According to a radical new book by marriage experts Morrie and Arleah Shechtman, couples should look to shared values—not love—to see them through the tough times.
Boulder, CO (January 2004)—Popular music, blockbuster movies and best-selling books have sold us a bill of goods. Think of all those classic love songs that, though recorded decades ago, still receive regular radio play: “All you need is love;” “Love will keep us together;” and “Love will see us through.” Go to your local Cineplex and you’re sure to find Julia Roberts or Meg Ryan falling in love, then out of love, and then back in love again. According to our culture, if two people love each other enough, they can work out anything. If your marriage is unhappy, then the first thing you need to do is love your partner more. “Baloney!” says relationship expert Morrie Shechtman. “Love does not conquer all. Shared values do. I know that it sounds almost heretical in a world that thrives on perpetuating romantic stereotypes. But think about the high divorce rate, and the even higher rate of troubled relationships, and you’ll have to admit that we’re doing something wrong. Isn’t that the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? It’s time to restore some sanity to the institution of marriage—but, first, we have to let go of the fairy tale.” Helping people have healthier relationships is one of the Shechtmans’ passions. Morrie and his wife Arleah are psychotherapists who regularly hold intensive retreats for couples wanting to learn a whole new way of approaching their marriage. The Shechtmans share their philosophy in their groundbreaking new book, Love in the Present Tense: How to Have a High Intimacy, Low Maintenance Marriage (2004; Bull Press; ISBN: 0-923521-81-X). In a straightforward and no-nonsense fashion, the book explores the myths that keep divorce rates high and incidences of lasting, fulfilling relationships low. And they pinpoint eight core values that they say are “must haves” if you are going to sustain a successful marriage:
- Personal growth. A good marriage fosters personal growth, and personal growth fosters a good marriage. In this context, growth refers to a continual process of learning about yourself, expanding your point of view, and extending yourself into the world.
- Willingness to challenge each other. You care most for your partner when you demand that he become the best that he can be. Accepting people exactly as they are is a form of abandonment. In the Shechtmans’ view, challenging your partner is a vote of confidence and a sign of respect.
- Preeminence of the adult relationship. Marriage works best when it is given a higher priority than any other relationship in either partner’s life. This includes priority over even your children. When parents subrogate their own adult relationship needs to the needs of their children, they end up making the children feel responsible for making them happy.
- Dedication to your life’s purpose. In a great marriage, each partner is deeply committed to and actively involved in some endeavor outside the marriage. You never will be satisfied with your relationship if you are expecting it to supply the fulfillment that comes from pursuing a vision.
- Inner renewal. It is essential that each partner regularly tap into some source of inner renewal. This can be accomplished through religious or spiritual practices, and also can come from the enjoyment of nature or art, exercise or hobbies, journaling or simply spending quiet time alone with oneself.
- Personal responsibility. In a great marriage, both partners assume full responsibility for their own inner lives. They don’t view their partner as the cause of what they are feeling. It is mutually understood that while you can’t control what your partner does, you are completely free to choose your own response to what he does.
- Accountability. Accountability in marriage means keeping one’s word, following through on commitments, telling the truth, and accepting the full consequences of what we do and neglect to do.
- Quality communication. Real intimacy is based on the quality of communication, not the quantity of time you spend together. This means regularly sharing with your partner what is happening in your inner life and listening with full attention when your partner shares with you.
Surprised by some of these principles? Most people are. And yet, radical as it may seem to those of us raised on an unrealistic diet of marriage myths, what the Shechtmans are saying makes perfect sense to those who’ve embraced their ideas.
“When partners share common values, they have a common ground upon which they can resolve just about any conflict,” explains Morrie. “They discover that despite whatever dissatisfactions may be ruffling the surface of their marriage, they have chosen the right partner.”
“Few marriage counselors will admit that all relationship advice is values-based,” Arleah adds. “Anyone who tells you how to have a better relationship is operating out of their own vision of what a better relationship looks like. The values we base our relationship book on are the values that keep our relationship whole. We are judgmental. And we think our readers should be judgmental too.”
About the Authors:
Morrie Shechtman is a personal and corporate consultant with thirty years of experience. Morrie’s academic background includes an M.S.W. with a clinical specialization in psychotherapy. He also has his A.C.S.W., the professional credential required for independent practice. He has taught at distinguished universities throughout the United States, has worked as a therapist and counselor, and now also runs a successful management consulting company, Fifth Wave Leadership.
Morrie’s first book, Working Without a Net: How to Survive and Thrive in Today’s High Risk Business World (1994), is widely used as a reference in corporate America. It is utilized as a textbook by a number of universities and is used by many government agencies in management development training.
Morrie’s second book, Fifth Wave Leadership: The Internal Frontier is available on this website at www/morrieshechtman.com/store
Arleah Shechtman is a psychotherapist with twenty-five years of experience counseling individuals in committed relationships. Arleah’s academic background includes an associate’s degree in business mid-management, an undergraduate degree in organizational development, and an M.S.W. with a clinical specialization. She also has her A.C.S.W., the professional credential required for independent practice. Her continuing education has focused on work with adolescents, work with small groups, and work with people experiencing grief and loss.
About the Book:
Love in the Present Tense: How to Have a High Intimacy, Low Maintenance Marriage on this website at www.morrieshechtman.com/store
For a review copy of the book or an interview with the authors, please contact Morrie Shechtman, at (406) 260-7631