November 18, 1997 in Features

Pursuit Of Love Couples Much Less Willing To Stick It Out In Loveless Marriages

Loraine O'Connell The Orlando Sentinel
 

Judging by the responses to my column on Dr. Frank Pittman, his prescription for ailing American marriages - that couples with kids stay together “whether they’re in love or not” - is medicine most folks gag on.

“Why stay together if that (love) isn’t there?” asked a male caller. Noting that he left a marriage that had lost that lovin’ feelin’ and won’t remarry until he experiences it again, he observed, “Adults have a right to be happy and a right not to be together when they choose not to.”

Amen, brother.

A snail-mail correspondent in St. Cloud who identified himself as “The Dreamer” wrote of his bitterness at having tried to abide by the Pittman brand of advice for 25 years.

“Every human being is entitled to love and be loved, but, more importantly, to be in love,” this man says.”Not just in your first few years of marriage but your whole life long.

“If you have tried over and over to achieve that with your spouse and it doesn’t work, then you have done your part. When you do find that fairy tale love, whether it is through divorce, within your marriage, or in an affair, fight for it with all your heart and soul. You deserve it. We all do.”

He and his wife have had it up to here with their marriage, he says.

“I am now in my 40s. After 25 years of being married, I now refuse to accept mediocrity. I want the fairy tale I believed in but people like Dr. Pittman made me give up on.

“Now at our age both my wife and I face the prospect of having to start over - something we should have done 15 or 20 years ago.”

You go, guy.

Earlier columns I’ve written along those lines, including one quoting a marriage counselor who says couples should stick it out till the kids leave for college, have elicited similar heartfelt responses.

I don’t think we’re into self-sacrifice anymore, Toto.

Nor should we be, once we’ve done all we can to make a marriage work.

As a thrice-married friend of mine said, “You’re not the same person at 40 that you are at 19.” Some couples just grow apart.

My friend’s kids were hurt by her divorce from their father, of course. But they’ve moved on with their lives.

They’re close to both of their parents. They’re leading productive lives.

Is there any reason to believe they would have turned out even better had she remained in a dead marriage? No.

Is there any reason to believe they’ll be very cautious about committing to marriage themselves? Yes - and so much the better.

It’s a fact: The younger you are when you marry, the more likely you are to divorce. Their mom - my friend - was way too young the first time around, as she freely admits.

The only scenario likely to produce the Pittman version of sticking it out is the expulsion of women from the workplace and the return of the bad old days of financial servitude. Only if women and men have no other choice will they remain in loveless marriages.

Fair is fair.


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