Here are some quick tips on how to increase satisfaction and the longevity of marriage.Have personal lives as well as a couple life.

A lot of teenagers lose themselves in their relationships, unable to live or do anything without the other person. Some adults have this too, and I feel really bad for them. Everyone needs their alone time – a man-time or a girls’ night out or whatever you want to call it. There needs to be a time when you take care of you. When it comes to couple life, we are talking about date night and times to reconnect and fortify the relationship. When each partner is taking advantage of the other then it really kills it quick.Mutual interdependence is another key.

Relationships are built on owing the other person and being owed. Think about a good friend: who owes who what? If you paid for dinner, they got the bar tab, and you drove them to the game, and they forwarded you cash when you were short… this builds an interdependence so that each person owes the other but doesn’t feel like they are being taken advantage of.Communication, confrontation, and mastering of crises is key.

You knew communication would be on here, but did you think I would say you need to confront your partner? It’s true; being able to communicate means knowing when to say no and when to point out something that is bothering you. This may or may not lead to a crisis and something that needs to be overcome as a couple. When you think about it, a relationship where you can be free to speak your mind is going to be better than one where you need to be quiet and hold your tongue.

Lesson Summary

Marriage is a legal binding between two intimate people. Some researchers have put what comes with marriage into a normative vs.

crisis model. Erikson’s stage theory has generativity, which is establishing and/or guiding the next generation as well as passing on ideas and values. Stagnation is part of the crisis and deals with negative outcomes and projects, self-indulgence, and inactivity.

Crisis also includes midlife crisis, an identity questioning, often characterized by emotional turmoil and a desire for change.Happy couples often have lives outside of coupling but also work to reconnect. They possess a mutual interdependence and owe each other. Lastly, they have higher levels of communication and an ability to confront issues. For those who don’t marry, they may actually fare better in old age because they do not have to deal with the devastating effects of divorce and bereavement.

Learning Outcomes

When you complete this lesson, you might go on to:

  • Discuss the normative vs. crisis model of marriage
  • Define and explain the roles of stagnation and generativity in the success or failure of a marriage
  • List some factors that can contribute to a happy marriage

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