Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How Is Your Marriage Doing?

The Orthodox Union has just released the results of its marriage satisfaction survey. Data was collected and analyzed by experts and presented at a meeting recorded at OU headquarters on November 23, 2009.

I did not find the results all that surprising. Orthodox Jewish marriages are on the average much happier than that of the general population. 72% of men and 74% of women said their marriages were very good to excellent. Those ratings reflected only 63% and 60% respectively for the general population.

There are some interesting facts about the Orthodox community noted in their report. Here in a nutshell are some of them.

*Studies have shown that people who are religiously involved tend to have better marriages and less likely to divorce.

*It was noted that for newly married couples’ expectations about marriage are taken from Hollywood.

*Satisfaction levels usually dip for a rather lengthy period of time the low period being between 20 and 30 years of marriage. And then they go back up. It was noted that the stresses of marriage during the child rearing years make such a dip normal. When the nest becomes empty the satisfaction levels go up.

*Not surprisingly conflict in marriages are mostly attributable to financial stress; communication difficulties; problems with physical intimacy/sexuality; not enough time; and in-laws.

*Baalei Teshuva had stresses similar to those who were raised religiously but were somehat more impacted by them. These challenges included at-risk children; conflicts regarding education; lack of communication and intimacy; religious differences; finances; and lack of social network.

It was noted that even minor differences in these areas can have significant impact on the marital relationship.

*Interestingly, there seems to be an inverse relationship between affluence and marital satisfaction as noted by Dr. David Pelcovitz who attended that meeting:

Regarding at-risk children, Dr Pelcovitz focused on “affluenza.” He cited Dr. Suniya S. Luthar, Professor of Clinical and Developmental Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University, that there is triple the rate of depression, alcoholism and other ills in wealthier families ($100,000 and up). She identified the causes of these pathologies among the affluent as, “The pressures of not being average. Tremendous time pressure in the age of the blackberry – the parents, even when they’re there, they’re not there.” Finally, “affluent children very often were not asked to go beyond themselves to give to others.”

*The internet and pornography are relatively new factors that can adversely affect the marital relationship.

*Time is increasingly becoming a factor in marital satisfaction. The demands on both spouses for making a living are greater than ever. Thank God for Shabbos. (Although it was pointed out that even Shabbos has become more demanding in that respect – taking away family time via the increase of Shiurim for both men and women.)

*Perhaps the most interesting finding was regarding sexuality:

Dr. Pelcovitz commented, “We see over and over again in the communities, there’s something missing in the job we’re doing in conveying values about sexuality to our children, and somehow there isn’t necessarily a language on sexuality we’re teaching to couples. This is pretty high on the relative sources of conflict.” He continued, “Compared to other groups, Jewish adolescents say their teachers do the worst job of teaching them the sexual values that are embedded in our religion, and it shows in our marriages.” The solution? Enhanced sexual education techniques for the sex educators.

I’m not sure which one of these factors is the most significant. But I do know which one is the most taboo. There were recommendations made at ths meeting by the experts attending about how Orthodxy can improve even our very good numbers. They all seemed very reasonable to me.

I would only add that one should not ignore the advice given about enhanced sexual education techniques for the sex educators. In any endeavor that requires many components in order to achive success, “the chain is only as strong as its weakest link’. That means that we have to take Dr. Pelcovitz’s expert advice as seriously as everything else.