Not long ago, Tom Cruise was jumping on Oprah's couch like a lovesick teen. Now he faces a bitter divorce with Katie Holmes. Why is it that when a couple seems to have everything -- fame, fortune, health, and an adorable child -- it doesn't work? It's enough to make everyone else hopeless. After all, if the celebs have everything and can't make it, what are the chances for the rest of us?
Don't worry. The very fact they have it all is the very undoing of a good marriage.
Fame is dangerous to relationships for a couple of reasons. Most troubling is that it demands swaths of time away from each other, as illustrated by Cruise being served with divorce papers while in Iceland on a shoot. My research of over 400 married women in my book, Connect To Love, showed that the number one indicator of happiness in a marriage was the amount of time spent with one's spouse. Women who were happily married reported spending a daily average of over 30 minutes of uninterrupted time talking to their husbands. Unhappy women reported a daily average of less than 30 minutes, and 24 percent of those unhappy reported that they spent less than five minutes a day talking to their spouses.
It should come at no surprise that consistent time is necessary to sustaining a happy marriage. All relationships need time and consistency. We need to keep up with each other's lives, look into each other's eyes and be in the same physical space to feel the mood and emotions from each other. Without that, we might still love each other, but staying "in love" demands much more than occasional get-togethers to catch up. For example, you would never say to your six-year-old, "Hey, can't wait to catch up but right now I'm finishing a project. I can't wait to talk about first grade in a month or two." Celebs seem content with the understanding that their work schedule will take them away from each other for long periods of time. It is simply a recipe for disaster.
Another problem with having "everything" is the inability to define your "couple culture." A marriage needs a sense of meaning -- a purpose to the union. Rarely do couples actually discuss what they want their culture to be. This culture typically adopts them as immense collective energy is thrown into career and/or family building. But when you have it all and it seems to come easy, couples often lose their way and life becomes a quick, steady path of self indulgence.
The individuals no longer truly need the other to live happily. Instead, they just like being together. Yet a couple needs to feel that life without the other is quite impossible. If a spouse does not feel a need to have the other in his or her life on a daily basis, that is a short step away from separation. After all, once separated, what have you truly lost on a daily basis? If you have been living your goals and dreams largely through your own strength and ability, then being married has become the spice instead of the main course itself.
For your couplehood, make sure that you are spending regular consistent time with your spouse when you're able to chat about the day and talk about things other than the stresses of life. Remind each other of what you are building together and if you don't have a good answer to that, find one immediately.
Follow M. Gary Neuman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@mgaryneuman