Making a modern marriage work

Laurie Puhn is author of "Fight Less, Love More." (Courtesy Laurie Puhn)

WASHINGTON — The institution of marriage has evolved over the years, and the divorce rate dwarfs that of your grandparents’ day.

There’s a school of thought that says marriage has simultaneously become more respectful of autonomy, especially for women, but also more of an all-or-nothing emotional proposition, requiring more time and energy, more giving of yourself.

Laurie Puhn, a couples mediator, relationship expert and author of “Fight Less, Love More,” says that while people may have less time, “what we can do now use our time better.”

She says that conventional wisdom encourages people to “lower their expectations” and go into marriage thinking, “we can no longer seek personal growth” from their mates. But she says, “it doesn’t take that much time.”

It may be hard to fit in a weekly date night, for example, Puhn says, but you don’t need that.

“Have a life that feels like dating … say, ‘How are you today?’ Follow up with your mate when you know they have an appointment.”

While technology has made everyone reachable anytime by virtually anyone, Puhn says you can put that connectivity to good use – with your mate. “Send a 10-second text message. … We should use that more frequently.”

And as for the conventional wisdom that divorce has been on the rise in the past few decades, Puhn says it’s more complicated than that.

Since 1980, she says, there’s been “a huge divide” when it comes to divorce. The divorce rate for people without a high school diploma has gone from 28 percent to 46 percent. But for people with a college degree, it’s actually gone down – from 18 percent to 16 percent.

“It’s … poverty that causes additional conflict,” Puhn says – “less time (together), people working multiple jobs.”

Her advice? “You don’t have to lower your expectations. We just have to get better at communication and the eyeball-to-eyeball love play, of just looking at each other and saying ‘I’m grateful to have you in my life.'”

WTOP’s Veronica Robinson contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

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