The nature of dating, relationships, and marriages have undergone a drastic shift in recent years. There are now more options than ever for finding, meeting, and forming connections with potential partners, and yet the divorce rates in the US and the UK are still quite high.
Currently, around 53 percent of marriages in the US end in divorce, and even though recent research has claimed to debunk this, it’s still commonly understood that in many ways it’s harder than ever for a marriage to endure.
Eli Finkel, a professor of social psychology at Northwestern University, discusses why so many relationships fail in his new book The All or Nothing Marriage.
According to Finkel, we expect too much of our partners, wanting them to fulfill and be all things to us instead of finding our own self-actualization.
Finkel’s research has supported his claim that realistically, many people are simply asking too much of one person.
It’s a wonderful thought, finding a perfect person who supports you, challenges you, motivates you and is a constant source of emotional support. But can we expect someone to be all things to us at all times while navigating their own complex life?
“How do you make somebody feel safe, and loved, and beautiful without making him or her feel complacent? How do you make somebody feel energetic, and hungry, and eager to work hard without making them feel like you disapprove of the person they currently are?” Finkel pointed out in an interview with The Atlantic.
He instead suggests an alternative model: outsource your needs. Turn to your social circle to find support and fulfillment, instead of placing all those needs on one person.
“It turns out that people who have more diversified social portfolios, that is, a larger number of people that they go to for different sorts of emotions, those people tend to have overall higher-quality life,” said Dr. Finkel.
Finkel’s research also tracks the shift that relationships have undergone since the 1960s, when social expectations and marriage roles began to change. With so much of our day-to-day life having changed in a half century, perhaps it only makes sense to update how we run our romantic relationships as well.