"Marriage is dead," and "monogamy may be asking too much" were the headlines in 2011. But Lori Lowe, creator of the popular marriage blog, Marriage Gems, still says lasting bliss is possible.
The unusual suspects she interviewed for her new book, "First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage", not only achieved lasting bliss, but faced some of life's worst hardships and ended up with stronger marriages. Their difficulties included everything from cocaine addiction, traumatic brain injury, and infidelity, to loss of a child, financial disaster, and biracial backlash. One couple had to remove their own child from life support. Another rebuilt their lives when, only newlyweds, the young Florida wife was the victim of stranger rape.
These aren't tales of mere endurance, though. Lori calls them "great love stories." I spoke with her about how they can inspire all marriages.
BW: Why did you write "Lasting Bliss"?
LL: I'm a child of Gen X and, as you know, we had a doubling of the divorce rate. When I spoke to other people in my generation, they agreed they didn't grow up with a lot of role models in terms of marriage. Also I have a neighbor, a really inspirational couple, and thought if more people had a neighbor or positive role model that example might provide an inspiration for them. Because I was a child of divorce, too, I wanted to be a positive voice for marriage.
BW: Each couple you interviewed tackled unique problems. Is there a common thread that runs throughout all the success stories?
LL: First of all, a very strong commitment to the marriage. A daily effort not to drift apart. A commitment to choose love every day, and live in gratitude. These couples were not willing to give up either, and because of their difficulties they understand how to be unified. They told me they wouldn't change the past even when it was difficult because it brought them to a stronger, better place.
BW: Some of the stories blew me away. Did any of the couples surprise you?
LL: The couple from the beginning of my book. The husband was a drug addict. And I think most people would say that's a really good reason for a divorce. What I didn't realize is how well a couple could rebound from that. There were also financial problems that went along with the drug use. I think the reason he got clean is because his wife made their initial separation happen. She made her expectations firm and clear, and I think that was the motivation he needed to receive treatment. She also had a lot of forgiveness and patience in her heart. Before writing the book I would have said this was too big an obstacle to overcome. It really shocked me a cocaine addict would eventually become such an awesome husband.
BW: Are some marital obstacles more challenging than others?
LL: I would say infidelity is one of the top. The research I've read says 65% of couples divorce after infidelity. It's a tough one because it's difficult for spouses to regain trust. It can be done though. Many people who overcome it say their marriages are stronger than before. I don't want to judge anyone, but I don't think people should say to themselves if my spouse cheated that would be it. I think there are more things people can get through than they think is possible.
BW: Does anything top infidelity?
LL: An even bigger problem is couples that "drift apart" like it was something they couldn't control. It's natural for people to drift apart unless they are making a conscious effort to grow together and improve their relationship. Think about it as being in separate boats or not rowing together in the same boat. The winds and waves of life pull and blow us in different directions. People think this happens without their control. They blame the job, the kids, finances, whatever. It's really all the same reason - allowing yourselves to be pulled apart. It takes daily effort and a commitment not to drift apart.
Another big problem is couples who lose hope that they could be happier. They convince themselves they're with the wrong person. We get encouragement from other people who say "you deserve better." They are striving toward this elusive happiness and convinced their partner is not part of the equation. But the research shows that couples who stay together are often happier five years down the road. So if you're searching for happiness the odds are better to stay together rather than separate. If we take responsibility for our own happiness we can ultimately be happy together.
BW: Don't give me a spoiler, but do you have an example from your book?
LL: The biracial couple. She finally put her foot down and said you have to back me up. But she also had to stop blaming him. When he figured out how to have her back, they were able to build a great marriage.
BW: Your book is not a traditional self-help book, but rather a collection of stories. How can couples use it in a practical way?
LL: I want the reader to feel like they're sitting down for coffee with each of the couples. To have a heart to heart talk and really get to know them. I used the couples' actual words as much as I could so that maybe that story would come back to the reader when they had a problem of their own. And because the story had an emotional connection, it might give them a different perspective.
BW: Some of the scenarios are rare, like stranger rape and brain injury. How are these lessons relevant?
LL: Even if the scenario is not similar, the heart of the issue is something couples can relate to. For example, one wife was convinced her husband was going to leave her because she was so depressed over the loss of their child. You may not have lost a child, but you may have assumed your partner was thinking the opposite of what they were.
Then there are readers who will have had the same literal experience. They have lost a child, had infertility problems, were separated because of the military. People have lots of health crises though maybe not the exact ones in the book.
The theme that goes throughout my book is hope. Whether couples have experienced the literal problem or can relate to some of the feelings, the goal is to give them hope things can still work out when you have tough times.
BW: What would your one piece of advice be for newlyweds?
LL: Love is a daily decision.
BW: And for couples going through difficulties?
LL: Don't give up hope that your marriage can be great.
BW: And you really believe lasting bliss is possible?
LL: Yes, I think so. Life is bumpy at times. Often outside forces impact our happiness. And sometimes we don't feel very loving. But if we choose to act lovingly, often the loving feelings follow. By saying "I have to trust my feelings," we may be selling ourselves short. Feelings change day to day, minute to minute. We choose to love every day.