How to Pick a Lover

The living together for three long rainy days in the country has done more to dispel love than all the perfidies in love that have ever been committed.
—Arthur Helps

Folk wisdom has it that for most people, marriage starts off with a euphoric honeymoon period of high satisfaction and then deteriorates with the passage of time. The blame is not necessarily assigned to either party: it is the nature of marriage per se which is at fault, and that fault lies in habituation.

Once Upon a Honeymoon

Once Upon a Honeymoon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The overexposure of husband and wife to each other may not only mean a lessening of their sexual attraction, as in the Coolidge effect, but also a lessening of their emotional interest in each other. They may feel affection, but they cease to feel or to show the kind of love their spouse hopes to receive. Reflections on how the habituation effect leads to a loss of romantic love in marriage are commonplace and are a staple of folklore homilies and aphorisms: “Married life is like sitting in a bathtub: once you get used to it, it’s not so hot.” “Marriage is a feast where the grace is sometimes better than
the dinner.” “Marriage is an unfailing method of turning an ardent admirer into a carping critic.” “Marriage is the process of turning an attraction into a distraction.”

In this view, changes in men and women after marriage stem, in part, from the demands and restrictions of the husband-wife role: demands and restrictions that do not necessarily exist for nonmarried individuals. For instance, husbands and wives are expected, for the most part, to come home at night, share money, visit relatives, even talk to one another, and have sex. In meeting their marital obligations, couples eventually settle down to a routine of predictable ways of dealing with each other. While such habituation may play an important role in marital adjustment, it may stifle the mystery and spontaneity of romantic love. The British writer Beverly Nichols opines, “Marriage is a book in which the first chapter is written in poetry and the remaining chapters in prose.” J. B. Priestly, the British journalist and playwright, reflects, “Marriage is like paying an endless visit in your worst clothes.”

Other observations in the same vein reaffirm the general conclusion, “Every man may be unique, but husbands are all alike.”


Comments on: "Marriage: The Habituation Effect" (2)

  1. NormalDeviations said:

    More support for the Seven Year Itch theory, eh?

  2. […] Marriage: The Habituation Effect ( […]

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