Lovers must not live for themselves alone.
-Wendell Berry Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community
If there’s anything I’m passionate about, its the reciprocal relationship between marriages and communities.
The past six lessons in Relationship 101 have focused on applications from Dr. John Gottman‘s extensive marriage research, but this week’s lesson is different. This week, we’re responding to the sociological work of Natalie Sarkisian & Naomi Gerstel, and the General Social Survey (with a whopping 1500 respondents). Their findings?
There is a significant decline in the participation of today’s couples in their local communities.
Sarkisan & Gerstel‘s research on marriage and social support networks demonstrate that married couples are less likely to provide assistance to friends or socialize with their neighbors. When people get married, they limit their involvement in their family and community.
So, how are married couples attempting to meet their social, emotional, and relational needs?
They are depending on their marriage partner – for a lot.
The General Social Survey found that almost 10% of couples solely rely on their spouse to talk about personal issues, and only 15% of individuals have at least 4-5 people in their lives they can trust as confidants.
The research clearly shows that today’s marriages are more insular, placing a heavier burden on spouses in the absence of community support. How can isolated couples thrive under that kind of pressure?
I began today’s blog post with a quote from author Wendell Berry, who writes on the symbiotic relationship between marriages and local communities. Berry suggests that couples willingly offer themselves to their local community, and that the community gathers around each couple “because it understands how necessary, how joyful, and how fearful this joining is.” From Wendell Berry’s perspective, the hospitable, intimate, and generous relationships couples have with family, friends, and neighbors is critical in how both marriages and communities are able to thrive.
I wonder how marriages might look different if they existed for the community around them, and were able to receive an entire community’s support?
I wonder how local neighborhoods might look different if they benefited from the full participation of couples in community life?
As it turns out, these questions lead us directly to this week’s Relationship 101 vlog challenge!
How has life in community – or social isolation – impacted your relationship? Write your thoughts in the Comments, send me an email, or schedule a therapy session.
Hope to connect with you soon!
P.S. For further reading on this topic, check out Gerstel & Sarkisian’s research discussion paper, “Marriage Reduces Social Ties”, and Wendell Berry’s book, Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community.